Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Healthiest and Deadliest Gun Cultures of the United States

Due to the high level of positive feedback I received concerning the various healths of gun cultures around the world, I decided to examine variance within the gun cultures inside the United States.  The final assessment is that the greater upper interior west, focusing especially on Wyoming, are a model for the rest of the country.  But first let us examine the steps which allowed me to reach this assessment.

Using statistics of gun ownership from USA Carry via About.com and Bureau of Justice gun homicide data, I was able to create the gun culture health ratio for each state.



Several maps help give a visual understanding to these numbers.  The first map shows the ten states with the greatest and least percentage of population with guns.

Red  states have the most guns by percentage of population, blue states have the least amount of guns by percentage of the population.  Interestingly all the red states voted for Romney/McCain/Bush while all the blue states voted for Obama with only Florida being a battleground state that voted for Bush.
The second map shows the full state breakdown of gun ownership by percentage.

Same color scheme applies with yellow being the middle.  
The third map shows the gun culture health status.  The scale ranges from dark green, the healthiest gun cultures, to dark red, the deadliest gun cultures.

Percentage of guns is nearly reversely correlated with the health status of the state's gun culture.  Only Mississippi (high gun ownership yet high gun homicides)  and Connecticut (low gun ownership yet only average gun homicides)  resist the trend.
For reference here is a map equating various states' gun cultures with the health of various countries' gun cultures.

Click to enlarge or download the image for full resolution.  Maryland, which has the deadliest gun culture in all the United States, is on par with Costa Rica's.  Meanwhile, Wyoming, which has the healthiest gun culture in all the United States, is on par with Latvia (which in turn beats runner up Vermont which is on par with gun owner paradise Switzerland)
When making the chart for the state-country comparisons I was shocked that only fifteen states' gun cultures were healthier than the national average.  Mapping these states was the final piece of evidence.


The northern interior core spreading from Oregon to Wisconsin along with the rural New England states as well as West Virginia have the healthiest gun cultures.  While there is an overall tendency for the states with more guns to have a healthier gun culture there are enough exceptions to show that there has to be something more.  Average gun owning states like Oregon and Nebraska are among the healthiest and so is low gun ownership Vermont.   Meanwhile heavy gun owning Mississippi and Louisiana (especially Louisiana) have poor gun cultures.

My own personal opinion: all the analysis points to something deeper.  Gun ownership rates and gun culture healthiness are not ends of themselves but instead the product of something greater.  The interior west and western Midwest have more two-parent families, better parent interaction with children, and the long Western tradition of gun ownership has made teaching respect of guns to the next generation a strong family value.  Meanwhile, the deadliest gun culture states have much weaker families, higher rates of divorce (though that is now common everywhere), a more transitory population, and the most violent demographic, young men, have no tradition of gun respect but instead live in thug culture which praises the gun's deadliness.

11 comments:

Adrian said...

I agree with your conclusion but I think you could show it much better if you were to able to get your hands on data at the county level. I bet you would see huge variances within states like Pennsylvania, New York and California which have large cities with bad gun cultures which cancel out the rural areas.

Catholicgauze said...

Hi Adrian,
Don't ruin the surprise for the post (if only the research wasn't massive work)

Adrian said...

A PhD thesis amount of work perhaps!

Unknown said...

Love the post. As Adrian mentioned, I think it would be very interesting to see the data broken down to the county level. A daunting project to be sure. Maryland, where I now live, would be bisected by the I95 corridor counties. Nevada, where I grew up, would have the usual culprits of Clark (LV) and Washoe (Reno) sticking out.

Population density really comes into play. Interestingly, those are also the counties, at least in my two states, that were solidly in the bag for the Democrat Party in the 2012 and 2008 elections.

Shane Kenyon said...

A simple explanation that you miss in your analysis - urban density. The states with the "least healthy" gun cultures tend to have extremely high urban density, whereas the opposite is true in the other case. Which is a telling indication of how one characterizes a "healthy" gun culture and the race and class bias therein. White hunters are automatically healthy gun owners. Roll the clock back to the days of the KKK and think about what it means to have a "healthy gun culture."

Catholicgauze said...

Shane,
Population density does have some failures on a state level. New Mexico and Arizona being case examples compared to places like Wisconsin and other more easterly states.

I am confused by your KKK statement with healthy gun culture.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in seeing this kind of analysis overlaid with hunting permits or something similar. Hunters come from a long tradition of respect for guns and for the damage they can do. Our newest gun owners -- people like suburban Nancy Lanza who keep high-capacity weapons at home because she thinks they are fun to shoot -- do not have that same tradition.

I think suburbanites are our most dangerous legal gun owners, while urban dwellers are our most dangerous illegal gun owners.

Most of the states you identified as healthy are largely rural and have a lot of hunters. I think that alone could explain much of the differences you see.

No one argues that guns are the only factor in gun violence. Canada has a lot of guns but not our level of gun violence. But Canada does not have high-capacity weapons, it has universal health care, and it is rare for people to keep a gun *only* for personal protection, as opposed to hunting or shooting.

The problem with gun violence is that it's guns plus something else. Guns plus mental illness, guns plus crime, guns plus unsafe storage, guns plus domestic violence, guns plus access for your teenage nephew who is feeling depressed.

So, as someone who does not want my child shot by your teenage nephew, I have two options. I can try to control your sister's parenting and whether or not she gets divorced, who she dates after her divorce, how well she manages your nephew's personal problems, which is basically impossible.

Or I can try to control your nephew's access to a gun, by making sure that he gets a background check, that he can't make a straw purchase, and asking you as a gun owner to lock up your gun unless you are actively using it. I choose the latter, since controlling the parenting of every gun owning family is really not my business. Protecting my child, however, is my business.

If you won't do it -- by preventing people like Adam Lanza from borrowing his mother's guns -- then the best I can do is try to make sure that someone like Nancy Lanza never has those guns in her home.

Catholicgauze said...

Anonymous,
There seems to be some problems in your logic statements.
Yes Canada does have lower rates. I maintain that is due to culture, not health care.
The main issue though is you blame equally legal guns in suburbs and illegal guns in urban cities. While my study is on-going, the fact is the vast majority of gun crime is urban and with illegal guns or guns in the wrong position (not registered owner). Saldy as well, Black urban culture seems deadliest as a map of gun violence overlayed with racial demographics shows.
Your child has a much larger chance of dying in a car accident than being killed by my nephew's gun. Since you seem more eager to focus on suburbanites who you feel have no right to have guns rather than focus on the day to day killers who use guns, are you also willing to focus on car control?

Jewels Hanson said...

PhDs don't write theses... Masters students do... PhDs write dissertations... Just thought I would throw that out there. Great page! Now if only the fed would take a look at this

Jewels Hanson said...

I actually might run a real analysis on this data and see if there is any significance in the various predictors (race, population density, urban/rural, etc.) Not to say this isn't good, it is wonderful, but I think a regression analysis would be able to point to which predictor is explaining the most variability.

I think it is ridiculous how many people use the excuse "I need to protect my children" as their platform for advocating for gun control. Instead of calling for more legislation, teach your kids about guns! Take some responsibility for yourself, your family, and your country! Why is your nephew depressed? That might be a good question to think about before taking everyone else's rights away because you are a shit parent, or your sibling is. I am pretty sure this country is now in the end days (because of the laziness described above), but until everything falls apart, look at things objectively and see where the blame actually falls instead of screwing everyone else to make up for your lack of, well... everything.

Catholicgauze said...

Jewels,
Take the information and discover new things we overlooked! If you want to share any of your finds the blog would love to feature it!