Friday, January 08, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

The Violence Policy Center has some statistics. Too bad they don't present them fairly. Gun-control advocates play fast and loose
Now consider this statistic: Concealed handgun permit holders have killed 107 people since 2007. That news, from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., sounds pretty bad - until you put it in context. How many Americans have been issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon?

The Violence Policy Center doesn't say. And it's probably impossible to pin down a precise number, because records are kept on a state-by-state basis, and reporting criteria differ from state to state. But NRA estimates put the number in the neighborhood of 5 million, as of a couple of years ago. (The NRA adds that permit applications have jumped 50 percent since the 2008 elections - which seems borne out at least here in Virginia. At present there are 211,435 active permits in the commonwealth. Just this year, Virginia courts have granted more than 62,000.)

If that's true, then the percentage of concealed-carry permit holders who have killed someone with a firearm comes to two one-thousandths of 1 percent.
The whole thing is worth looking at, especially if you are confused about how statistics lie. It is also interesting to see how some statistics are ignored.
Should states make it harder to get a permit? Perhaps - but not because of the VPC's statistics, which make concealed-carry permit holders seem a lot safer to be around than, say, airbags.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, airbags have saved 25,000 people - and killed 290. If a pharmaceutical company came out with a new drug that killed more than one person for every hundred lives it saved, Washington would ban it in a heartbeat. Yet airbags are federally mandated. Maybe the Violence Policy Center should look into that.
Hat tip to NRA-ILA

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