This state sucks.

Coloradoans respond to automatic-weapon fueled mass murder by. . . going out to purchase more guns!  Awesome.

Check out this map of the world that compares national gun ownership rates, their rates of murders by firearms, and the percentage of homocides by firearms (h/t civilian in the comments to the previous post.)  The data are complicated–countries with high murder rates don’t necessarily have high rates of gun ownership, for example, but it’s clear that the U.S. stands out among its peers of developed nations with stable democracies.

21 thoughts on “This state sucks.

  1. Having lived in Colorado for 6 years, this response doesn’t surprise me. The excuse that if only someone had a firearm in the theater to fight back scares the living daylights out of me – I mean a good old fashion shoot ’em up between the white hats and the black hats in a dark theater!

    In related news, Jill Lepore has an excellent article in the New Yorker about the history of Batman and gun laws:


  2. Gun ownership in NI is the result of decommissioned IRA weapons not being handed in, but making it into the general population. It’s also a good estimate, as gun ownership is heavily prohibited, so those guns are illegal and so difficult to count. Just as interesting is the fact that gun deaths are much higher south of the border, which suggests that those weapons are being to use elsewhere (or at least that’s what’s normally claimed in the South).


  3. My question is this: how is it that people of Middle Eastern descent end up in prison, in black sites, or getting deported to states where they are tortured for raising $$ for Islamic charities or saying things the guvmint doesn’t like — but a white guy US citizen arms himself like Rambo and it doesn’t toss a flag in the air at Homeland Security?

    Here’s how we could use capitalism to help: what if Visa, MasterCard, Discover, PayPal and Amex voluntarily tracked weapons purchases and reported unusually large sales to local police? After all, if you live in NY and go to Arizona and start buying jewelry they shut your credit card down to make sure that you are you. You would think that a bullet-proof suit, 6,000 rounds of ammo and a lot of violent truck purchased over the interwebs would be highly visible through the financial instruments that facilitate them.

    You would think that leaving a movie alive would trump being heavily armed as a civil right, wouldn’t you?


  4. Chuck Murphy at the Denver Post asked those questions yesterday morning in a conversation with a local Imam.

    Being a white man with an English name has tremendous privileges, including the right of non-scrutiny of objectively suspicious purchases, apparently.

    Does anyone else remember the angry and determined response after Tim McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 that the response of the newly elected Republican congress was to hold hearing after hearing in which white, anti-Clinton self-styled “militia” members testified in congress about their fears of being associated with McVeigh and therefore subjected to the scrutiny of an unjust government? Yeah, well that worked out just fine for them. Farmers & other people purchasing large volumes of fertilizer were the ones who were inconvenienced, not white survivalists assembling munitions for the end of the world.


  5. I was away from my Western Slope Colorado community for the last five days, so watched and listened to the news about the shooting in Aurora from afar. I returned home last night, and opened up the local rag this morning to find: 1) an article by a local reporter about the surge in gun sales over the weekend; and 2) a letter to the editor proclaiming “if we choose to return fire in a situation such as this, the damage of such actions can be greatly reduced. I also believe those who would take action such as this [the killing in Aurora] will be less likely to do so if more people are routinely armed.”


  6. I was often tempted to return fire at Zenith history department meetings, but did not do so because of fear that innocent bystanders would be killed.

    No seriously folks —

    Over 25% of American soldiers hurt in a war zone are shot, bombed and blasted by their own peeps. And yet war movies seem to have persuaded the gun-friendly that well trained people of good will will stop the bad boy in his tracks with no collateral damage.

    How to intervene in this collective fantasy?


  7. The gun homicide rate map looks to me like a map of the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality. More unequal, more homicides by gun. I plotted some data I have for the Gini coefficient and the gun homicide data from the Guardian article and while there does appear to be a (nonlinear) relationship, I ran out of time to do any statistical analysis so my idea is untested. I’ll try to get back to it. It would be best to try some multivariate analyses, probably including other measures of cultural wellbeing and other crime rates.

    I wonder what’s up with that Guardian article though. They present the data and then ask the readership to do the analysis. They can’t afford to hire applied statisticians?


  8. And in not-entirely-unrelated news, the death in Texas of 14 out of 23 people crammed into a single pickup by border smugglers rated exactly one paragraph in my morning paper (the movie-theater shooter got several front-page pictures and 2 stories, 3 if you count one further back on fears about copycat crime). Apparently that’s not even the deadliest recent border-crossing incident; that one involved 19 people dying in a closed container.

    Yes, the dead in TX were breaking (or trying to break) the law (or at least the adults were; there were children killed, too), but last I heard illegal border-crossing didn’t rate the death penalty (assuming anything does/should). 14 deaths in TX don’t make 12 deaths in CO any less horrible, and the intentionality involved in the CO deaths is, of course, especially disturbing, but it’s still interesting which kinds of carnage we linger over, and which we apparently take in stride.

    I’m afraid it’s the whole country that sucks, at least when it comes to truly valuing life (as opposed to using valuing very-narrowly-defined “life” as a campaign slogan).


  9. There are two big issues that I have with the map. First of all, the number of homicides on a national level is often much less interesting than on a local or provincial level. For example, in Mexico the huge amount of drug war related violence in recent years is concentrated in the north, so counting the population of, say, Oaxaca when compiling murder statistics is somewhat misleading. (Similarly for Brazil, I’m going to guess that much of the gun deaths are concentrated in cities). The consequence of this is that the statistics, especially in big countries, get smoothed across the country, underestimating the amount of violence and guns in high violence areas, and overestimating it in relatively safer areas.

    The second is that it fails to distinguish between hunting weapons (long rifles and shotguns) and weapons designed primarily for people killing (hand guns, fully automatic assault rifles). This gives the impression that countries like Canada and the Scandinavian countries, with a large proportion of hunters, has a very high gun ownership rate. While this is true, the numbers would be even more shocking if those sorts of guns were not included.

    As for the heroic white defender, stopping mass killings with his concealed handgun… that doesn’t seem to happen very often, even in places where concealed carry is legal. And of course, having someone firing back in a smoke filled movie theater is probably not the best thing.

    At my old university, a student was killed while working at a cafe by a stalker who walked in to the cafe, and shot her several times from a few feet away. Even then, many people repeated “if she had a gun she could have defended herself.”


  10. Yes–Johanna Justin-Jinich. I wrote about that at the time. So very sad.

    I take CC’s point about the highway deaths in Texas, but I think there is legitimate interest in the Colorado mass-murders because the victims weren’t doing anything they should have understood as dangerous. They weren’t taking risks–they were just going about their lives. Also: there are other uses for pickup trucks than homocide. Glocks and military-style assault rifles? not so much.


  11. A drunk drinks some more and then some more. My do we expect logic to be involved on gun massacres? Guns is the addiction of the American 19th century mindset. Most of us are still there.

    When will we sober up? May be never.


  12. @TR(8:43), this is my question: how is it that the American public is willing to ditch most of the Bill of Rights in the name of the “war on terrorism,” but go to the mat, allowing thousands to die annually, for the “integrity” of the 2nd?

    @Jonathon Booth: on your last point, a number of people have been reminding us that there was someone with a concealed weapon at the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona, but he(?) didn’t act because he didn’t want police to mistake him for a second shooter.


  13. And, this is the damaged neighborhood’s strategy:

    “Supporters of gun rights have countered that the days after a shooting is not the time to talk about changes in laws, saying instead that the focus should be on victims.”

    In short, they’re a bunch of chickens hiding behind a pile of the dead and injured. When does one talk about changing an urgent situation — months after memories have faded? Years?

    Why, if this strategy were implemented after 9/11, we wouldn’t have gone to war with a country that did *not* harbor or fund those suicide terrorists. How silly would that have been?


  14. I know everyone’s moved on, but at least I wanted to note one more, angry, but very sensible post:

    “I can understand why, for the families of the victims, their therapists or priests may ask them to accept this fatalistically – they can’t get their loved one back. But as a nation, we should not be willing to be so passive in the face of what is obviously a fucked up system. We can imagine, I hope, a culture where it’s a wee bit more difficult to massacre innocent people if and when you decide that’s a good idea.

    If you’re in doubt that this system is skewed towards the madman, keep in mind that the uninsured Aurora shooting victims are at risk of debtor’s prison in this country.

    It begs the question of why we’ve become so inured to bad politicians. Notice I’m not saying inured to violence and random shootings, because we’re not, actually. We are all horrified, but in the face of such tragedy we shrug our shoulders and say stuff about the fact that there’s nothing we can do. Because that’s what our politicians say.”


  15. I promise, the last link:

    First, I’d agree with her stance on decompressing from the hype seen on social media networks, except that her commentary syndicating as a Denver Post blog entry *is part of the problem* — one personal opinion writ large on the Internet, decrying the Internet letting writers lesser than a Washington Post commentator speak. Sheesh.

    This commentator makes a plea for an apolitical public response, one that reduces a nation built on laws and a desire for justice into sobbing, helpless children. I thought we were supposed to be better than passive consumers of media sentimentalization:

    “It takes little time to progress from waves of people expressing shock, sadness and spiritual solidarity to those: (a) proclaiming their violent hatred of the alleged suspect or his methods, (b) posting a position statement on why their political party has the right solution to the issue, (c) making a request for some sort of supposedly meaningful action and (d) expressing outrage at any innocently coincidental thing that might be seen as insensitive.”

    And since when is a movie theatre considered sacred? It’s a business that was attacked, not a frikkin’ church…. If one must beef, I’d take issue with the fuzzy, blue-sky-and-clouds funeral program graphics used to “remember the victims”. Some victims might not have believed in Heaven, so who are we to blanket them with our properly vague Christian iconography?


  16. I’m entirely with you, cgeye. I don’t understand why people insist that a political response is either inappropriate “at this time of grieving,” or pre-judged as ineffective, when of course the deaths in Aurora & in every other mass shooting were the result of political decisions made over the course of the last several years.

    The point you make about the personal debt that the survivors and their families may incur is spot on. If we were a civilized country that offered health care as a citizenship right, rather than firearms ownership, it would make things so much easier for those who survive to focus on healing rather than internet fund drives to fund their medical care.

    (Children’s Hospital has promised to waive the costs of medical care beyond what’s covered by insurance, I believe. Maybe all of the CU hospitals made this promise?)


  17. It’s the third rail that could change the discourse regarding healthcare and gun violence: Why do the victims pay more than the perp, even if he gets the death penalty?

    Why do we have to triage, the innocent and the guilty, in giving them the physical *and* mental healthcare they need, or preventing such harm, in the first place?

    Why can’t we ask for Medicare for All, or at least hold the fucking line regarding Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and welfare programs, at least until we are quantitatively out of this recession?

    And, of course, why is no national politician brave enough to say, this is one thing we can fix, instead of fum-fuhing over weak gun control legislation? (Prohibiting mail-order gun sales, and leave the gun show loophole open? Really?)

    (And Dr. H., there’s one comment I made with two links that’s in approval limbo — it’s not much, but it does provide context to my “damaged neighborhood” analogy….)


  18. Pingback: Wrung out. | Historiann

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