The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Discuss the March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month, Final Notice by Van Fleisher.
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Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Scott » March 20th, 2019, 10:18 am

This is a discussion topic for the March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month, Final Notice by Van Fleisher, a book that through fiction addresses topics including techno-medical ethics, treatment of the elderly, and gun control. It's strongly recommend your read the book before participating in this discussion.


Does legally owning a gun correlate to a significant difference in the statistical likelihood of the gun owner committing violent crime? If so, does the evidence provided only provide evidence of correlation or does it provide evidence (even if weak evidence) of causality? Does the evidence provided strongly indicate a true correlation with actually committing violent crime or (more likely) only provide a correlation between gun ownership and being charged and/or convicted of violent crime? For what factors do the studies control (e.g. income, race, gender, age, etc.)? Keep in mind, any uncontrolled factors in a correlation study could be the true causal link leading to the thus relatively meaningless non-causal correlation.

Please don't respond with gut feelings or anecdotes, or otherwise answers to the question given without evidence. I am not asking for you to just state your conclusion/answer without evidence. Rather, I am asking you to provide evidence, namely presumably scientific statistical studies from credible sources, that the rest of us can then use to draw our own evidence-based conclusions.

If you don't have any evidence to provide, feel free to not post a reply at all. You don't have to reply to this forum post, so don't feel pressure to participate in this topic.


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This topic is a part of a series about gun control meant to start with (1) less controversial, less philosophical, and less complex gun-related topics and then move increasingly towards (2) more controversial, more philosophical, and more complex gun-related topics. If a person cannot discuss the simpler topics in the series in a reasonable civil open-minded way that utilizes the principal of charity, than that person should not bother participating in the more complex topics at all. This forum does not exist for flame wars between wingnuts. In fact, this forum is not a good place for anyone who is not significantly more open-minded than the average person because philosophy entails challenging deeply held beliefs. In this forum, we love respectful debate and discussing controversial topics in unusually productive ways. In this forum, we want others to challenge our ideas and appreciate when others play devil's advocate.
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by LuckyR » March 20th, 2019, 5:38 pm

It's my understanding that legal gun owners are much less likely to commit gun crimes. The reasons for this are several: firstly and most importantly, the group most likely to commit gun crimes are (by definition) illegal gun owners, which, again by definition are wholly excluded from the legal gun ownership category. Secondly, legal gun owners are skewed towards several subgroups, the elderly, the rurally located, law enforcement and veterans, all with a below average risk of gun crime commission.

This is not controversial.
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by dscotese » March 20th, 2019, 6:56 pm

"Crime" has an official meaning (because the State says so), but it also has a different meaning which I would call "human." The first meaning makes the seller a criminal and the second meaning makes the state employee a criminal in the following example: In the drug war, a person voluntarily trading some plant material for some cash might be accosted for violating a law by a state-paid employee with a gun. Is this a violent crime?

For an inverted example, The first meaning makes the hero someone who is committing a violent crime with a gun, while the second meaning makes the thug someone who is committing a violent crime without a gun in the following example: A thug accosts a victim in the street, demanding the victims wallet and a struggle ensues in which the the thug is beating the victim. A passerby illegally carrying a gun pulls it out and threatens the thug who doesn't listen, and then the passerby fires the gun, hitting the thug and thus stopping the victim from being further beaten.

The question of what falls into the category "violent crime" will have an effect on the answer to your questions.

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Scott » March 21st, 2019, 10:07 am

LuckyR wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 5:38 pm
It's my understanding that legal gun owners are much less likely to commit gun crimes. The reasons for this are several: firstly and most importantly, the group most likely to commit gun crimes are (by definition) illegal gun owners, which, again by definition are wholly excluded from the legal gun ownership category. Secondly, legal gun owners are skewed towards several subgroups, the elderly, the rurally located, law enforcement and veterans, all with a below average risk of gun crime commission.
If I had take a bet without significant evidence, I'd ignorantly bet legal gun owners are much less likely to commit violent crimes for the reasons you mention. Hopefully, someone can find and provide very convincing credible evidence that supports that conclusion.

LuckyR wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 5:38 pm
This is not controversial.
Indeed, we are only on Q2 of the series, so that is the point.

dscotese wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 6:56 pm

The question of what falls into the category "violent crime" will have an effect on the answer to your questions.
That is a very good point. Nonetheless, I would be extremely interested in convincing credible evidence that shows a statistical link between legal gun ownership and the commission of "violent crime" that use a definition of "violent crime" that differs greatly from my own. Beggars can't be choosers, so I'll take the evidence I can get regarding the link between gun ownership and the commission of "violent crime" however defined. If there's too much credible evidence for varying definitions then I definitely think it would be important to not weight the different scientific studies equally but rather debate which one defines "violent crime" most accurately.

You make a very good point. Any credible scientific statistical studies provided need to be taken with the understanding that it only shows the link between gun ownership and the commission of what the scientists defined as "violent crime" for the purposes of that study. Luckily, most credible scientific studies should be very upfront and clear in how the defined the key terminology used and very clear about how they categorized that which they studied (e.g. into violent vs non-violent crime).

If anyone in this discussions needs a specific explicit definition be provided upfront, I'd be fine to use the below definitions I've bolded of "violent" and "crime" from Merriam Webster:

Merriam Webster wrote:Definition of violent

1a(1) : marked by the use of usually harmful or destructive physical force
a violent attack violent crime The peaceful demonstration turned violent.

(2) : showing or including violence
violent movies
b : extremely powerful or forceful and capable of causing damage
violent storms violent coughing

2 : caused by physical force or violence : not natural
a violent death

3a : emotionally agitated to the point of using harmful physical force
became violent after an insult

b : prone to commit acts of violence
violent prison inmates

4a : notably forceful, furious, or vehement
a violent argument a violent denunciation

b : extreme, intense
violent pain violent colors

[Emphasis added.]
Merriam Webster wrote: Definition of crime

1 : an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government
especially : a gross violation of law

2 : a grave offense especially against morality

3 : criminal activity
efforts to fight crime

4 : something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful
It's a crime to waste good food.

[Emphasis added.]
In slightly plainer language, for the purposes of this discussion in this forum topic, we can combine those two definitions to define "violent crime" as an illegal act marked by the use of harmful or destructive physical force.

But if one wants to further elaborate the definition or use a different definition, that's fair. I only ask one try very hard to be clear in what they mean (e.g. specify the different definition being used when using the term in a different way).
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Jan Sand » March 21st, 2019, 2:36 pm

Even if you legally own a hammer and are convinced that all problems are better solved by nailing then I suspect many tthings will be solved by nailing than with other methods. I have no knowledge of scientific studies on this have been made so perhaps my observation is disqualified.

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by dscotese » March 21st, 2019, 2:50 pm

For simplicity's sake, I recommend that you exclude police officers and military personnel. If you don't exclude them and we do find good scientific evidence on both sides of the question, I suspect that "legal ownership" will show a strong positive correlation to "violent crime" from studies that consider violent but legally justified police and military behavior to be "violent crime" despite the state's sanction of it, while it will show a strong negative correlation from studies that consider police and military activities, unless they are (at least) criminally charged by their government, to be non-criminal. My personal definition for "crime" does not require a government, but that is a different philosophical matter :-).

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Eddiecoyote » March 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm

The "if so" portion is highly problematic. Instead of going off into conjecture of morality and causality, the first questions should have been how did they collect the data, was it biased, was the sample represetative of a population? Could we replicate it?

It is also likely to be a correlative study, so the question as to causality is itself problematic and doing so is opening up the trojan horse of bias. Also, from what we see over and over and over again, that as we add more and more factors into such pattern seeking (predicting), the less and less reliable patterns we see until the correlations are flat.

Scientifically speaking this is not a good question to ask.

Philosophically this is just gamesmanship and doesn't help the discussion of gun control because without actual data but instead 'if so' conjectures, it is all biased.

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Liezlw21 » March 21st, 2019, 3:53 pm

Yes based on anecdotal evidence in South Africa: more violent crimes are committed using guns by people who are not registered gun owners. So guns used/held by these people are unregistered and thus illegally in their possession

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Rederic » March 21st, 2019, 4:15 pm

I could be wrong on this, but I'm under the impression that most mass shootings are committed using legally held guns.
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by LuckyR » March 21st, 2019, 4:16 pm

Scott wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 10:07 am
LuckyR wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 5:38 pm
It's my understanding that legal gun owners are much less likely to commit gun crimes. The reasons for this are several: firstly and most importantly, the group most likely to commit gun crimes are (by definition) illegal gun owners, which, again by definition are wholly excluded from the legal gun ownership category. Secondly, legal gun owners are skewed towards several subgroups, the elderly, the rurally located, law enforcement and veterans, all with a below average risk of gun crime commission.
If I had take a bet without significant evidence, I'd ignorantly bet legal gun owners are much less likely to commit violent crimes for the reasons you mention. Hopefully, someone can find and provide very convincing credible evidence that supports that conclusion.

LuckyR wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 5:38 pm
This is not controversial.
Indeed, we are only on Q2 of the series, so that is the point.
You're not as ignorant as you pretend. Since 43% of US households legally own guns but less than 20% of gun crimes (in Pittsburgh in the particular study) were used by the legal owner, my points are supported by the data. Of course, this is likely a correlation not a cause, but there you have it.
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by LuckyR » March 21st, 2019, 4:18 pm

Rederic wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 4:15 pm
I could be wrong on this, but I'm under the impression that most mass shootings are committed using legally held guns.
You are correct but leaving out the fact that mass shootings account for a small fraction of total US gun morbidity
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Harshad Dave » March 22nd, 2019, 12:17 am

I think the question incorporates irrelavant link between "legally owning a gun" and "likelihood of committing violent crime".
In fact, "legally owning a gun" is linked with "varification of overall competance" to hold a weapon like gun. Now it is basically wrong..... "to give" and "to enjoy" right to have gun (weapon) just on fundamental rights only. In last 200 years, we developed our social system in multifold rate.... but..... unfortunately with the same philosophy of democracy prescribed by Thomas Jefferson and others. If we are unable to develope social philosophy in matching space with our socio economic formation founded on latest science and technology...... different types of boils are surely going to trouble us..... the gun problem is one of them. Now this is the time..... democracy needs to be redefine along with fundamental rights in matching with prevailing socio economic formation.

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Jan Sand » March 22nd, 2019, 1:59 am

One must be careful with statistics, Only once in the history of nuclear weapons has a couple of atomic bombs been used to kill many thousands of defenseless civilians to no purpose since Japan had already offered to surrender. The world has many nations fully armed with nuclear missiles but statistically there is no incidence of their being used. Does that statistic give the world any comfort?

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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by Scott » March 22nd, 2019, 12:38 pm

LuckyR wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 4:16 pm
Scott wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 10:07 am

If I had take a bet without significant evidence, I'd ignorantly bet legal gun owners are much less likely to commit violent crimes for the reasons you mention. Hopefully, someone can find and provide very convincing credible evidence that supports that conclusion.



Indeed, we are only on Q2 of the series, so that is the point.
You're not as ignorant as you pretend. Since 43% of US households legally own guns but less than 20% of gun crimes (in Pittsburgh in the particular study) were used by the legal owner, my points are supported by the data. Of course, this is likely a correlation not a cause, but there you have it.
@LuckyR
What data? What study?

As far as I can see, nobody posted a single source or citation in this forum topic yet, let alone the link to a credible scientific statistical study.



Rederic wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 4:15 pm
I could be wrong on this, but I'm under the impression that most mass shootings are committed using legally held guns.
@Rederic ,

Please provide a credible source or citation for that statistic.

In any case, it's barely relevant to helping answer the overall titular question unless you can also provide a statistic that most instances of violent crime are mass shootings, and/or that the proportions of legal gunowners to non-legal gunowners is such that the above statistic reflects disproportion. (For example, if 90% of people in a certain area own guns legally, and only 60% of shootings of a certain type are by people using legally owned guns, then it could be simultaneously true that most of those types of shootings are done with legal guns AND at the same time legally owning the gun is correlated to a lower likelihood of committing such a shooting.).


Eddiecoyote wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm
The "if so" portion is highly problematic. Instead of going off into conjecture of morality and causality, the first questions should have been how did they collect the data, was it biased, was the sample represetative of a population? Could we replicate it?
@Eddiecoyote, I agree. Let's do that first before (if ever) moving on to the "if so" portion of the question.

Harshad Dave wrote:
March 22nd, 2019, 12:17 am
I think the question incorporates irrelavant link between "legally owning a gun" and "likelihood of committing violent crime".
@Harshad Dave
No, the question doesn't incorporate such a link. The question is asking whether there is a link.
Jan Sand wrote:
March 22nd, 2019, 1:59 am
One must be careful with statistics, Only once in the history of nuclear weapons has a couple of atomic bombs been used to kill many thousands of defenseless civilians to no purpose since Japan had already offered to surrender. The world has many nations fully armed with nuclear missiles but statistically there is no incidence of their being used. Does that statistic give the world any comfort?
@Jan Sand, I agree we should be careful with statistics, such as whatever the statistical answer to the titular questions turns out to be. However, that's not the topic here. This forum topic is simply about what the statistics are, i.e. what the answer is to the titular question. The topic is not what we should do with the answer to the titular question. The topic is just what is the answer to the titular question.
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Re: Gun Control Series Q2 -- Is legally owning a gun correlated to different likelihood of committing violent crime?

Post by LuckyR » March 22nd, 2019, 7:30 pm

Scott wrote:
March 22nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
LuckyR wrote:
March 21st, 2019, 4:16 pm


You're not as ignorant as you pretend. Since 43% of US households legally own guns but less than 20% of gun crimes (in Pittsburgh in the particular study) were used by the legal owner, my points are supported by the data. Of course, this is likely a correlation not a cause, but there you have it.
@LuckyR
What data? What study?

As far as I can see, nobody posted a single source or citation in this forum topic yet, let alone the link to a credible scientific statistical study.
Ok if you don't believe me: https://www.upmc.com/media/news/fabio-firearms

Is the lay synopsis from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The study was published in the Journal of Social Medicine
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