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More guns, more death

Whenever a gun massacre happens—at Virginia Tech, say, or someplace else—we usually get a revival of the mostly neutered gun debate in this country. Some liberals decry lax gun laws, some conservatives suggest that if only everybody was armed you'd somehow see less gun violence.

A new study from the Violence Policy Center suggests the conservative analysis is wrong:
States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of gun death according to a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) of just-released 2008 national data (the most recent available) from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Wyoming. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.38 per 100,000 for 2008. Each state has lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates. By contrast, states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death.

And here's the graphic overview:


This makes sense, of course, because the only purpose that guns have—when used—is to inflict injury and death. More guns naturally means guns will be used more, which naturally means more people will die. This isn't complicated.

This is particularly notable because, as Frank Bruni discusses in the New York Times today, there's a move among Republicans in Congress to force states with tight concealed-carry laws to recognize and allow concealed-carry permits from states with laxer regulations. (Thanks to the vagaries of Pennsylvania law, we in Philadelphia sometimes find ourselves awash in Florida-permitted guns ... with permit-holders often being people who have never been to Florida.) It's basically a law that would permit Wyoming to export its death rate to Massachusetts.

Second Amendment advocates, I suppose, will talk about Constitutional rights and the costs of freedom. But we should recognize those costs. Guns are not benign instruments.

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