Targeting Firearm Homicides
To control 41% of gun homicides, target men in their early adulthood and living in metropolitan areas.
- For victims and offenders, the concentration is in this group.
- These clusters are also closely statistically associated with blacks, though not isolated to any race.
Limitations and Warnings
- Due to limitations within data sources, we pulled firearm homicide data from the CDC, and total homicide offender data from the FBI.
- This means there is some disassociation in the data, but since firearms figure prominently in homicides in general, and particularly in street gang homicides, variability is limited.
- We also had to adjust for different age groups between the CDC and the FBI data.
- All race-based numbers are population adjusted (i.e., homicide rates for any race are based on the number of people of that race, not the overall population).
Who Gets Shot, Who Does the Shooting
The fact is that gun violence is not uniform, universal, or even close. This simple statistical fact makes one-size-fits-all legislation positively inept at trying to reduce gun violence in any meaningful way.
As with any problem, it is best to break it down (eat the elephant one bite at a time) and prioritize the single worst part of the problem (do the tough thing first). Every other approach produces limited or no results.
Looking at just firearm homicides – and noting the close correlation between gun homicides and intentional gun wounding – we see some things that criminologists have been saying for decades but which no politician wants to tackle. The basics are that for gun homicides:
- Most victims and offenders are in their twenties.
- Most victims and offenders are in metropolitan areas, including abutting suburbs.
- Most are male.
In short: urban, young, male and likely running with street gangs (more on that later).
Since there is no way to do a visualization on the many data categories, we’ll instead provide this highlight chart. Each of the highlighted cells are in the top 20% of the range for their category.
What is depressingly common in the data and literature is that the highest rates of gun violence are between black offenders and victims. This is largely confined to metropolitan areas, which means a high correlation with street gang activity.
The gang aspect cannot be ignored, though concise data on the intersectionality is hard to come by. As noted before, there is a lot of inter-gang violence that [due to reporting quality requirements] can only be classified as “unknown,” “argument,” or some such.
That being said, the Nation Gang Center tells us that gang members are skewed on the adult side (67% above age 18) and street gang participation rates are higher in urban areas. Hence, gun homicides among young, urban men running with gangs remains the top priority.
A Chicago Sidestep
Just as we were finishing grinding our numbers, a new study 1 hit our desk. Though we are still reviewing the paper, this pair of pies caught our eye.
This pattern in the state of Illinois echoes what we have already said. In their case the lion’s share of gun possession arrests – which is likely a good proxy for either or both gun violence and street gang activity – is concentrated into a handful of neighborhoods, in one major metropolitan area, and predominately among men between the ages 18 and 24.
Problems With Difficult “Solutions”
None of these shooters buys guns at retail.
This, more than any other statement, needs pondering. Studies of poor neighborhoods and street gangs, as well as decadal felon surveys by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that people living in poor inner-city neighborhoods get their guns from street sources; even nationally, not just in urban centers among the poor, a minimum of 40% of crime guns come from street sources. Yet nearly all gun control proposals involve restricting access at retail sources, which account for only 11% of crime guns.
“Prioritize the single worst part of the problem (do the tough things first).” Hence, most modern gun control proposals are failing to address the single largest part of firearm violence.
The question then becomes: “What makes young urban males more likely to commit gun violence than everyone else?” We won’t explore that today, but let’s say that all factors that shape subcultures – government policy, human indifference, substance abuse, et cetera – are the analysis points. You need to address the culture, the one that condones or even encourages violence, to prevent the violence from occurring.
- Sentences Imposed on Those Convicted of Felony Illegal Possession of a Firearm in Illinois; Olson, Stemen, Foust; Loyola University; 2021-07 ↩
Another interesting study is to look into CDC WISQARS and find the page allowing detailed filtering of their leading cause of death data.
In general, LCD for young adults and teens is unintended injuries, mainly vehicle-related. For young adult blacks it is homicides, by firearms the most common.
Nasty result, the story of which isn’t being told anywhere.
True on the L:CD issue and the big divide. It is sad, tragic and points ever more to subcultures driving deadly acts.
It would be very interesting to see how these data correlate with the data showing that the fatherless (male or female) commit X times more crimes than those raised with their biological (or formally adoptive) fathers in their childhood homes.
From observations over the decades, it seems there’d be something on the order of a 0.8 or greater correlation.
That is interesting, and my instincts led me to ponder this. However, I have not (yet) discovered a solid data set for the rate of fatherless households by race, urbanization, income and education (the other confounding factors).
And this is one of my bigger gripes: the data tools at the Census Bureau are borderline useless. I sense the data is all there, but extracting it is insanely weird.
I am not a data guy at base, but it does seem odd that that needed information is available (or might be), but only useful with extraordinary effort. Almost like someone were trying to hide something.
I doubt they are trying to hid realities.
The FBI crime data was born in the 1930s, and they codified various strata for what were common law and criminal statistics. For example, most laws made people legally liable for some stuff at age 18.
The CDC, which came into being much later, stratified their data along the ages where medical and injury issues developed (youth, teen years, early adulthood [e.g., 21+]).
What is bothersome to me is that somewhere all of this data is available down to each recorded instance, so were it publicly available without age bracketing, the data pools could be easily amalgamated.