White House study links
juvenile homicide rate to gun access laws

March 7, 2000
Web posted at: 2:21 a.m. EST (0721 GMT)
From staff reports.
Copied from www.cnn.com for educational and review purposes only

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Easier access to firearms contributed to a huge rise in the number of U.S. homicides and suicides among juveniles from 1987 to 1993, according to a new study released by the White House.

The report, released Tuesday, said the rate of juvenile homicide increased 65 percent from 1987 to 1993. In 1993 alone, nearly 1,800 juveniles died in firearms-related homicide, the highest number on record.

But during the following years, from 1993 to 1997, the number of juvenile homicides and suicides dropped, according to the study, which credited the decline in part on tighter laws regulating access to firearms.

Even so, during that same period, more than half of all juvenile homicides involved a firearm. And in 1997, slightly fewer than 1,200 juveniles died in firearms-related homicides, the study said.

"The recent decline in firearm-related juvenile homicides and suicides is encouraging and reinforces the need to remain vigilant in keeping handguns and other weapons out of the hands of children," said Shay Bilchik, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The study also said that from 1987 to 1997, homicides among juveniles age 15 to 17 were more likely to involve a firearm than were homicides of adults.

Between 1980 to 1997, three out of four homicides involving juveniles age 12 or older were committed with a firearm, the report said. Also during this period, male juveniles were twice as likely as females to die as a result of gun homicide, according to the report.

The study analyzed FBI homicide data from 1980 to 1997 to assess the role of firearms in juvenile violence. The Clinton administration used the data to reinforce its message that Congress should pass more gun control laws in an attempt to reduce firearms-related violence.

White House Correspondent Major Garrett contributed to this report.

United States Homicide Rates, 1900 - 1998 (See USA for details.)

The above White House study is based on the same FBI / Bureau of Justice data set John Lott used, and I use for my USA and Columbine a Day pages. The statistics quoted are accurate, but the analysis (at least as reported by CNN) is based entirely on national average over time. This is an excellent example of liars figuring. Using the same information used by Lott and myself, Clinton attempts to prove the exact opposite effect.

The plain English common sense counter argument is that the early 1990s homicide peak is a minor (2 homicides per 100,000) bump on top of the major homicide increase (6 per 100,000) that started in the late 1960s. The major bump might be attributed to the War on Drugs, the gun control efforts that followed the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, and the end of the prosperity of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Clinton's study focuses on a very short time frame. The homicide rate dropped during Reagan's Morning in America, rose during the first Bush administration, then dropped again through the Clinton years. Was this due solely to gun control policy? No way. As someone once said, "It's the economy, stupid."

Perhaps I should put The Great Depression on my chart as well? Can one infer from the chart that a criminal's perception of economic difficulties contributes to the decision to operate outside of the law?

While no one can question that the homicide rate started to drop at the start of the Clinton administration, only one study has begun to show how much of the drop should be attributed to each of numerous factors. That study is Lott's More Guns Less Crime.

Lott's statistical software credits the economy, credits shall issue concealed carry, credits increased arrests, credits increased prison population, but found Bradey and other similar gun control efforts not statistically significant. An economist, Lott also considers the cost of implementing the various methods of saving lives he shows to be effective. Conceal carry shall issue is inexpensive and effective. Increased policing and prison population are expensive and effective. Improving the economy is effective but challenging. (Go for it! Best of luck!) The Bradey Bill and similar attempts to restrain criminal ownership of guns are mildly expensive and not effective.

There are some factors Lott cannot or did not measure and control out. On Killing suggests that violent movies and video games might increase crime. Can media violence be measured, and its lethal effects statistically shown? Was Columbine a copycat killing, perpetrated by fans of the video game Doom, the movie The Matrix, and emotional TV coverage of previous school homicides? Is it just a coincidence that after the first post office and school suffered highly publicized mass murder suicides, other post offices and schools suffered as well? Should crimes of publicity be denied publicity? Should those who profit from violence be sued or taxed to recover the cost to society? If we are denying entirely the Second Amendment, why not target the First too?

Powerful processors and realistic video were introduced with Jurassic Park around 1993. The new technology increased the graphic violence in movies, home computers and video arcades. The data quoted by the Clinton White House suggests On Killing is dead wrong. Violent movies and games save lives. The homicide rate dropped as soon as the media achieved a certain level of violence and gore.

This suggestion is intended to be absurd. Can anyone offer real proof or disproof? This is why it is important to collect a massive database and control out as many variables as possible. Many factors effect changing crime rates. It is far easier to show a change in crime rate that to prove what caused it. Without such proofs, one can generally find data that suggests whatever one wants to suggest. Studies that do not control out alternate explanations for the effect under study are essentially worthless.

The White House study makes no attempt to control out other factors, and makes no attempt at comparing states with different laws. Using a selected subset of Lott's data, Clinton proposes the opposite result, without rebutting Lott's far more detailed statistical analysis. The White House study is thus best considered as an example of gun control propaganda.

Liars Sure Figure

More Guns Less Crime - USA - World
On Killing - White House Study - Children