Following a recent discussion over the pros and cons of gun control measures (and the wider question of whether guns actually make a location safer), I feel compelled to offer up a few facts…

Homicide Rates

Data collected from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC for short) reveals that the USA had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people of developed nations, circa 2015, with a figure of 4.88 homicides. How does this compare to other developed nations? We’ll look at a set of countries for a fair comparison.

2. Belgium: 1.95 homicides per 100,000 people (again, circa 2015, which will be the case unless stated).

3. Canada: (2012) 1.68 per 100,000.

4. France: 1.58.

5. Romania: 1.49.

6. Sweden: 1.15.

7. Denmark: 0.99.

8. Australia: 0.98.

9. United Kingdom (2014): 0.92

10. Germany: 0.85.

11. Italy: 0.78.

12. South Korea (2014): 0.74.

13. Spain: 0.66.

14. Republic of Ireland: 0.64.

15. Japan (2014): 0.31.

So the homicide in the USA is nearly three times higher than that of Canada’s, more than five times higher than in the UK, and fifteen times higher than Japan’s.

Of course, it’s not necessarily as simple as ‘more guns = more homicides’. With that in mind, what percentage of homicides in these countries are carried out by firearms?

Well, as of 2014, the USA had 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. Granted, the total figure for homicides is from 2015, however, as the FBI’s own data shows, firearm homicides have consistently remained by far the highest percentage of total homicides. 3.6 is approximately 74% of 4.88 – it is actually more likely that the percentage is closer to 65%, accounting for a direct comparison of total homicides in 2014, versus firearm homicides in 2014. Nevertheless, a clear majority of US homicides are carried out with a firearm.

The second country on the list is Belgium. Belgium recorded 1.95 homicides per 100,000 in 2015, as of 2010 guns could be attributed to 0.33 homicides per 100,000 people.

In Canada (though we must again allow for a margin of error, as the homicide by gun figures are from 2013), the figure stands at 0.38 of 1.68. This is around 22%. Therefore, Canada has not only a much lower homicide rate, but also a much lower homicide rate involving guns. Canada, co-incidentally, has more stringent laws surrounding guns than the USA does.

Up next is France. France is yet another nation to put into place more rigid gun control measures. 0.21 firearm homicides in France in 2012, meaning just over 13% of homicides involved guns.

Romania is next on that list and has some of the strictest laws on gun ownership of anywhere in the world. In 2012 0.04 per 100,000 people were killed in homicides by guns. Again, there is likely to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, as we’re comparing different years, but this is also likely to be nominal. With these figures, 2.7% of homicides in Romania involved firearms.

Is a pattern emerging yet? Canada, France and Romania all have tighter laws regarding firearms, all have lower overall homicide rates and all have lower homicide rates involving firearms. Let’s pick a few more countries shall we?

Contrary to popular belief and misconceptions, firearms can be owned in the UK. There are are however, tight rules on what sort of firearms are available and how to go about obtaining a licence for them. As of 2011 (we must again allow a small fudge factor) 0.06 homicides involved guns – meaning roughly 6.5% of homicides in the UK involved guns.

The data from Japan is from 2008 and so somewhat dated compared to other nations, but shows a homicide from guns as zero. In reality there will be a small number, but if Japan’s recent record is anything to go by, it may well not even make double digits. Japan has incredibly strict laws on guns, amounting to more or less a complete ban.

By now the pattern is clear. Countries with stronger gun control laws have fewer homicides with or without guns. In fact, with 3.66 per 100,000 homicides involving guns in the USA, there are less homicides in total in the UK, France and Japan combined.

What about other forms of Violence?

One popular piece of misdirection is to distract from the homicide figures to focus on other crimes. ‘Guns reduce incidences of robbery, assault, rape etc.’ Quite why homicide is ignored when it is arguably the most serious of all violent crimes is beyond me, but nevertheless, is there any truth to this claim?

Let’s start with robbery. In 2014 the USA actually scored better than several of the other nations listed, but also much worse than several others. The USA had nearly double the robbery rate per 100,000 people of the UK and Germany, 40% more than Canada, and far more than Japan. It fared better than Belgium, France and Spain. In 2016, 41% of all robberies in the USA involved firearms. In the UK, the broad trend of robbery with firearms shows a decline. In Canada, the percentage of robberies with guns is roughly 20%, or half that of the USA.

It has long been regarded by people who have studied the crime of robbery that, even if removing guns from the equation did not reduce the number of robberies, it would almost certainly reduce the number of fatal incidents when robberies do occur. The presence of guns as a deterrent is an idea which is clearly not working.

Which brings up an interesting point. The pro-gun side (or, more precisely, the anti-regulation side, as you can be pro-gun but also in favour of stronger regulations) often argues that easier access to guns can save lives. Statistically speaking, this is not true of the USA, as the earlier link demonstrates. There’s no evidence to suggest an increased presence of guns on the streets reduces violent crime, and plenty to suggest that ease of access to guns plays a massive part in the homicide rate – itself the most serious and violent of all crimes.

For instance, when considering another violent, serious crime – rape – is the USA better or worse than the other comparison nations? As per 2010, the answer was generally worse. The USA had a marginally lower rape rate than Australia (27.3 compared to 28.6) and a much higher rate than Germany (9.4), Spain (3.4) and Japan (1.0).

Conclusions

Guns clearly contribute to higher homicide rates, and countries that have taken steps to introduce stricter controls have lower homicide rates. As already mentioned, the combined rate of total homicides across several nations is lower than the homicide rate with only firearms in the USA. The rate of robbery is, by and large, an inconsistent mixture of results, with some countries with tighter gun controls faring worse than the USA, and some faring better. However, there is a much higher likelihood of a robbery turning deadly where guns are involved. The USA also has a bigger problem with rape.

Freedoms and Rights

One argument I have been presented with, more than once, is the idea that a gun offers freedom, and that living in countries with tougher gun laws equates to not being free. To me, this is reflective of a very different mind set when it comes to guns, based on history. As you will see, the weaponry available during the time of the American Revolution was very different to the weapons of today. It was felt that an armed populace would keep the government in check, but back then, the weaponry available to both the armed forces and the civilian population was very similar. Flash forward to today, and the armed forces of the USA have access not only to superior weaponry, but vastly superior training, and are far more disciplined than the average citizen when it comes to using these weapons. This is to say nothing of the presence of tanks, warplanes and drones.

If the US government decided to become a tyrannical dictatorship tomorrow, complete with the backing of the police and military, would the presence of a semi-armed population, many of whom would lack the training and discipline of the average soldier, really make a difference (even with the generous assumption that every US citizen with a gun would take up arms against their government)?

The equation of guns = freedom is, in my humble opinion, a dangerous one. It has moved from a healthy respect for a deadly weapon, to one that borders on worship. It has reached a level where to even hint at tightening laws is seen as blasphemy, just as daring to suggest the Constitution (written to reflect different types of weapons) is fallible is treated as blasphemy. The irony is, the Constitution has been amended before, to reflect changing political, social and cultural forces.

Meanwhile, to suggest we are not free here in the UK is to commit a very obvious fallacy. We can and do hold local and general elections on a regular basis. We can hold protests. We can criticise our government and political parties. We can hold referendums. It’s my suggestion to those who think that the gun is the only mean to uphold freedom, to stop and consider that freedom cannot be defined by the barrel of a deadly weapon.

Back to What I Think

I saw this on Twitter, earlier today, and wanted to correct a few misconceptions.

Firstly, atheism and communism are not one and the same. I have this argument brought up again and again as a sign that those of a religious faith are more ‘moral’ and better than atheists. You can be a communist and an atheist. You can be a communist and a Christian, or a communist and a Muslim. You can a capitalist and an atheist (and so on). This is a classic example of ‘false equivalence’, a problem that seems to be growing in the wake of Trump’s ill-fated words on the Charlottesville riots. That the followers of Stalin’s breed of communism carried out so many atrocities has nothing to do with the absence of faith. Atheists do not see themselves as gods, and do not act in the interests of only themselves (well, some of them perhaps, some of them don’t, but guess what, this applies to people who are religious too, no matter what they may say). This swings back to discussions and comments on the subject of morality. It also wants to treat various blocs of people as monolithic entities. ‘All atheists think X, all Christians think Y, all Muslims think Z’. This is completely false. It’s a method of thinking that gives rise to all sorts of unreasonable stereotypes that end up doing far more harm than good.

People have died in the name of political causes, cultural ideals, and yes, religious beliefs. Morality is not something that can be sourced only through divine ideas. Anyone, from any walk of life, is capable of being cruel. Equally, anyone is capable of acts of great compassion. Can we move past the idea that only the faithful can be moral?

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Trump is a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing – or maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing, hence his backtracking on his earlier backtracking.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Trump said:

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,”

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

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Whoa! Hold the phone for a second! Does Trump seriously believe the opponents of the facism, racism and anti-Semitism that was on such open display are somehow equally responsible for what happened the other day? Which side came armed with guns and which side had a member who drove a car into people?

Trump is now drawing fire from his own party, who surely must eject him sooner rather than later, if they are to preserve their political future? Senator John McCain tweeted:

Whereas Trump has proven quite happy to jump to conclusions about radical Islam, his need to apparently wait for the ‘facts’ about this, not to mention suggesting there were ‘good people’ mixed in with the white supremacists, only goes to show that Trump knows who and what a large chunk of his support base is, and not only is he fine with that, he doesn’t want to risk alienating them by criticising their violent antics.

Trump is now effectively being open about his bigotry. He is the Bigot-in-Chief. To my American friends, and to any Americans that read this – consider the direction you want your nation to take.

P.S: Josh on his Friday Blog has written some excellent posts on why we shouldn’t be tolerating Nazis and their ideals, in case for some strange reason you think we should be open to listening to Nazis.

I ask the question because I’ve read, repeatedly (via Twitter) that the violence in Charlottesville was a clash between the left wing and… the left wing. This seems like an attempt by moderate and centre-right supporters to distance themselves from the actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville (and elsewhere). The attempt is understandable in some ways – they don’t wish to be associated with the Nazi sympathisers who were marching so openly – it is also intellectually dishonest.

It is worth noting that describing the Nazis and their sympathisers as far right is not a reflection upon anyone and everyone who identifies as right wing.

Why the Nazis were Right Wing

It is generally agreed that the far right eschews egalitarianism; instead, there is a ‘natural’ (or in some cases a ‘divine’) order to society. The strong (in the Nazis’ case the pure) control the weak. In Hitler’s case, he actually tried to present the Nazis as a centrist movement, attacking the right and left in speeches, including this:

Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors … But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.

The reality is, Hitler and the Nazis were far right. The far right favours elitism, and the Nazis, for all their rhetoric, were the same – Hitler was a dictator whose party elevated him, and he imagined a Third Reich that has uncanny similarities to the elitist ruling monarchies of Europe, despite claims to be different. The far right also prefers racial segregation – a common theme in Nazi messages was about preserving the purity of the German people from ‘undesirable’ elements (such as Jews).

The Nazis were also anti-immigration – a view often held by far right groups.

Of course, the far left has displayed similar characteristics – Stalin’s USSR is a prime example – what this serves to demonstrate is how the far right and far left are very similar, but make no mistake, whilst the outcomes are the same, they arrive at their destinations through very different sets of ideas.

There might be an argument that Nazis were left wing in an economic sense – but their social and political policies were anything but.


So, after banking on a sure-fire win, the Tories are left reeling from a Labour revolt that’s stunned the nation and sent a very clear message to the people in power – don’t ignore us. The Tories lost 12 seats, whilst Labour gained 29 – a clear swing toward the opposition. In fact, it left us with a hung Parliament for a short while (I’m not explaining what that means), until Theresa May, who stubbornly refused to resign despite a spectacular own goal, set up a minority government with the bastion of the far-right, the DUP.

Even with the support of a party that is outspoken on its opposition to LGBT rights, opposed to a women’s freedom to decide what happens to her own body, and filled with climate change deniers, the Tories still only have a majority of two seats, which means it’s a minority government now, one very much dependent on the good will of smaller parties voting for its policies in Parliament. So, far from securing the majority that would have let them pursue a hard Brexit, the Tories are now in bed with a party that opposes hard brexit, and actually has a number of disagreements (based on manifesto pledges) with the Tories. Well done…

So whilst it can be claimed that the Tories won the election, it can also be claimed that they didn’t win. They fell short of what they needed to win outright. They are depending upon another party to enter power with them, a party that is quite radical in its beliefs. Even then, they only have a minority government of two seats. Woo! To say this is a gamble that backfired is the understatement of the century. The Tories are more battered than the guy who ran as Mr Fishfinger (yes, seriously).


On the lighter side, Theresa May herself did defeat Lord Buckethead in her own constituency. She kicked the Buckethead…

So what does this all mean? Frankly, I have no idea. We don’t have a fish finger or a man dressed as a bucket for Prime Minister. It’s a huge vindication for Jeremy Corbyn, who may not have won, but he has certainly given Labour something to shout about. He even dabbed… well, he might have. In any event, he survived a determined campaign by the press to smear him, and even opposition from his own party, to show he can most certainly lead, and get results.

This is also one big rejection of the recent wave of populism that’s been going on. France rejected such notions, and now the UK has pushed back against it too. Younger generations are getting more involved, and asking serious questions of their leaders. They look at the Tories as a party of the past, more interested in austerity and helping their own than helping the country. Is that a fair perception? I can’t say. However, both the Tories and Labour need to look at why younger people have predominately voted Labour. To understand the reasons is to control the destiny of the next election.

I’m sorry that this post is so serious, but it’s a serious subject. A serious subject the Tories didn’t take seriously, and it’s hurt them.

 

 

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/

https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm

The three above links represent just the tip of (an ever-shrinking one, if this carries on) iceberg from experts and scientists from around the world, who all agree that man-made climate change is real. From the NASA link:

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3

From Skeptical Science:

That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 80 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.

Trump has decided to ignore the decades of carefully compiled research and evidence in favour of… ‘Murica. It doesn’t matter that clean energy is actually a fast-expanding sector, it doesn’t matter that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that we’ll need to move away from them eventually. He ought to heed the words of a fellow Republican politician, one who has made some keen observations: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Clean energy technology will become a huge business, and people like Trump will get left behind. His narrow-minded approach will not be permitted to doom the rest of us.

Slowly but surely the spectre of the unthinkable is moving closer and closer. The Conservative Party has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on social care policies, and they have misled us on plans for NHS and school funding. There is a slow but steady march toward privatising the NHS too – the impact of which is as yet unknown, but given the effects of the private healthcare system that the US put up with for years, do we really want to go down that road? The Tories cut police numbers a few years ago and at the start of May refused to rule out doing so again – yet claim to be the better party for providing security. The Tories ruled out providing the NHS with updated computer security, despite warnings of vulnerability.

The impact of all of this is that, despite lop-sided representations in the media (BBC, I’m looking at you, though it’s not just you), Labour have been closing the gap in the polls. YouGov had the Tories on 48 and Labour on 29 on the 3rd of May. On the 12th of May the Tories were on 49 and Labour in 31. A week later the Tories were on 44 and Labour on 35. As of yesterday? The gap was five points, as compared to 19 points on the 3rd. That’s a 15 point swing toward Labour in under a month. A lot of this would appear to be the result of younger voters, who have been registering in record numbers and tend to resonate more with Labour than with the Conservatives. One thing is becoming increasingly clear – what looked like a landslide victory for the Tories is no longer guaranteed, and by the time of the actual election, whilst a Tory win is still the most likely outcome, Labour might win back some seats and give the Tories a fright. Here’s hoping!

We’ve had over 100 days of Donald Trump. He took office on the back of less votes than Hilary Clinton (you can thank the flawed US electoral college system for that), and has so far managed to systematically fail, except the other day, when his Obamacare replacement managed to get through Congress, by the narrowest of margins. It still needs to get past the Senate, but should it prove successful – well, it will screw over millions of Americans, and there are some seriously scary terms attached to this.

  1. Got a pre-existing condition? You’re in trouble. Obamacare provided protection for people who have existing medical problems – Trumpcare doesn’t.
  2. Obamacare meant everyone was insured against certain conditions and types of treatment. Trumpcare hands that power to the states, who can opt out of this at their discretion.
  3. The definition of a pre-existing condition will include – among other things – rape. That’s right – victims of rape will not have their medical treatment covered under Trumpcare.

It gets worse. Another one of Trump’s ‘wins’ is aimed at, in theory, allowing greater religious involvement in politics. This particular executive order appears more symbolic than anything, but Trump needs wins, badly, given how much he has struggled so far. The broader concern over this particular order is that it could pave the way for businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community – ironically, in the name of freedom.

The orange tyrant has also come out against science. You know, that pesky field that investigates and looks for evidence to back up theories. It tends to contradict him.

He’s ignorant of the history of his own country (and in doing so, he showed terrible ignorance of the racial context of the American Civil War). His immigration ban was oppressively broad and completely devoid of any compassion. He slams any media source that contradicts him as ‘fake news’. He is incapable of taking any criticism or admitting to any lie. If he is the future of the political right, then it is doomed.

It’s Red Vs Blue – and maybe Yellow will get involved – as the UK goes to the polls for a General Election called three years sooner than planned. Oooh!

So what’s the deal? Why has Theresa May done this? The most obvious answer is that it will be a lot easier to consolidate her position now, with Labour in disarray and the Lib Dems a non-entity at this point, than in a few years time, as there are many uncertainties on the political horizon. It seems like the Tories are going to be more or less unopposed and that they will carry a sizable majority too, giving them the mandate they want to pursue Brexit on their terms. As much as i would love to see Labour stop them, or at least gain enough ground to force a rethink, that’s not going to happen. Jeremy Corbyn is an idealist but he isn’t marketable, and there are quite a few within the Labour party who want him out. Labour would have to unify around him, and present a coherent set of policies that would work, in order to stand a chance in June, and I just don’t see that happening. Sadly​.