Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chicago-Houston Comparison Flaws

A few weeks ago there was another of those gun-control memes going around. It showed a statistical comparison between Houston and Chicago. I am really not sure if it is a pro-gun meme, or a pro-gun-control meme. Most of the people who posted it are pro-gun types, making one assume that it is also in favor of guns. However, it simply isn’t. Then again, most of the people who are rabidly supporting gun rights are not what you would call reason-driven.

The problem with this chart is that it is more a joke than anything else. It takes two cities who are slightly similar in demographics. (It claims that they are highly similar, but the racial breakdowns are very different.) Then it has a set-up. It begins to show that Chicago, which does not have as many gun owners or stores, has a higher murder rate. The punch-line comes when the chart concludes that cold weather causes more murders.

It is a classic example of statistics being used to support conclusions that are coincidental rather than causal.

The truth is that Chicago and Houston are two very complex cultural centers. There are far too many factors in these cities to simply tie violence into a single factor like gun ownership—or weather. The solution to a complex issue like violence in society is never as simple as increasing the amount of guns in society. America’s huge problem with violence is going to take fundamental changes in the culture.

It isn’t even as simple as increasing gun control either. Comparable cities in European countries where gun control is much higher are unquestionably safer places to be. That is more due to the culture and its aversion to violence than any gun control laws. In fact those laws are more a reflection of the same cultural factors that also cause violence and violent crime to be a fraction of what it is anywhere in the USA.

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