Wednesday, July 30, 2014
How does gambling and gun control impact violent crime?
In several past posts I have been attempting to find out how much various contributing causes impact violent crime. The leading long term cause for violent crime is almost certainly early child abuse that leads to escalating violence later in life but other things clearly are also factors which need to be addressed including poverty which I covered in Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows. Additional posts that covered other potential contributing causes to crime include Does lack of education increase violent crime? Religion? Politics, not technology, caused botched executions where I indicated that and Wal-Mart crime: Rolling Back Safety more than prices?
In two of the past reviews part of the way I attempted to narrow things down was to compare crime rates for different states with whether they use corporal punishment in schools, how much poverty they have, how many children graduate from high school and how religious they are according to surveys. In this one I compare crime rates with laws about gambling and gun control. These are not as consistent but they still provide some indication and additional studies have been used to compare them and add more information to understand how these might be understood and crime can be reduced.
This review includes information from the following sources:
City-Data Crime rate in the US: Murders, Rapes, Robberies, Assaults, Burglaries, Thefts, Auto thefts, Arson
Wikipedia Crime rate for cities above 250,000 population
Gun laws by state
Firearms Death Rate per 100,000 (most recent) by state
Gambling in the United States
Murder rates by state at the Death Penalty Information Center .
Incarceration rates by state
reports of violent crime per 100,000 and previous post about Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows
Comparing gun laws to murder rates, incarceration rates and rates of reports of violent crime doesn't seem to indicate a clear correlation that is easily recognizable. However when comparing rates of gun related deaths with the most effective gun laws there is a much clearer correlation indicating that states with more effective gun laws, in most cases have lower gun related deaths. Even a close look at the comparison of gun laws to murder rates, incarceration rates and rates of reports of violent crime indicates that if anything there are slightly more murders violent crimes and higher incarceration rates in the states with more effective gun laws; although, since the correlation isn't quite as easy to see as other correlations it would be easy for anyone to selectively choose their facts to support which ever position they believe in.
There are more than twice as many gun related deaths as there are murders in this country and some of the murders are not gun related which means that close to 60 to 70 percent if not more of gun related deaths are probably either the result of accidents or suicides. In some states like Alaska and Wyoming where they have relatively low murder rates but high gun related deaths it is much higher. On top of that the murders that get the most attention in the media are the mass murders which quickly turn into enormous media stories; yet they only account for about one in 170 murders. In 2012 there were Sixteen US Mass Shootings, Leaving at Least 88 Dead; but there were 14,827 murders according to FBI reports and the number of gun related deaths must be over 30,000.
There has been a common claim that there with More Guns, Less Crime popularized by a book by John Lott but these statistics clearly don't support that and other reviewers that have looked at his statistical claims closer have found more problems with them. However among gun rights advocates they repeat this over and over again without reviewing the facts behind it.
One of the most common arguments made is that mental illness is the leading cause of murders; and this may be true but they're much more likely to kill large numbers if they have easy access to guns and if there is a problem with mental illness is the best way to handle it to make guns easier to get? The statistical correlation comparing corporal punishment, graduation rates, poverty and even religion are all much clearer than with gun control laws. Recognizing and treating mental illness is is one of the best argument often made for addressing this; however recognizing the causes that preceded mental illness may be even more important in the long run although it won't be adequate to address the people that already have mental illness problems.
In most cases Mental illness is almost always something that begins early in life and the same research that indicates that corporal punishment and other forms of child abuse leads to escalating violence later in life also indicates that it also leads to escalating amounts of mental illness. Researchers like Dorothy Otnow Lewis and Lonnie Athens have looked into the back ground of many of the biggest mass murders and found more than the usual amount of abuse in their early childhood. In many cases Dorothy Otnow Lewis has also found hospital or court records to back up her claims and she has said that when she looks close enough she has always found some evidence of early abuse in murderers but this isn't always easy to find and many people who decline to look jump to the conclusion that the evidence of abuse isn't there.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson "On the face of it, a mass shooting is the product of a disordered mental process. You don't have to be a psychiatrist: what normal person would go out and shoot a bunch of strangers?" Mother Jones: What Do We Actually Know About the Relationship Between Mental Illness and Mass Shootings?
Early childhood education is also a major factor when it comes to developing rational thinking skills and learning how not to go along with the crowd. On both sides of the argument on this issue, and many other, there has been an enormous amount of appeal to emotions and pressure to go along with the arguments from people on their own side.
The five states with the highest per capita gun death rates in 2008 were Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Wyoming according to D.C. group says Alaska leads in gunshot deaths. but unlike Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama; Alaska and Wyoming don't have among the highest murder rates. In Alaska "there were 142 gun-related deaths statewide in 2008, according to the CDC data. Of those, 116 were suicides, 18 were homicides and eight were either unintentional, of undetermined intent or some combination of the two."
Wyoming has similar suicide rates according to Guns: A way of life in Wyoming. In these two states they need more availability for mental health access for suicide prevention rather than homicidal tendencies.
However it would almost certainly be more important, whether it is preventing suicide or homicide to do much more to address the vast economic and educational inequality yet that is rarely discussed when it comes to the problems with crime in this country.
By comparison the death rate for auto accidents are still 20 % higher than guns although they're going down while according to this report the rate of gun related deaths have been going up; however the rate of murders ahve been going down until 2012 when they were about the same as 2011. The number of people that die because of air pollution is 200,000 in the U.S. which is more than five times either automobiles or guns.
There are plenty of other studies to chose from and some of them use statistics from different years to come up with their conclusions but if there done well then the results should be relatively consistent although when support for one side of the issue impacts the research this often isn't the case. A close look at both sides will almost certainly indicate at least a little bias but I suspect that one side will demonstrate much more bias and less rational and accurate use of the statistics. If you need me to tell me which is which you probably won't believe me but here are some from both sides.
Mother Jones: A Guide to Mass Shootings in America
Mother Jones: 10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down
Mother Jones: More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?
Mother Jones: At Least 194 Children Have Been Shot to Death Since Newtown
Mother Jones: More Than Half of Americans Now Have Tougher Gun Laws
STUDY: States With Loose Gun Laws Have Higher Rates Of Gun Violence
20 Deadliest Gun States
Less Guns, Less Crime- Debunking the Self-Defense Myth
Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States
Crime Research Prevention Center: Evaluating Mother Jones’ “10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down”
The Truth About Guns: Debunking Mother Jones’ ’10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down’
The Unsinkable John Lott Vs. "Freaky" Economics
This method of compiling data for gambling is rough and not the best way of doing so but it does show that the states that have higher murder, incarceration and violent crime rates all allow more gambling of one kind or another than those with the lowest rates. However as I explained previously in The tragedy of gambling politics in United States the odds in organized gambling has to be fixed in favor of the house one way or another or there is no way they could cover their expenses let alone make a profit. The marketing of gambling is based on an enormous amount of hype and they attract customers by praying on their dreams and appealing to their emotion so that they don't think rationally.
The correlation with gambling and crime is probably not as large as other contributing factors including child abuse that escalates to more violence, poverty and lack of education but for problem gamblers it is almost certainly much higher than for the majority of the public. That doesn't mean that the majority is not impacted indirectly by gambling since they could become victims of crime that might be related to gambling and they have to pay taxes for the higher prison and court coots related to gambling. The enormous amount of efforts put into gambling can't possibly cover all their expenses and it provides no beneficial product, unless you count entertainment which is misleading since people aren't nearly as entertained when they lose as the gambling industry would have us believe; and that entertainment value fades quickly while the poverty is around for a long time.
For one reason or another the discussion about gambling almost always mainly involves two option either allowing more gambling or banning it. It rarely if ever involves allowing gambling but giving the public the information they need to make important decisions.
If they required gambling institutes to inform the players how much of their revenue is used for over head how much is kept for profit and how much is returned to the winners.
If players were constantly reminded that the average gambler isn't going to get more than seventy five cents on the dollar and the rare person who beats the odds would have to pay higher taxes then they would know that the average player probably doesn't get more than fifty cents back on the dollar and the more they play the more they lose.
There are plenty of other studies more thorough than this that indicates that there is a consistent increase in crime associated with gambling including this rare article by the Washington Post; the vast majority of other coverage about gambling from the media and the political establishment is in favor of gambling despite it's obvious flaws:
The one benefit that goes towards communities is increased jobs but they're only local jobs and even that benefit comes at a price while the costs in higher crime and abnkrupcy or other problems expands beyond the local area if they draw players from further regions.
Even the benefit of added jobs can be found other ways if communities try to create jobs that actually provide a benefit to society by fulfilling an legitimate need.
No Casino Surrey opposition to gambling including studies on local problems with crime
Man Tied to Murders at Detroit Barber Shop, Gambling Den Charged With Assault
National Gambling Studies
Casino gambling causes crime - Institute of Government and Public Affairs PDF igpa.uillinois.edu/.../PF13-2_CasinosCrime.p.
Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation
Poverty and Casino Gambling in Buffalo - Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation PDF
Gambling addiction leads many down criminal road
XI. Gambling and Crime
Casinos blamed for rise in crime by gamblers
In both cases it appears that more rational policies could contribute to reductions in crime in the long term but they almost certainly won't provide immediate results that can be easily recognizable. Another major contributing factor about both these issues is the culture and the way it is covered in both the political establishment and the media. Unfortunately in both cases this isn't addressed very well at all; Instead of informing the public in the most effective way possible about the effects of gun laws or gambling policies they routinely attempt to manipulate their emotions for the political purposes of those in power.
In the long run the most effective way to address these issues will also have to include political and media reform that enables more people to get their views across and doesn't give overwhelming advantages to lobbyists for the gambling and gun industries or any other special interests. If the more rational researchers are considered special interests then the different interests should be more balanced.