Washington Post reporter surprised to discover some guns more dangerous than others

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Washington Post reporter surprised to discover some guns more dangerous than others


Post by NHGF [Feed] » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:20 am


For the better part of the last six centuries, from the first matchlock to the latest machine gun, gunsmiths have been trying to perfect the lethality of firearms. Somehow this is still news to the Washington Post.
A recent story in that paper cites new research which found a direct correlation between caliber size and shooting lethality. The bigger the bullet a gun fires, those researchers discovered, the more damage it will do to another human being. That’s enough for writer Christopher Ingraham to conclude that “not all guns are created equal.” But that is obvious, not groundbreaking.
After analyzing 221 gun homicides and 1,012 nonfatal shootings that occurred in Boston between 2010 and 2014 though, they found that “the case-fatality rates of assaults inflicting gunshot injury increased significantly with the caliber of the firearm.” In other words, bigger pieces of lead generally do a better job of tearing through muscle, breaking bones, and piercing vital organs to maim, incapacitate, or kill.

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Controlling for factors like the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the number of shots fired, those researchers concluded that death was 2.3 times more likely for someone shot with a medium-caliber weapon than a small-caliber gun and 4.5 times more for someone shot with a large-caliber weapon.
That's not necessarily wrong. It’s one of the reasons why, for instance, when the U.S. Army discovered that the smaller .38-caliber pistol round couldn’t stop an enemy, they switched to the much bigger and heavier .45 Colt cartridge. There are other considerations as well like the actual design of the bullet which, surprise-surprise, can vary widely. Not long ago, the FBI switched back from .40-caliber rounds after their analysis found that .9mm rounds were more deadly. The point is that this is a longstanding debate where different studies conclude different things.
Where the researchers definitely err is when they conclude in a vacuum that “if the medium- and large-caliber guns had been replaced with small caliber (assuming everything else unchanged) the result would have been a 39.5% reduction in gun homicides.” And where Ingraham beclowns himself is when he tries to rebut a bumper sticker slogan:

The results undercut the idea that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That catchy turn of phrase is often used by gun rights supporters to emphasize the human role in gun violence rather than the gun itself. The idea is that the gun matters a lot less than the murderous intent of the person pulling the trigger.

But the results don’t undercut anything because the relative lethality of the firearm does nothing to reduce the responsibility of the shooter. Someone who puts a bullet in the head of someone else is just as much of a murderer whether they do the killing with a little gun like a Ruger 22 Pistol or a giant cannon like the .50-caliber Desert Eagle. Gun and bullet size are variable, yes. Human nature is not. Whether Ingraham will admit it or not, each of the 221 Boston homicides were carried out by someone who pulled the infamous trigger.
The implication that regulation on bullet size would reduce homicides is so divorced from reality and context as to make it meaningless. Assuming that bans on certain bullets would reduce lethality is like assuming that forcing sports-car drivers into Model-Ts would reduce overall driving deaths. It could result in fewer crashes. It doesn't mean statistically safer roads, though.
But like automobiles, guns are already being regulated and the crime rate is down, not up. According to FBI data, there were 15,696 murders in the United States in 2015 or about 4.5 homicides per 100,000 people. That is less than half of the historical high of 10.2 in 1980. What’s more, the current murder rate is also lower than every year the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect. If large caliber bullets were somehow more murderous, the homicide rate should have been lower when bigger guns and bigger bullets weren’t as available. It wasn’t.
It seems that Ingraham has stumbled into an ongoing debate over caliber size and simply picked the study that fit his preferred conclusion. But even if bigger bullets automatically meant more destruction — and there are reasons to doubt that they do — banning them wouldn’t necessarily mean less murder.

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