Laws, Economics and Violence

Nothing in life is simple. Humans have been craving simplicity for longer than recorded e93ef18bacf9979b7c79d2ff00aa8404history exists. Thunder is a god going bowling? Nope. A god created the world in six days? Nope. Thor makes lightning with his hammer? Nope.

A deity doesn’t want people to eat pork? Nope. It’s trichinosis.

Humans crave simplicity because anything else takes work? That’s a possibility. Intense thinking is work.

Simplicity is a mirage.

Let’s take a policy example. The theory is that if everyone has guns, there will be fewer shootings because bad people will be afraid of getting shot. Nope, it doesn’t work that way.

St. Louis has lax gun laws and is the murder capital of the US. Civilians can carry a gun in a car in St. Louis without a permit. That’s illegal in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Baltimore — and St. Louis has a much higher murder rate than those other cities. The murder rate in St. Louis is 59.8 per 100,000 residents. The rate in Chicago is 28.1 per 100,000.

Law is only one factor affecting the murder rate in a city. Poverty and unemployment matter. The 25 cities with the highest murder rates include cities in states with lax and tight gun laws (Missouri and New Jersey are polar opposites), but the cities share economic blight.

Here’s the list, starting with the worst:

  1. St. Louis (MO)
  2. Baltimore (MD)
  3. Detroit (MI)
  4. New Orleans (LA)
  5. Newark (NJ)
  6. Cleveland (OH)
  7. Jackson (MS)
  8. Orlando (FL)
  9. Memphis (TN)
  10. North Charleston (SC)
  11. San Bernardino (CA)
  12. Chicago (IL)
  13. Kansas City (MO)
  14. Dayton (OH)
  15. Milwaukee (WI)
  16. Atlanta (GA)
  17. Salinas (CA)
  18. Shreveport (LA)
  19. Little Rock (AR)
  20. Syracuse (NY)
  21. Savannah (GA)
  22. Baton Rouge (LA)
  23. Rochester (NY)
  24. Washington, D.C.
  25. Oakland (CA)

The patterns here are interesting:

  • Both of the largest cities in Missouri are on this list.
  • Louisiana has three cities on this list, as does the much larger state of California.
  • Mississippi is the poorest state in the US and has its state capital on this list. Louisiana and Arkansas are almost as poor, and their capitals on on the list as well.

My argument is that the root cause of violence is poverty. Where people are relatively well off, lax gun laws might have a deterrent effect. Where poverty is rampant, lax laws simply make violence easier to commit.

But that gets back to the original thesis, that there is no simple relationship between gun laws and violence. To achieve real understanding, you have to think the issue through in all of its glorious complexity.

And stop watching Facebook. Nothing gets solved in a sound byte.


  1. Evan Comen, “America’s 25 Murder Capitals,” 24/7WallSt, 13 November 2017.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on lyncrain and commented:
    Burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t help either. People have to want change for it to happen which means getting involved, voting and taking responsibility for one’s actions.


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