Whenever a lot of people get murdered by people carrying guns – as they have, recently, in Toronto and Denver – other people ask: “How did this happen? Why do these things keep happening?”
With the greatest of respect, those are unintelligent questions. One does not need to be a police officer, or a scientist, to know that (a) crazy and/or stupid people exist and (b) if you make it easier for crazy and/or stupid people to get guns, they will use them on innocent people.
There are other factors at work, of course. But those are the big ones. If you don’t get that, you need more help that a newspaper opinion column can provide.
Now, when I was a cop reporter, in Calgary and Ottawa, I noticed that the higher-ups would lay on more officers whenever it was hot, or a full moon, or when school was out. That’s because violent crime tended to go up, noticeably, on those occasions. The reasons, to me, were straightforward: when it got hot, people drank more. When people drank more, they did stupid things, sometimes involving guns.
(Parenthetically, the full moon thing seemed kind of crazy, to me. So I looked it up. The lunar effect, as it is called, is supposed to give rise to aberrant, antisocial or deviant behaviour. No one has been able to prove that, but many cops believe in it. One 15-year study found that murders peaked in Miami during full moon cycles, but not as many other studies have concluded likewise.)
Richard Florida, who works at the University of Toronto and is an editor for Atlantic magazine, did a fascinating piece about gun violence just after last year’s Tucson mass-murder.
Americans kill each other with guns a lot more than Canadians do while Canadians kill each other with guns a lot more than Britons do (because the U.S. makes it easy to get handguns, and the British make it all but impossible). But Florida’s U.S.-based data provides us with some fascinating things to think about, in terrible times like these.
Florida looked at all gun deaths – murders to suicides to acts of self-defence – and found them happening less in places like Hawaii, and more in places like Alaska and Louisiana and Mississippi.
Gun deaths, he found, happened most often in states where poverty rates were higher, where there were more working-class folks, and where there was more inequality and unemployment. Conservative-inclined states, interestingly, tended to have more gun deaths. This, to me, is logical. Conservative politicians favour making it easier to get guns; ipso facto, conservative states will have more gun death.
Where gun-related mortality is lower, Florida noted, is where there tended to be a higher standard of living, more immigrants, and tougher gun laws (trigger locks, safe storage rules). And, as it turns out, more Democrats. Places where liberals dominated tended to have markedly lower gun deaths.
What did it all mean? Simple, said Florida. “Our analysis shows fatal gun violence is less likely to occur in richer states with more post-industrial knowledge economies, higher levels of college graduates, and tighter gun laws,” he concluded.
And, perhaps, it’s more likely in places which make it easier for crazy and/or stupid people to get guns.
That, everyone should agree, is the craziest/stupidest thing of all.
Categories: Contributor Columns