Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments: “But what about Chicago”

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Last time, I wrote about Switzerland, and how they really don’t have lax gun laws and shouldn’t be used as a pro-gun argument.  Today, in “Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments,” I’ll take on the opposite of that:

But what about [insert name of city, state, or country]. They have strict gun laws and some of the highest gun violence rates in the world.

Again, there are a lot of versions of this one, but lately gun enthusiasts seem to move directly to Chicago with things like this.

Chicago-Gun-Control

OK, so let’s get into why this and other arguments like it are nonsense.

First of all, yes, there are a lot of murders in Chicago, and many of them involve guns.

Second of all, yes, Chicago has stricter gun laws than much of the United States (though, they’ve been weakened as of late).

So, at face-value, such arguments are sorta, kinda true (or at least rooted in something that is sorta, kinda true).  Lots of murders despite strict gun-control.

But… Chicago does NOT have the highest murder rate in the country.  In fact, it’s not even in the top ten.  What the argument above skips is that the number of murders in an area is not the “murder rate” for that area (at least that’s not how experts calculate it).

The murder rate, or homicide rate, is the number of people murdered per 100,000 people in that region.

When you look at Chicago’s actual gun-homicide rate, things get much more clear.  In 2014, Chicago ranked 19th in the country with regard to gun-homicides,  In fact, the gun-homicide rate (15.1 murders per 100,000 people) was less than half of every city in the top five (St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Newark).

But wait, there’s more.

This only includes those cities with populations of 200,000 or more… so just 80 U.S. cities.  What happens when we look at the gun-homicide rate in those areas with smaller populations?  Well, it looks like this (red is high, blue is low, white means there isn’t enough data; if you want to look closer, click on the map and it will take you to an interactive version).

Gun homicide rate. nationalWhen we do that, Chicago’s gun-homicide rate is approximately the same as most of the south and southwest.  This isn’t just fun with statistics either.  Of course areas with more people are going to have more murders (just like they have more car accidents, more suicides, more cases of chicken pox, etc.).  That’s why we need to control for the size of the city.

Here’s the other thing you need to know about Chicago’s gun-homicide rate: The guns that are used to kill people in Chicago are usually bought legally somewhere else.

At the time I write this, there are no guns stores in Chicago (they were banned until just recently).  Chicago doesn’t have a wall around it, though, and every gun used in a homicide, suicide, etc. is bought outside of Chicago and brought there from some other city or state.  According to a recent report, 60% of guns used to commit a crime in Chicago were bought legally in states with more lax gun laws.  Indiana, for example, contributed 19% of the guns that were involved in crime (and while we’re at it, note that Indiana has seven counties with gun-homicide rates as high or higher than Chicago’s).  Mississippi, a full 600 miles from Chicago, contributed 6.7% of those guns (again, note per the map above that almost every county in Mississippi has a gun-homicide rate as high or higher than Chicago’s).

In other words, Chicago’s gun-homicide rate is, in part, the result of other states’ lax gun laws.

But this isn’t just about Chicago.  The point of the meme is to suggest that when you have gun control, only bad guys have guns and the murder rate goes up.

That’s not even sorta, kinda true.

Gun Ownership vs. Gun Deaths by StateThis chart shows a clear relationship between gun ownership and gun deaths.  And since I mentioned them earlier, I highlighted both Indiana and Mississippi so you can see where they are relative to Illinois.  Both have more guns and, expectedly, more gun deaths.

By Ryan C. Martin

Click here to see more pro-gun arguments get debunked.