|MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION|
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
I thought you all would like to see the real figures from Down Under.
It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by our own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than
The first year results are now in: Australia-wide, homicides are up
While figures over the previous
There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the elderly. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in "successfully ridding Australian society of guns."
You won't see this data on the American evening news or hear your governor or members of the state Assembly disseminating this information.
The Australian experience proves it. Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws affect only the law-abiding citizens.
Take note Americans, before it's too late!
Origins: Although the old adage says that "Figures don't lie, but liars figure," those who seek to influence public opinion often employ a variety of means to slant statistical figures into seemingly supporting their point of view:
- Percentages by themselves often tell far from a complete story, particularly when they involve small sample sizes which do not adequately mask normal fluctuations or the potential influence of a number of extraneous factors affecting the phenomenon under study. A statement such as "The number of deaths attributable to cancer increased by 2% between 1973 and 1983" is probably much more significant if the number of cancer deaths increased by twenty thousand among a population of one million than if they increased by two among a population of one hundred. (In the latter case, for example, two people who already had cancer could have moved into an otherwise cancer-free small town, but it's far less likely that immigration would completely account for an increase of twenty thousand cancer cases amidst a city of one million.)
- Context is especially important, and percentages alone don't provide context. A statement such as "The home run total in the American League jumped by an astounding 50% between 1960 and 1961" sounds misleadingly impressive if you don't know that after 1960, the American League expanded by two teams and increased the length of its schedule, thereby adding two hundred more games to the season.
- Most importantly, percentages don't establish cause-and-effect relationships — at best they highlight correlations which may be due to any number of factors. If (to continue our previous example), the total number of home runs hit by all teams increased by 30% from one year to the next while the number of games remained the same, a great many people might claim that the baseballs used in the latter year had obviously been "juiced" (i.e., manufactured in such a way as to cause them to travel farther when hit). But a number of other unconsidered factors (individually or collectively) might be responsible for the increase, such as an abundance of warm weather, or an expansion in the number of teams which brought more inexperienced and ineffective pitchers into the league.
Given this context, any claims based on statistics (even accurate ones) which posit a cause-and-effect relationship between the gun buyback program and increased crime rates because "criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed" are automatically suspect, since the average Australian citizen didn't own firearms even before the buyback. But
For example, the first entry states that "Homicides are up 3.2%." This statistic is misleading because it reflects only the absolute number of homicides rather than the homicide rate. (A country with a rapidly-growing population, for example, might experience a higher number of crimes even while its overall crime rate decreased.) An examination of statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reveals that the overall
Then we have the claim that "In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up
Other claims offered here, such as the statement that "While figures over the previous
1995 - 27.8% |
1996 - 25.3%
1997 - 24.1%
1998 - 17.6%
1999 - 15.2%
2000 - 14.0%
The ABS does report that the number of assaults on victims aged 65 and over has increased over the last few years, but hardly in a proportion one would describe as "dramatic":
Number of victims of assault aged 65 and over: |
1996 - 1474
The main point to be learned here is that determining the effect of changes in Australia's gun ownership laws and the government's firearm buy-back program on crime rates requires a complex long-term analysis and can't be discerned from the small, mixed grab bag of short-term statistics offered here. And no matter what the outcome of that analysis, the results aren't necessarily applicable to the USA, where laws regarding gun ownership are (and always have been) much different than those in Australia.
Last updated: 21 July 2011