More Guns, Fewer Deaths? Not So Fast.

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Doug Mataconis writes about California’s drop in gun-related injuries over the past decade despite the fact that gun sales have nearly doubled during that time:

There are several reasons that gun related deaths an injuries have fallen, of course, not the least of them being a nationwide drop in violent crime….Nonetheless, the fact that a significant increase in gun ownership has not led to an increase in gun injuries or deaths would seem to undercut one of the primary arguments of advocates of gun control. Contrary to their assertions, it would appear that allowing law abiding Americans to own guns doesn’t lead to an increase in violence after all.

That just doesn’t follow. As Doug mentions, violent crime has fallen dramatically over the past couple of decades. Without controlling for that drop, you simply can’t draw any conclusions at all about the role that guns play.

As an analogy, traffic deaths in California have declined by a third since 2002 despite the fact that the number of registered vehicles has gone up by about a third. Does this mean that more cars and trucks don’t lead to an increase in vehicle deaths? Of course not. Fatalities are down because of airbags, antilock brakes, higher seat belt use, improved ER technology, and so forth. If you controlled for all that, you’d likely find that more vehicles do indeed lead to more highway fatalities. But you’d have to do the math to know for sure. Until then, you really can’t conclude anything at all.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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