Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Opportunity Costs

If you could walk down a representative sample of all the streets in the country, one out of every three houses or apartments would be distinguished by something. No, not pink flamingos on the lawn or massive overbuilding on small lots. One-third of all households have a firearm inside.

If you divide the country into fourths, based on the percentage of homes with guns, you find something interesting, and predictable, according to a recent study in the
journal Social Science & Medicine. The top quarter of gun-ownership states have more than double the rate of gun homicides than the lowest quarter. For all four quartiles, the gun havens have a 60 percent higher rate.

It is important to note – as did the entire blogosphere of gun fondlers – that in science "association is not causation." It may well be that a higher percentage of people own guns because there are more criminals in their neighborhoods.

This is not about the legal right to own guns. It is about data, based on the world's largest telephone survey, 200,000 people, that are strongly suggestive that murder is based on opportunity, and when you have a gun at the ready, opportunity doesn't just knock, it quite literally blows you away.

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