Debunking Gun Advocate Approaches

Debunking Gun Advocate Approaches July 27, 2019

It’s all raging on the gun front. They are out in force. It’s also very frustrating, and here’s for why. Here is an example of a conversation between myself and GAU-8. Bearing in mind this is on the back of a number of posts on the ontology of rights, and these comments are a complete distraction from that.

Before we start, one thing I would urge of every reader, is to check out the excellent article “Dispelling The Myth – Why the UK is NOT more violent than the US“. It’s a great read, which (though a few years old) deals with statistical abuses of data concerning guns and comparisons of violence of the US to the UK.

The first comment from this man:

Drugs are banned, yet widely available. US, UK, EU. Same with guns….UK gun crime offense rate is ticking up 4 years in a row.

Are the UK, EU nominal rates lower? Yes. Are they increasing though? Yes. Nobody wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room. And it’s not guns.

As ever, when someone makes these claims, it is so easy to make the claim, but takes so long to unpick them and show them to be wrong, or at least far more nuanced than is apparent from the claim.

My reply was as follows:

Ticking up because of flood of arms into the country?

But they have actually just dropped:

A look at the effect of the gun legislation after Dunblane [one of very fe mass shootings over the last 50 years in the UK], 20 years on:

Firearms offences in Scotland lowest for 20 years:

Furthermore, I believe the rise in UK firearms offences is underwritten by imitation firearms offences that have grown a good deal. They get included in firearms offence stats.

His reply to this didn’t deal with any of the links or claims in any detail or explicit fashion. it was just a chart:

His implicit point, one assumes, is that legislation has no effect on gun crime. But the devil here is in the detail, as criminologist and public policy professor Peter Squires agrees:

“Perhaps not necessarily at first,” he says. “In fact, for the next four years gun crime continued to increase, by about 105 per cent over that period.”

But that doesn’t mean it was a failure. The reason gun crime continued to rise was because the definition was too wide-ranging; it included everything and anything, every single report where a victim reported that a gun was used, even if that gun was never fired, even if it was a replica, or a fake, or even a toy. So by 2003, the laws were refined.

The use of air weapons and pellet guns, which made up a large number of gun crime complaints, was taken out of the Firearms Act and put under the auspices of the new Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, which meant gun crime figures purely under their Firearms Act definition began to decrease markedly thanks to reclassification taking air weapons out of the equation.

Squires says: “In fact, gun crime began to decrease for about 10 or 12 years after that, and it’s only in the last two years that we’ve seen it start to creep up again.”

Before the act came in, handguns were as obtainable as any other gun in this country. Even the pro-gun lobby in this country capitulated fairly quickly… which might have more to do with class divisions.

Squires says: “Handguns were mainly used by urban, working-class men who would fire them on entirely legal and licensed ranges. The more elite end of the sport, the grouse shooters, was quite happy to let the handgun shooters go.

“Around that time the US was seeing a massive shift to carrying guns for self defence, and there were even arguments over here that we should have some kind of Second Amendment to allow people to carry guns, so the Firearms Act was basically a statement against Britain going down the route of gun culture.”

An amnesty was organised which had a very high take-up; handguns were licensed, so it was easy to know who had possession of one, and there was a compensation scheme in place to reimburse owners.

In the years before the act was commenced, Home Office statistics show that homicides involving firearms were 75 in 1993, the same in 1994, and 81 in 1995. Aside from spikes around the turn of the century, the subsequent years have all seen markedly lower gun-deaths recorded.

The Gun Control Network, a campaigning body set up in the wake of Dunblane, records its own gun-death statistics based on media reports, which it says generally tally with official figures once they come out. For the past few years it has reported 20 deaths in 2014-15, 24 in 2015-16, 27 in 2016-17, and since 1 April this year, 15 deaths in England, Wales and Scotland.

So the act does in fact seem to have made a difference. But a cursory look at the news will show that on any given day there are guns employed by the criminal fraternity in robberies, attacks and gang violence. They don’t all result in death, of course, but they are out there, and being used. So where are they coming from?

The problem for us is illegal guns that come from across the channel. Imagine the problems we would have if we added legal gun ownership to the illegal ones!

I replied to the commenter:

Let’s get this straight. You just said gun offence rates are ticking up over four years. I show you evidence they have actually just lowered. You then show a chart indicating gun homicide rates are bottoming out over the last 3 years.

Are you going to admit to being wrong, disingenous, lying or elsewise?

You are not doing your credibility any favours.

His chart shot himself in the foot. To date, he still hasn’t accepted that he has to have been wrong in some way. This is very telling. It’s not about truth, it’s about winning at all costs (and gaining as many upvotes as he can, most probably!).

He replied:

What I showed you was (a) following your gun ban the nearly doubling in homicides and 7x increase violent crime (b) the downturn in homicide is correlated heavily to the 15% increase in total police force in the UK.

The charts demonstrate a potential cause-effect link you are ignoring.

The links show recent events 14% increase in homicide, nearly 20% increase in violent crime

The cause-effect there? Most likely, my hypothesis, is the dramatic increase in immigrants – turning your little island nation into a melting pot, that includes an increasing portion of the population with significantly different cultures and behaviors and difficulty/refusal to assimilate to UK societal norms.

There is so much more we could talk about.

Your false logic is your “gun death” mantra – dead is dead – I’m sorry unless you can prove death by gun is any more dead that death any other means.

You also ignore the deterrence factor of being able to use firearms in self defense. Example: In the US burglaries generally take place when the home owner is absent (73%), in the UK the opposite is true (over half take place when the homeowner is own). Direct causation? Hard to prove, but definite a correlation – and as you know correlation is a necessary condition of causation.


The trends I show – immediately after your ban – are indicative of the potential impact of further disarming the population – it is general understood most criminals don’t want to be shot.

You provide no link/data to support your red herring that it’s toy guns. However the graph below (from ONS.UK.GOV) data shows “real” gun (no toy guns included) uptick in firearm crime.



Gun crime offences in London surged by 42% in the last year, according to official statistics.…

If I were you, I’d worry more about what’s going on at home…increases in crime, grooming gangs, sexual assault, beheadings in the street…that what the US is doing…we broke our ties in 1776.

Here are the problems:

1) He (I assume) has failed to deal with the OP. yet again, and even with further explicit demand not seen above. They would rather divert conversation onto what they find comfortable than deal with more difficult subjects that, as far as I can see, they would “lose” at. i say this because after three posts on this subject, there has been embarrassingly little or no dealing with the subject matter.

2) His use of stats seems to be “spin to win” at best, completely disingenuous at worst.

3) His sources are often spurious – more on this below – and his theorising belies a real right-wing, fear-mongering sensationalist populism.

4) Meaning his theorising is poor.

5) The conclusions are, in this way, naive or simplistic (though there are elements of accepting this in places) in terms of causality and complex systems with untold numbers of variables.

Really, all that I need to say (though I am about to say a whole lot more) is that, if you were to allow a whole bunch of guns into Britain, if you were to completely deregulate guns, there would be much higher accidental gun injury and death levels, higher homicide levels, higher firearms offence levels, and higher gun suicide levels.

This is really not controversial. It is a truism of sorts.

If I was to equip all people in the UK, irrespective of age and cognitive function, with sharp knives, then we would certainly expect knife injuries and deaths to go up. Of course, this is obvious. The same for guns. Deregulating the UK in terms of firearms will lead to many more deaths, injuries and suicides.

But let’s look in more detail at his statements and techniques.

Using spurious news sources

His talk of nearly doubling homicide rates is this:

Following the 1987 gun ban in the UK homicide rates nearly doubled.

The trend didn’t reverse and return to preban levels until after the UK added 15% more police across the Crown

The police not wanting guns isn’t exactly true…a survey indicates a third do

Interestingly, in another comment, I had already detailed that a third of the police want to carry guns – still a minority. He can be forgiven for not having read all of my comments. But when we talk about a large body of people ever wanting anything, we go by majority. Otherwise, you could never, ever generalise at all. I also indicated that research suggests that this is in reply to heightened fear of terrorism, which is itself a false perception borne out of exaggerated right-wing news reports of the risk of Islamic terrorism; thus the number of police wanting to carry guns is possibly inflated by an incorrect narrative. As all stats suggest, though there is a threat from terrorism, it is much smaller and of less of a worry to an individual than almost all other forms of crime or things you have to worry about. The Daily Mail and Daily Express, and by extension FOX News and similar American sources, have a lot to answer for.

Which brings me on to this utterly ridiculous part of his comment that would be laughable if he didn’t actually believe this sort of rubbish:

If I were you, I’d worry more about what’s going on at home…increases in crime, grooming gangs, sexual assault, beheadings in the street…that what the US is doing…we broke our ties in 1776.

I would challenge him to find me the stats for street beheadings in the UK and then declare this is something I should worry more about. Grooming gangs – usually a euphemism from the right that equates to attacking Asian migration – is at what prevalence level compared to firearms offences? And if we deregulated guns, should grooming still be more of a worry? This is not, of course, to say these things aren’t a problem, but seriously…

These are ridiculous claims that show a real naivety.

As for the claim, “Following the 1987 gun ban in the UK homicide rates nearly doubled. The trend didn’t reverse and return to preban levels until after the UK added 15% more police across the Crown” – the above chart shows a spike. I think it is worth seeing the stats in proper:

England & Wales saw rates go from 1.19 in 1987 to (per 100,000, each successive year):

1.09, 1.04, 1.09, 1.22, 1.13, 1.10, 1.22, 1.28, 1.12, 1.24, 1.43, 1.45, (As UK 2000s): 1.71, 1.79, 2.1, 1.75, 1.60, 1.38, 1.42, 1.46, 1.26, 1.17, (As England & Wales 2010s): 1.14, 0.94, 0.97, 0.92, 0.89, 0.98, 1.22

So homicide rates did not nearly double in any meaningful way as a longterm trend, apart from a spike of 2.1 from a 1.09 rate in 1987. But rates also went down. What we can say is that causality is very complex and an awful lot of things will affect homicide rates. The question is whether there would be greater death, violence, injury and suicide with the whole country readily accessing guns or less. And we cannot compare like for like statistics in the UK, ceteris paribus, given no alternate reality to access. All sorts of things were going on politically, with welfare, employment, opportunities, education and so on in those decades.

If you are talking about gun homicide rates, these are the ones I can find:

Rate of gun homicide per 100,000 people in the United Kingdom going back from 2015 shows recent figures looking pretty amazing when compared to the US figures, by a massive margin.

2015: 0.0227, 2014: 0.02, 2013: 0.04, 2012: 0.02, 2011: 0.05, 2010: 0.04, 2009: 0.03, 2008: 0.05, 2007: 0.04, 2006: 0.10, 2005: 0.06 ,2004: 0.06, 2003: 0.05, 2002: 0.07, 2001: 0.06, 2000: 0.12, 1999: 0.08, 1998: 0.06, 1997: 0.083, 1996: 0.14

America’s 2017 rates were 4.46. You do the maths in comparing something like 0.02 to 4.46. But I’m sure it has nothing to do with massive access to guns.

The gun advocate might argue that it is not guns, but people doing this. Perhaps. Perhaps we are just as murderous and that other weapons would simply replace guns in homicide stats without access to those guns. Knife homicide stats are also higher in the US:

Knife murders are also higher stateside: there were 4.96 homicides “due to knives or cutting instruments” in the US for every million of population in 2016.

In Britain there were 3.26 homicides involving a sharp instrument per million people in the year from April 2016 to March 2017.

As GAU-8 said: “Your false logic is your “gun death” mantra – dead is dead – I’m sorry unless you can prove death by gun is any more dead that death any other means.”

However, the American homicide rate is 5.3 compared to the UK’s 1.2, so this looks in some way underwritten by guns. If Americans are just more violent across the board, don’t give them guns. I wouldn’t give a razorblade to a toddler. That’s sensible regulation.

Which is a pertinent point. We regulate all of the time. As parents, as business owners, as responsible citizens. You know, don’t come to work if you’ve got ebola.

(Due to the implementation of the National Crime Recording Standard in April 2002 data prior to this date are not directly comparable with later figures.)

Complex nature of causality

There is at least some tacit acceptance that causation is complex and correlation doesn’t necessarily admit causation, but not nearly enough. His first chart shows ups and downs galore. This, to him, means that gun legislation is ineffective, causally, concerning gun violence, offences and death. This is way too simplistic and doesn’t even attempt to admit the incredibly complex nature of social science, stats and causality, where poverty, opportunities, education levels and all sorts of other things interact in incredibly intricate ways to cause trends in societal behaviour. He is, in effect, building a straw man to burn it down.

The simplistic conclusion from pretty much all the global data is that more guns = more violence, particularly, and obviously, gun violence.


The cause-effect there? Most likely, my hypothesis, is the dramatic increase in immigrants – turning your little island nation into a melting pot, that includes an increasing portion of the population with significantly different cultures and behaviors and difficulty/refusal to assimilate to UK societal norm.

We know that British people (thus the media and those abroad) are swayed by myths about immigration and crime. Crime rates have fallen in the years immigration has risen. Here is a summary on research showing not quite what GAU-8 wants to be true:

Research has found no evidence of an average causal impact of immigration on crime.[5][6][48] One study based on evidence from England and Wales in the 2000s found no evidence of an average causal impact of immigration on crime in England and Wales,.[5] No causal impact and no immigrant differences in the likelihood of being arrested were found for London, which saw large immigration changes.[5] A study of two large waves of immigration to the UK (the late 1990s/early 2000s asylum seekers and the post-2004 inflow from EU accession countries) found that the “first wave led to a modest but significant rise in property crime, while the second wave had a small negative impact. There was no effect on violent crime; arrest rates were not different, and changes in crime cannot be ascribed to crimes against immigrants. The findings are consistent with the notion that differences in labor market opportunities of different migrant groups shape their potential impact on crime.”[6] A 2013 study found “that crime is significantly lower in those neighborhoods with sizeable immigrant population shares” and that “the crime reducing effect is substantially enhanced if the enclave is composed of immigrants from the same ethnic background.”[7] A 2014 study of property crimes based on the Crime and Justice Survey (CJS) of 2003, (a national representative survey where respondents in England and Wales were asked questions regarding their criminal activities), after taking into account the under-reporting of crimes, even found that “immigrants who are located in London and black immigrants are significantly less criminally active than their native counterparts”.[2] Another 2014 study found that “areas that have witnessed the greatest percentage of recent immigrants arriving since 2004 have not witnessed higher levels of robbery, violence, or sex offending” but have “experienced higher levels of drug offenses.”[172]

It was reported in 2007 that more than one-fifth of solved crimes in London was committed by immigrants. Around a third of all solved, reported sex offences and a half of all solved, reported frauds in the capital were carried out by non-British citizens.[173] A 2008 study found that the crime rate of Eastern European immigrants was the same as that of the indigenous population.[174]

2012-16 figures show that only theft increased, and only with non-EU migrants:

IT’s those pesky UK people we need to worry about…

In “UK migration: Six myths about immigration debunked” in The Independent, again the stats claims of GAU-8 don’t add up:

Anti-immigration groups have used fears of criminality as a key focus, particularly following the sex attacks in Cologne and reports of increased crime rates in areas of Europe being directly affected by the refugee crisis.

A report by LSE in 2013 found that crime actually fell significantly in areas that had experienced mass immigration from eastern Europe, with rates of burglary, vandalism and car theft down since 2004.

The research concluded that there was “no causal impact of immigration on crime…contrary to the ‘immigration causes crime’ populist view expressed in some media and political debate”.

Brian Bell, a LSE research fellow, told the Guardian: “The view that foreigners commit more crime is not true. The truth is that immigrants are just like natives: if they have a good job and a good income they don’t commit crime.”

A 2008 report for the Association of Chief Police Officers found that national crime rates have continued to fall despite rising net migration over a number of years.

There seem to be ulterior motives going on that fit neatly into the right-wing worldview when considering both guns and crime.

Telling the whole story

It appears that GAU-8 isn’t a fan of painting the whole picture. He said:


Gun crime offences in London surged by 42% in the last year, according to official statistics.…

But that article said some important things that he neglected to include:

The force said robbery offences, which increased 12% year-on-year, were at about half the level of 2006-2007 and there were 58 fewer homicides this year compared to 10 years ago.

Martin Hewitt, assistant commissioner responsible for territorial policing, said: “Similar to the rest of England and Wales, crime rates in London are rising, but many of these are still at a much lower level than five years ago and are against the backdrop of significant reductions in resources.

We know that police cuts have hit London harder than any other part of the UK (2018):

…when the Conservatives came to power nationally and started cutting government spending, the capital had 4.1 officers per 1,000 Londoners – but by 2016/17 that had dropped to 3.3 officers per 1,000 Londoners….

He said spending on policing per person in London fell by the biggest amount in England and Wales. It was £423 per person in 2012/13, down to £337 in 2016/17. The mayor’s figures suggest a 20% fall, broadly in line with the scale of the cut in government funding to the Metropolitan police, compared with 6% across the country.

One reason the figure is so stark is that the Met’s budget was cut as London’s population grew substantially.

In 2010 it was more than 8 million, rising to a population of nearly 9 million today. The capital is forecast to grow further, with up to 10 million people by 2030. The Met said the force would have to make £300m more cuts on top of the £700m made so far.

This is behemoth level of cutting – it’s been all over the news for years here – over 20,000 frontline staff. GAU-8, in many comments, tells me off for daring to comment on American affairs. I would hope I would get some level of understanding of America compared to what is being thrown about here. This was Theresa May’s doing, before she was PM, as Home Secretary; she made the mistake of claiming the rising crime had nothing to do with police numbers, and received quite a drubbing for it.

Guns as deterrence

My final part here is on the claim:

You also ignore the deterrence factor of being able to use firearms in self defense. Example: In the US burglaries generally take place when the home owner is absent (73%), in the UK the opposite is true (over half take place when the homeowner is own). Direct causation? Hard to prove, but definite a correlation – and as you know correlation is a necessary condition of causation.

I don’t really want to dwell on this. The data can be read in various ways, but lots of resesarch shows that guns don’t deter criminals.

More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows“:

In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not….

[On another study] They found that a gun in the home was associated with a nearly threefold increase in the odds that someone would be killed at home by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

[On a Kennesaw lifting of gun legislation] City officials tout that a year after the law was implemented, burglaries in Kennesaw dropped by more than half; by 1985 they were down by 80 percent. “It was a selling point for the town,” according to David McDowall, a criminologist at the University at Albany, S.U.N.Y. The lavish media attention that the law received probably helps: it’s not just that Kennesaw residents have guns; it’s that everyone knows Kennesaw residents have guns. (That said, the rule has never been enforced, and Graydon estimates that only about half of Kennesaw’s residents actually own firearms.)

But while burglary numbers did drastically decline in Kennesaw after 1981, those statistics can be misleading. McDowall took a closer look at the numbers and noticed that 1981 was an anomaly—there were 75 percent more burglaries that year than there were, on average, in the previous five years. It is no surprise that the subsequent years looked great by comparison. McDowall studied before-and-after burglary numbers using 1978, 1979 or 1980 as starting points instead of 1981 and, as he reported in a 1989 paper, the purported crime drop disappeared. Kennesaw has always had pretty minimal crime, which may have more to do with the residents and location than how many guns it has….

There’s also the fact that where there are more guns, more opportunities exist for people to steal them and use them nefariously. Indeed, one of Kennesaw’s crime problems, Graydon told me, is gun theft, so the Kennesaw Police Department encourages residents to lock their guns up. The NRA, on the other hand, opposes legislation that requires secure gun storage….

In 2015 Hemenway and his colleagues studied five years’ worth of NCVS data and concluded that guns are used for self-defense in less than 1 percent of all crimes that occur in the presence of a victim. They also found that self-defense gun use is about as effective as other defensive maneuvers, such as calling for help. “It’s not as if you look at the data, and it says people who defend themselves with a gun are much less likely to be injured,” says Philip Cook, an economist at Duke University, who has been studying guns since the 1970s.

So on and so forth – read the whole article.

Guns Don’t Deter Crime, Study Finds“:

A new study, however, throws cold water on the idea that a well-armed populace deters criminals or prevents murders. Instead, higher ownership of guns in a state is linked to more firearm robberies, more firearm assaults and more homicide in general. [5 Milestones in Gun Control History]

“We found no support for the hypothesis that owning more guns leads to a drop or a reduction in violent crime,” said study researcher Michael Monuteaux, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “Instead, we found the opposite.”

Whichever studies you defer to, the idea is that if there are fewer guns around, there are fewer incidences to require guns to deter. Is the idea of a deterrence worth the added injuries, homicides and suicides you get from relaxed gun regulation?

People seem to think that the right is priceless. The right to bear arms is worth the extra x amount of fatalities, injuries, family woes that will come as a result of that right being embodied in lax gun regulation.

The UK, Iw ould argue, is a great example of society with relatively few guns. The last time I saw a gun was on an armed policeman about twelve years ago. And I love that. I feel more secure daily. Police don’t want guns, the public don’t want guns. We don’t have the same rights to have those guns here, which means that those rights aren’t really as inalienable as the guns rights advocates think.

And I think most people in the US would be too if this wasn’t such a hotbed for identity politics that represents so much else.


This may be a bunch of he said she said, but these are my conclusions:

  1. It is easier to make claims than to debunk them. This has wasted a lot of my time…
  2. As the Bad Science adage goes, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I didn’t look in any depth at the causality involving all those other confounding variables.
  3. Stats are a pain in the arse to get right.
  4. On closer examination, other typical aspects to worldviews raise their ugly heads (immigration etc.).
  5. Seemingly erudite people are still swayed by really overt fearmongering and dodgy sources. Because we should all be more worried about street beheadings.
  6. No gun advocate appears to be able to do philosophy. I keep asking, but they’d rather talk about this stuff. The problem is, this stuff invariably rests on the philosophy. If they can’t establish the foundations of their conclusions – the rights themselves – they have very empty arguments.
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