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Study: where gun laws are weaker, there are more mass shootings

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There are more mass shootings in states with weaker gun laws, according to a new study published in The BMJ, a medical journal, on Wednesday.

The study, from researchers at Columbia, New York University, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed states’ mass shooting rates, the permissiveness of their firearm laws, and levels of gun ownership from 1998 to 2015. It then tested each of these to see if there was a link.

The result: Where there are more guns, there are more mass shootings. And where gun laws are weaker, there are more mass shootings.


Two charts showing a state-level correlation between mass shooting rates and both levels of gun ownership and the permissiveness of gun laws.

The BMJ

“A 10 unit increase in the permissiveness of state gun laws was associated with an approximately 9 percent higher rate of mass shootings after adjusting for key factors,” the researchers concluded. “A 10 percent increase in gun ownership was associated with an approximately 35 percent higher rate of mass shootings after adjusting for key factors.”

The researchers found that the difference between states with weaker laws and states with stronger laws is increasing, noting that there’s “a growing divergence in recent years as rates of mass shootings in restrictive states have decreased and those in permissive states have increased.”

To find this, the researchers drew on data for mass shootings from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, defining a mass shooting as an event in which four or more people, not including the shooter, were shot and killed.

To measure permissiveness of gun laws, they drew on a 100-point scale from the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearms Laws of the Fifty States, which is compiled, they explained, “by legal professionals as a reference guide for gun owners traveling between states.”

To estimate levels of gun ownership, the researchers used the percentage of suicides by firearm — a common proxy for gun ownership that’s well established in other research. (A household survey of gun ownership, which would provide better data, is unfortunately not available for all of 1998 to 2015.)

There are some caveats to the study. The biggest one: It found correlation, not causation. It’s possible other factors not accounted for in the study, besides levels of gun ownership or the permissiveness of state gun laws, are driving higher mass shooting rates.

The researchers also raised concerns that the FBI’s mass shooting data could be incomplete, since states sometimes fail to consistently report to the FBI system. But, the researchers note, the evidence suggests that it’s the states with more permissive gun laws that are less likely to fully report — which would make them look worse, not better, if their data were more complete.

Daniel Webster, a gun policy researcher at Johns Hopkins who wasn’t involved in the BMJ study, also raised concerns about using broad indices of gun laws, like the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearms Laws of the Fifty States, in these sorts of studies. His worry, he told me, is that these indices can treat different gun laws similarly in value — even if one type of law, like gun licensing, has more evidence for effectiveness than other policies, like an assault weapons ban. That makes it hard to draw concrete policy lessons from findings attached to such indices.

This is also just one study. As the authors acknowledge, there isn’t much research into how levels of gun ownership and weaker gun laws influence mass shootings. It’s possible that as more studies come out with different or more rigorous methodologies, the results could differ.

But David Hemenway, a gun researcher at Harvard who was not involved in the BMJ study, said it was “an important study — another piece of evidence about the serious public health and safety problems caused by gun proliferation.”

The study’s findings are also consistent with other research. Studies have repeatedly found that where gun laws are weaker, and where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths (including homicides and suicides).

For the US, this is especially pertinent. America suffers higher levels of gun violence than any other developed nation, and it has the highest levels of civilian gun ownership in the world and the weakest gun laws in the developed world. The research, from the BMJ study to other evidence, indicates that these weak gun laws and high levels of firearm ownership are helping drive America’s greater levels of gun violence.

America’s gun problem, briefly explained

America’s gun problem comes down to two basic issues.

First, America has uniquely weak gun laws. Other developed nations at the very least require one or more background checks and almost always something more rigorous beyond that to get a gun, from specific training courses to rules for locking up firearms to more arduous licensing requirements to specific justifications, besides self-defense, for owning a gun.

In the US, even a background check isn’t a total requirement; the current federal law is riddled with loopholes and stymied by poor enforcement, so there are many ways around even a basic background check. And if a state enacts stricter measures than federal laws, someone can simply cross state lines to buy guns in a jurisdiction with looser rules. There are simply very few barriers, if any, to getting a gun in the US.

Second, the US has a ton of guns. It has far more than not just other developed nations but any other country, period. Estimated for 2017, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 120.5 guns per 100 residents, meaning there were more firearms than people. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, where there were 52.8 guns per 100 residents, according to an analysis from the Small Arms Survey.


A chart showing civilian gun ownership rates by country.

Small Arms Survey

Both of these factors come together to make it uniquely easy for someone with any violent intent to find a firearm, allowing them to carry out a horrific shooting.

This is borne out in the statistics. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data for 2012 compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)


A chart shows America’s disproportionate levels of gun violence.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

The research, compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, is also pretty clear: After controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths. Researchers have found this to be true not just with homicides but also with suicides (which in recent years were around 60 percent of US gun deaths), domestic violence, violence against police, and, in the BMJ study, mass shootings.

As a breakthrough analysis by UC Berkeley’s Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins in the 1990s found, it’s not even that the US has more crime than other developed countries. This chart, based on data from Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University, shows that the US is not an outlier when it comes to overall crime:


A chart showing crime rates among wealthy nations.

Instead, the US appears to have more lethal violence — and that’s driven in large part by the prevalence of guns.

“A series of specific comparisons of the death rates from property crime and assault in New York City and London show how enormous differences in death risk can be explained even while general patterns are similar,” Zimring and Hawkins wrote. “A preference for crimes of personal force and the willingness and ability to use guns in robbery make similar levels of property crime 54 times as deadly in New York City as in London.”


A chart showing homicides among wealthy nations.

This is in many ways intuitive: People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry during an argument and be able to pull out a gun and kill someone.

To put it another way, America does not have a monopoly on crime, mental health issues, bigots, extremists, or other factors commonly blamed for gun violence and mass shootings; what is unique about the US is that it makes it so easy for people with all sorts of motives to obtain a gun.

Researchers have found that stricter gun laws could help. A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence — a strong indicator that restricting access to guns can save lives. A review of the US evidence by RAND also linked some gun control measures, including background checks, to reduced injuries and deaths. A growing body of evidence, from Johns Hopkins researchers, also supports laws that require a license to buy and own guns.

That doesn’t mean that criminals, bigots, and extremists will never be able to carry out a shooting in places with strict gun laws. Even the strictest gun laws can’t prevent every shooting.

And guns are not the only contributor to violence. Other factors include, for example, poverty, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and the strength of criminal justice systems. But when researchers control for other confounding variables, they have found time and time again that America’s loose access to guns is a major reason the US is so much worse in terms of gun violence than its developed peers.

So America, with its lax laws and abundance of firearms, makes it uniquely easy for people to commit mass shootings. Until the US confronts that issue, it will continue to see more gun deaths than the rest of the developed world.

For more on America’s gun problem, read Vox’s explainer.

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20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well

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Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.

We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.

  • Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
  • Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.

Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.

  • IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
  • Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
  • Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
  • Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
  • IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
  • Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
  • Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).

  • Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
  • Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
  • Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
  • Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
  • Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
  • Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.

Is there something about your job that is kept secret?

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The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.

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The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.

Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)

Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.

1) Why do we have an equinox?

The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.


NASA

Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.



NASA/Meteosat/Robert Simmon

And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.

This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.

Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013

(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?

Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.

That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.

Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.

3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?

In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.

So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?

The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.

As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.

And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.



US Energy Information Administration

4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?

Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.

The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”

This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).


This man is very good at balancing eggs.
AFP/Getty Images

5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?

During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.

That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.

6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).


Cassini Imaging Team/NASA

During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.

7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun


The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period (February 24, 2015). Some of the strands fell back into the sun.
Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.

This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

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Kitten Doesn’t Understand How Tails Work Yet

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Occurred on March 16, 2019 / Hanoi, Vietnam

Info from Licensor: “This kitten still doesn’t understand why the dog’s tail keeps hitting it in the face.”

View at DailyMotion

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