4 Charts that Prove the Mental Illness Argument Against Gun Control is Bunk
by Benjamin Studebaker
Another week, another mass shooting in the United States. Barack Obama is furious at congress for its continual unwillingness to pass comprehensive gun control. Jeb Bush says “stuff happens”:
Once again the right is coming out with the same tired arguments, claiming that guns have nothing to do with gun violence, that mental illness is the culprit. This argument is facile and demonstrably wrong. I can show you why in four charts.
It’s true that the United States has the highest rates of mental illness and homicide in the developed world. But just because we are bad at both of these things does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. This chart compares the rates of mental illness to economic inequality:
We should notice two things:
- Economic inequality has a remarkably strong relationship with mental illness–if mental illness were the cause of our gun problem, this would suggest that one of the best ways to combat the problem would be to reduce economic inequality. That’s a very left wing move. The right’s argument implies that we should all be supporting Bernie Sanders.
- The United Kingdom has the second highest rate of mental illness in the world.
Why does the UK’s mental illness rate matter? Because the UK has one of the lowest gun violence rates on the planet. Britain has less gun violence than many countries with significantly lower rates of mental illness, including Spain, Italy, Australia, Germany, France, and Canada. But do you know what Britain doesn’t have? Civilian gun ownership:
And it’s not as if those Brits are murdering people with knives–even if you look at the general homicide rate, Britain is a very safe place:
What we do see in both cases is a statistically significant relationship between the number of guns per capita and the gun violence and homicide rates. We can expand this analysis well beyond Britain–if mental illness were the primary cause of gun violence, we would expect to see a strong statistical relationship between the rate of mental illness and the homicide rate. Among developed countries, there is no such relationship:
Many countries have similar homicide rates despite completely different rates of mental illness. The US is just a couple of points less healthy than the UK or Australia, but it has a crazy high homicide rate. Belgium is much healthier than most countries, but its homicide rate is high by European standards. Italy has one of the lowest rates of mental illness around, but its homicide rate is nearly the same as New Zealand’s, which has one of the highest rates of mental illness. It’s time for conservatives to face facts–mental illness is not the core cause of gun violence or homicide–gun ownership is. And if this analysis is wrong, if mental illness somehow really is the cause? Then the research suggests that a big part of the problem must be economic inequality–which means they ought to vote for Sanders. It’s a no-win situation for conservatives.
There’s another voice in unison with yours — Henry Giroux.
“Gun violence in America is inextricably tied to economic violence and the violence reproduced by politicians who would rather support the military-industrial-gun complex than address the most basic needs and social problems faced by the American people. When violence becomes an organizing principle of society, the fabric of a democracy begins to unravel suggesting that America is at war with itself. When politicians refuse out of narrow self and financial interests to confront the conditions that create such violence, they have blood on their hands.”
The whole essay: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/02/murder-usa-why-politicians-have-blood-on-their-hands/
Very convincing analysis. Unfortunately your countrymen are not listening. Sometimes it is worth opening your mind – obviously not Jeb Bush’s – and say – Hey| maybe this bit of the constitution, drafted in the eighteenth century, does not make sense today.
The right to bear arms was for self protection. It was not to enable the insane to go out and engage in a mass cull of citizens going about their lawful day.
Yes stuff happens but it is the duty of a state (Federal level) to take action to minimise this kind of ‘stuff’. With around 450 gun incidents involving 4 or more deaths or injuries this year, it has become a human rights issue.
no, not “the insane”. that’s the point. statistically, the sane are far scarier.
Reblogged this on perfectlyfadeddelusions and commented:
Why do they always blame the mentally ill, like we want to shoot people.
If I want to kill myself with a gun, I would only kill myself and nobody else.
Have you seen these liars article on CNN !!! Australia has had many mass shootings and many mass killings non-firearm since 1997
13 March 2000 – Millewa State Forest Murders – Barbara and Stephen Brooks and Stacie Willoughby were found dead, all three having been shot execution style and left in the forest
Monash university Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 21 October 2002 Killed 2 and wounded five others
26 May 2002 – A Vietnamese man walked into a Vietnamese wedding reception in Cabramatta Sydney, New South Wales armed with a handgun and opened fire wounding seven people.
16 July 2001 – Peter James Knight an anti abortion activist walked into an abortion clinic in East Melbourne armed with a rifle and shot dead a security guard Stephen Gordon Rogers, he was later overpowered by staff in the abortion clinic and was later arrested. He was later charged and convicted of murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
18 June 2007 – Melbourne CBD shooting – Christopher Wayne Hudson opened fire on three people, killing one and seriously wounding two others who intervened when Hudson was assaulting his girlfriend at a busy Melbourne intersection during the morning peak. He gave himself up to police in Wallan, Victoria on 20 June.
10 April 2010 – Rajesh Osborne shot and killed his three children, 12 year-old Asia, 10-year-old Jarius and 7-year-old Grace before killing himself in Roxburgh, Victoria.
30 May 2005 – Toowoomba triple murder – the bodies of three men, two aged 17 and one aged 30, were found in a house in Toowoomba, Queensland; the three men were beaten to death with metal bars and a hammer and are beaten beyond recognition, with dental records being needed to identify the victims. The murders were committed by three male youths, two aged 16 and one aged 17. One of the 16-year-olds and the 17-year-old are charged with three counts of murder while the other 16-year-old is charged with one count of murder.
23 March 2004 – John Sharpe murdered his pregnant wife, two-year-old daughter and unborn son with a speargun at Mornington, Victoria.
18 February 2006 – Cardross Hit and Run – Thomas Graham Towle crashed his car at high speed into a group of 13 teenagers killing six and injuring seven near the town of Cardross, Victoria
30 June 2008 – Cowra murders – John Walsh used an axe to murder his wife his grandson aged 7 and his granddaughter aged 5 and then used the axe to attack and try and murder his daughter who is a police officer after she arrived home from work at the house in the town of Cowra, New South Wales. His daughter survived the attack and he is later arrested and is charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder and he is later sentenced to life in prison.
18 July 2009 – Lin family murders – Five members of the Lin family were found dead in their home in Epping, New South Wales
8 November 2010 – Kapunda triple murder – Jason Alexander Downie repeatedly stabbed and killed Andrew, Rose and Chantelle Rowe in a frenzied attack at their home in Kapunda, South Australia
….AND MANY MORE OF EITHER SINCE AND MANY OBSCURITIES TOO SINCE YEAR 2000
Despite these horrific anecdotes, statistically Australia is no more dangerous than most European countries. The homicide rate is 1.1 per 100,000 and the gun violence death rate is 0.86 per 100,000. These are good numbers–the US homicide rate is 4.7 and its gun violence death rate is 10.64. You are almost 5 times more likely to be murdered in the US than in Australia and more than 12 times more likely to be killed with a gun.
What are your sources for this information?
The inequality and mental illness data is from the Equality Trust, the guns per capita data is from the Small Arms Survey, the violence & homicide stats are from the World Health Organization and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Hey Benjamin, I think this is a really well written piece! I’m just curious why on the data you excluded the Nordic countries? This topic interests me and in researching it for a post on my own blog I was pretty shocked that the U.S. wasn’t actually the country with the most mass shooting fatalities in the developed world per 100,000, which seems to be a large part of the debate. Anyways, great piece, I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff!
Glad you liked it! The reason the Nordic countries are left out is that the Equality Trust either does not appear to have mental health data for those countries. I can however confirm that their guns per capita and gun violence/homicide rates don’t mess up our statistical relationships between guns and violence. When we look at guns per capita vs gun violence, Denmark’s numbers are similar to Italy’s, Norway and Sweden’s are similar to Germany’s, Finland’s are similar to France’s. When we look at guns per capita vs homicide, Denmark is again like Italy, Finland is like Canada, Sweden is like Germany, and Norway is a bit unusually elevated for a European country, but still much better than the US. Here are the exact figures:
Guns Per Capita:
Gun Violence Rate:
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