Friday, April 30


Abuse & Misuse

The National Coalition for the Abuse and Misuse of Statistics* have been running ads on Streetvision** lately, proclaiming that:
Handguns kill over 400,000 people each year. 80% of them are women and children.***
Yeah, I'd noticed that we've been hip-deep in dead bodies lately, down here in Oz. 400,000 every year, just from handguns...

Oh, that's not an Australian statistic, you say?

Funny, that.

So how many people are killed by handguns**** in Australia each year? This handy article in The Age, found in about 10 seconds of Googling, tells us that the number in 2001 was 49.

This represents a drop since tough new restrictions were put in place in 1996, from a 1991 figure of 29.

No, hang on - isn't 49 more than 29? I could've sworn...

And those numbers include accidents and suicides. Suicide is the single largest cause of death involving firearms, and accounted for 80% of such deaths over a ten-year period from 1991 to 2001.

And 90% of the victims in that ten-year period were men.

But far be it from me to accuse the National Coalition for Gun Control of being somewhat careless with the truth.

* Well, they call themselves the National Coalition for Gun Control, but...
** Television - 90% ads - projected at captive audiences in the underground stations in Sydney.
*** That may not be exact, but it's pretty close.
**** Yeah, I know. Guns don't kill people - I do.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:45 AM | Comments (12) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
Post contains 247 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Thanks. My ENGL class is currently talking about the misuse of statistics...this is a perfect example to point out to them!

Posted by: Sarah at Friday, April 30 2004 08:13 AM (mU8BX)

2 And while I don't have a detailed breakdown of handgun deaths by cause, overall it works out to around 80% suicide, 10% accident, and 10% homicide. So the average number of people killed by handguns each year - deliberately, by other people, in Australia - is about 4.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, April 30 2004 08:23 AM (+S1Ft)

3 Pixy, Welcome to my world. lol Ol' Sam Clemens (that Twain fellow) often quoted Benjamin Disraeli on this subject. To loosely paraphrase there are 3 kinds of mistruths in the world; lies, damn lies & statistics. In the U.S. the gun control debate has been raging a bit longer & hotter & the junk science used to back up the prohibitionists arguments are sometimes laughable. Perhaps the funniest of late wasn't about stats per se, but CNN did a story on "assault weapons". They showed a pre-ban & a post ban model being fired. The pre-ban assault weapon easily penetrated some cinderblocks while the post ban didn't seem to phase them. Turns out CNN got busted cause the post ban rifle wasn't being fired at the cinderblocks at all while they were filming. But why let truth get in the way of filming an ideological piece, right? The Smallest Minority is a good source for busting badly used stats - one of my favorites is where he pointed out that the "children" a U.S. gun prohibition group was lamenting included 24 year olds. Anyway, for this & a number of other reasons I generally try to direct any arguments away from stats & steer them towards logic &/or principles. It's easy as hell to find stats to support almost any position you'd want to support, & almost as easy to find stats to refute said position. It eventually comes down to a person believing one stat over the other for any number of reasons - so I avoid the stats thing when I can & try to make them actually think.

Posted by: Publicola at Friday, April 30 2004 04:06 PM (Aao25)

4 Excellent piece! Linked! Oh, and Publicola, I use the stats to help them think. Especially when they're twisted as blatantly as they are here. People don't like being lied to.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at Tuesday, May 04 2004 11:18 AM (gQkQa)

5 Nice try. The restrictions did not affect handguns at all. And you somehow forget to mention that gun deaths have halved. And Kevin fell for it.

Posted by: Tim Lambert at Tuesday, May 04 2004 02:21 PM (myTQZ)

6 Yes, Tim, gun deaths have been reduced. But the add was specifically addressing handguns, using completely bogus statistics. And there have been new restrictions on handguns in the past ten years. And deaths from handguns have increased.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tuesday, May 04 2004 04:41 PM (+S1Ft)

7 Yeah, right. What restrictions were introduced on handguns in 1996? I haven't seen the ad. Maybe it did use bogus statistics, but that is no excuse for you to use bogus statistics.

Posted by: Tim Lambert at Tuesday, May 04 2004 09:45 PM (myTQZ)

8 Kevin, Now ya see why I prefer to avoid stats altogether? People like Mr. Lambert will generally be able to produce stats which seem on the surface to contradict any stats you throw out. Not that the counter stats are the correct ones, but unless you have some schooling in statistical analysis then most people odds are you'll believe the stats you hear most often (43 times mor elikely, etc...). But where people such as Mr. Lambert can be shown the error of their ways (well, as much as possible) is through non-stat arguments. At least more spectators will be able to follow the discussion accurately & draw their own conclusions. Not that arguing stats is not worthwhile or that it should be universally shunned (after all you do a good job of dissecting bogus stats), but for me I find it's often best to concentrate on other areas. Besides, when it gets down to an "is not- is too" thing over which stats are accurate, then the debate has shifted from a Rights argument to a Policy argument. I'd much rather keep it as a Rights argument than delve into the policy thing. But that's just me & my absolutist self. :) & I must speak the heresy that some would burn me at the stake for: stats are not the most important thing in many cases. Nor are they even conclusive of one point or another in some cases. Stats are just stats. Nothing more than a set of numbers. Useful things can be learned from them but they are not the last word on the wisdom or folly of most decisions. Mr. Lambert, I think you're confusing the issue. Pixy was talking about handgun deaths, whereas you brought up firearms deaths. See the difference? handguns are firearms but not all firearms are handguns. Or were you berating Pixy that he didn't mention that all firearms deaths were reduced by half (if your claim is accurate) even though he was discussing a subset of firearms deaths specifically? But the bigger question lies not in whose stats were correct or which stats should have been used, but how can you use a set of numbers with questionable origin & interpretation to justify denying me (or anyone else) a basic, Natural Right? Pixy, Doesn't all this make you want to be a gun blogger full time? lol

Posted by: Publicola at Wednesday, May 05 2004 12:28 AM (Aao25)

9 Tim, I think further handgun restrictions were brought in during 2001. Now, I didn't use bogus statistics, but I also failed to bring up some relevant information. You're right to mention that. While I'm pro gun-ownership, I'm rather more strongly anti statistics-abuse. That was my point here. If the ad had said "Up to 49 people die in Australia every year in incidents involving handguns", I would have had no complaints. I might have disagreed with the opinion expressed - therefor handguns should be banned but that is opinion and there's room for disagreement and compromise. But the ad, as it is presented, provides an impression which is out of line with reality by 5 orders of magnitude, which is really a bit much. How would you feel about an ad that said:2 million people are killed by malaria each year. Half of those are children.If that ad was run by the Australian Council for the Legalisation and Promotion of DDT - calling for widespread spraying of our waterways? Would you point out that Australia has typically less than 10 deaths from malaria each year? We don't have a major problem with malaria in Australia, and never have, and we don't need to spray DDT all over the place. The situation in other countries may be different. Exactly the same applies with handguns and the ad in question.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, May 05 2004 01:17 AM (kOqZ6)

10 Dear Mr Publicola, Apparently you are unaware of the nature of the "tough new restrictions" that were brought into place in 1996. Pixy implies that these were restrictions on handguns. They weren't. He tries to paint the 1996 laws as a failure because deaths from handguns went up, but the 1996 laws did not affect handguns. They did affect long guns, and those deaths have halved. He then compounds things with his statement that there have been new restrictions on handguns in the last ten years. Indeed there have. What Pixy somehow neglected to mention was that those restrictions were introduced after 2001. But Pixy tries to make it look like they were to blame for an increase in handgun deaths between 1991 and 2001. Nice going. American pro-gunners just lap this stuff up. Pixy's bogus stats will probably now get repeated a bajillion times like that stupid email claiming that gun murders had increased by 300% after the 1996 laws. And by the way, I've already stated that I do not think that the 1996 laws were a good idea.

Posted by: Tim Lambert at Wednesday, May 05 2004 03:50 AM (tgbdA)

11 Dear Tim, You're nuts. Regards, Pixy

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, May 05 2004 04:58 AM (+S1Ft)

12 Tim's not nuts, just so focused on his particular specialty he can't see the forest for the trees. He's "differently abled."

Posted by: Kevin Baker at Wednesday, May 05 2004 09:22 PM (X3MkM)

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