Gun control argument #102937: “The US has the highest gun death rate in the developed world!!!!”
Before someone even finishes the opening sentence of this argument, you know this is dubious science because they’ve already admitted they’ve cherry picked the data.
Much of the political thinking about violence in the United States comes from unfavorable comparisons between the United States and a series of cherry-picked countries with lower murder rates and with fewer guns per capita. We’ve all seen it many times. The United States, with a murder rate of approximately 5 per 100,000 is compared to a variety of Western and Central European countries (also sometimes Japan) with murder rates often below 1 per 100,000. This is, in turn, supposed to fill Americans with a sense of shame and illustrate that the United States should be regarded as some sort of pariah nation because of its murder rate.
Note, however, that these comparisons always employ a carefully selected list of countries, most of which are very unlike the United States. They are countries that were settled long ago by the dominant ethnic group, they are ethnically non-diverse today, they are frequently very small countries (such as Norway, with a population of 5 million) with very locally based democracies (again, unlike the US with an immense population and far fewer representatives in government per voter). Politically, historically, and demographically, the US has little in common with Europe or Japan.
What I find particularly interesting about this article is that it mentions the issues with GDP comparisons:
Few people who repeat this mantra have any standard in their heads of what exactly is the “developed” world. They just repeat the phrase because they have learned to do so. They never acknowledge that when factors beyond per capita GDP are considered, it makes little sense to claim Sweden should be compared to the US, but not Argentina. Such assertions ignore immense differences in culture, size, politics, history, demographics, or ethnic diversity. Comparisons with mono-ethnic Asian countries like Japan and Korea make even less sense.
And some blatantly dishonest nonsense from antigun editors with axes to grind who use OECD:
[M]any who use the “developed country” moniker often use the OECD members countries as a de facto list of the “true” developed countries. Of course, membership in the OECD is highly political and hardly based on any objective economic or cultural criteria.
But if you’re familiar with the OECD, you’ll immediately notice a problem with the list Fisher uses. Mexico is an OECD country. So why is Mexico not in this graph? Well, it’s pretty apparent that Mexico was left off the list because to do so would interfere with the point Fisher is trying to make. After all, Mexico — in spite of much more restrictive gun laws — has a murder rate many times larger than the US.
But Fisher has what he thinks is a good excuse for his manipulation here. According to Fisher, the omission is because Mexico “has about triple the U.S. rate due in large part to the ongoing drug war.”
Oh, so every country that has drug war deaths is exempt? Well, then I guess we have to remove the US from the list.