Volokh Conspiracy blogger and gun activist David Kopel denied that there is a link between firearm availability and homicide, while distorting statistics to downplay the effectiveness with which other industrialized nations prevent gun violence.
Kopel made his comments on the December 3 edition of CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, during a discussion of the murder-suicide involving NFL player Jovan Belcher. After NBC sportscaster Bob Costas favorably quoted a FoxSports.com column that noted “If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and [his victim] Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today,” on Sunday Night Football, conservatives in media responded in force with false claims denying the epidemic of gun violence in America.
This pattern continued on Piers Morgan, with Kopel claiming that “there is no relation, scientifically in social science, between the number of guns and the homicide rate.” To the contrary, research conducted at the Harvard Injury ControlResearch Center found that “states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.”
Using survey data on rates of household gun ownership, we examined the association between gun availability and homicide across states, 2001-2003. We found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide. This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty). There was no association between gun prevalence and non-firearm homicide.
After host Piers Morgan challenged Kopel with the fact that the United Kingdom -- which has strong gun violence prevention laws -- has a drastically lower gun homicide rate than the United States, Kopel claimed that those policies “create conditions that are easy for criminals.”
PIERS MORGAN: Britain has tough gun control laws and we have about 35 to 45 gun murders a year. America has 11 to 12 thousand --
DAVID KOPEL: According to the United Nations, Scotland is the most violent country in the world.
MORGAN: --and yet still David Kopel you assure me the more guns you have has no correlation to the number of people who get killed with them. It's obvious complete nonsense.
In Japan they have the toughest gun control laws in the world. They have about two to 10 murders a year from guns. When are you going to do the proper math and stop conning people that the number of guns has no correlation to gun murders? It is blatantly obvious.
KOPEL: No, it's the total homicide rate I was talking about, and when you create conditions of gun scarcity like you have in the United Kingdom, you create conditions that make it easy for criminals. One of the reasons that the United Kingdom has an astronomical burglary rate compared to the United States is because UK burglars have no fears of getting shot by the homeowner.
According to the United Nations, Scotland is the most violent industrialized country in the world. One of the reasons Scotland is so violent is because the government in London has disabled the Scots from being able to protect themselves against violent criminals.
The disparity between the incidence gun homicide in the United States and Scotland is staggering. In 2009, there were two gun murders in Scotland, placing its rate at 0.04 per 100,000 people. In 2010, there were 11,078 gun homicides in the United States. Our per capita rate of 3.59 per 100,000 is nearly 90 times higher than Scotland's rate. Gun homicides are a major reason why the United States has such a high overall murder rate of 5.7 per 100,000 people, compared to Scotland's rate of 1.9.
The gun homicide rate in the United States is typically far above the rates of other countries. A 2003 study by Harvard School of Public Health professor David Hemenway found that the firearm homicide rate in the United States is 19.5 times higher than the average rate found in other high-income nations.
While Scotland does have a significantly higher assault rate than the United States, Kopel's claims about burglary are not borne out by the data. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the burglary rate in the United States is lower than England and Wales but higher than Scotland and Northern Ireland. All three United Kingdom countries have similar tough gun laws.
That Kopel would mislead on gun violence in the United States is unsurprising given that he has a lengthy history of attacking gun violence prevention proposals, sometimes to extreme effect.
In a 2001 column for National Review Online, Kopel compared the United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, which is aimed at reducing armed violence around the world, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' order that books authored by Jews be publicly burned. He then suggested that the burning of guns could lead to “governments actually killing people” just as Goebbels' order precipitated the mass killing of Jews.
July 9 was not the first time that governments had lit bonfires to destroy resistance to the power of the government. Germany's Josef Goebbels ordered all Jewish books to be burned in public on May 10, 1933. University towns were centers of Jewish Books Destruction Day.
The burning of Jewish and un-German books was followed within a few years by the burning of Jews and other un-German people. Jewish Books Destruction Day helped change popular consciousness so as to pave the way for genocide. Likewise paving the way for genocide was the systematic disarmament of Jews and all other opposition elements, in Nazi Germany itself and in conquered territories.
How long until a U.N.-declared official day of hate is celebrated with governments actually killing people?