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Elliott Morss has spent most of his career teaching and working as an economic consultant to developing countries on issues of trade, finance, and environmental preservation. Dr. Morss received a B.A. from Williams College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in political economy from The Johns Hopkins... More
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  • Judgments Of Paris, Princeton, And Lenox, Part 2

    Judgments of Paris, Princeton, and Lenox, Part 2

    © Elliott R. Morss

    January 2013

    Introduction

    It was striking in 1976 when Californian wines "sort of" beat French wines in Paris tastings. That tasting was memorialized in George Taber's great book Judgment of Paris. I say "sort of" because Orley Ashenfelter and Richard E. Quandt obtained the Paris results and found that while Californian wines got the highest ranking in both red and white categories, judges found very little difference between the French and US red and whites overall.

    Ashenfelter and Quandt went on to establish the "liquid asset website, the "Rolls Royce" of all wine tasting sites.

    Taber, Ashenfelter, and Quandt arranged a re-enactment of the Paris tastings last summer at the annual meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists in Princeton. But in Princeton, French wines were compared to New Jersey wines rather than Californian. The New Jersey wines did quite well, but again, the judges rankings differed significantly.

    In November 2012, the Lenox Wine Club (NYSEARCA:LWC) was created. Consisting of 14 "veteran" wine drinkers, it decided to start with four tastings: "heavy whites", "heavy reds", "light whites", and "light reds". All tastings address the following questions:

    1. Among comparably-priced wines, are the judgments of the veteran drinkers similar enough to identify a significant preference among the wines, and
    2. Does price matter?

    The "Heavy Whites" Tasting

    In November 2012, the "heavy white" tasting was held. The ranking results and prices are presented in Table 1. That's right - the 3-Liter Box Set won the tasting.

    Table 1. - Lenox Wine Club Scores, "Heavy Whites" (5 - best, 1 - worst)

     

     

    Taster

    Box Set Chardonnay

    Yellowtail Reserve Chardonnay

    Shooting Star Aligote (Washington State) 2010

    Joseph Drouhin, Clos des Mouches Beaune, 1er Cru, 2009

    Raymond "R Series" Chardonnay

    BG

    5

    2.5

    2.5

    4

    1

    BB

    5

    3

    1

    2

    4

    CM

    3

    4

    5

    1

    2

    EM

    3

    4

    5

    1

    2

    GR

    3.5

    3.5

    5

    2

    1

    JR

    1

    5

    4

    2

    3

    KM

    5

    2.5

    2.5

    4

    1

    LR

    2

    5

    3.5

    1

    3.5

    MP

    5

    4

    2.5

    2.5

    1

    RP

    5

    2.5

    2.5

    4

    1

    SG

    1

    3

    2

    5

    4

    TB

    3

    1

    4

    5

    2

    Total

    41.5

    40

    39.5

    33.5

    25.5

    Ave.

    3.5

    3.3

    3.3

    2.8

    2.1

    Price

    $4.47

    $9.97

    $12.00

    $84.63

    $10.66

    The Box Set price equivalent for a regular 750 ML wine bottle is only $4.47. The Drouhin costing $84.63 was included because it got the highest score among whites at the Princeton tasting last summer. It came in next to last in the Lenox tasting.

    The "Heavy Reds" Tasting

    Earlier this month, the LWC held its second tasting. It was limited to wines with Cabernet Sauvignon the dominant grape, meaning Bordeaux wines were not included. Aside from the Bota Box, all wines originally selected for the tasting were rated 90 or higher by Wine Spectator.

    Once again, the overall winner was the boxed wine! Well okay, the statisticians in our group might again say that its final score is not significantly different from the Catena. They are very close: the Bota Box got 5 top votes and the Catena got 4. The Mulderbosch and Four Sisters are right in the middle while the Neyers (by far the most expensive) came in a definitive last.

    Table 2. - Lenox Wine Club Scores, "Heavy Reds" (5 - best, 1 - worst)

    Taster

    Bota Box

    Bodega Catena

    Zapata 2008

    Mulderbosch Faithful

    Hound 2008

    Four Sisters Central

    Victoria 2010

    Neyers Napa 2010

    BG

    3.0

    4.0

    5.0

    2.0

    1.0

    EM

    4.0

    1.0

    3.0

    2.0

    5.0

    GR

    5.0

    3.0

    4.0

    2.0

    1.0

    JM

    5.0

    3.0

    2.0

    4.0

    1.0

    JR

    5.0

    3.0

    4.0

    2.0

    1.0

    KM

    5.0

    4.0

    3.0

    2.0

    1.0

    LR

    1.5

    3.0

    4.5

    4.5

    1.5

    LS

    5.0

    4.0

    2.0

    3.0

    1.0

    MS

    2.0

    5.0

    1.0

    3.0

    4.0

    MP

    3.0

    1.0

    2.0

    5.0

    4.0

    RP

    3.5

    5.0

    2.0

    3.5

    1.0

    SG

    2.0

    5.0

    4.0

    3.0

    1.0

    TB

    3.0

    5.0

    4.0

    2.0

    1.0

    Total

    48.0

    47.0

    39.5

    37.0

    24.5

    Price

    $4.25

    $15.30

    $15.00

    $11.00

    $44.63

    In Table 3, the correlation between each taster's choices and the average rating for both the "Heavy White" and "Heavy Red" tastings are presented. A high positive number indicates a taster is close to the overall average. For example KM's correlation of 1.00 in the "Heavy Red" tasting means KM's rankings are the same as the overall average. Low or negative numbers indicates the opposite.

    Table 3. - How Tasters' Rankings Correlated to Average Ranking

    Taster

    Heavy Whites

    Heavy Reds

    BG

    0.66

    0.60

    BB

    -0.08

    X

    CM

    0.62

    X

    EM

    0.62

    -0.30

    GR

    0.86

    0.90

    JM

    X

    0.70

    JR

    0.03

    0.90

    KM

    0.66

    1.00

    LR

    0.06

    -0.16

    LS

    X

    0.90

    MP

    0.88

    -0.60

    MS

    X

    -0.20

    RP

    0.66

    0.67

    SG

    -0.73

    0.40

    TB

    0.06

    0.70

    It turns out there was very little correlation between the conformity of each taster to the overall rating between the two tastings (-0.08).

    Table 4 is a correlation matrix showing how tasters' ratings compare to other tasters For example, BG, TB and SG appear to have similar tastes while MS and LS gave opposite ratings.

    Table 4. - Tasters' Correlation Matrix

     

     

    Taster

    BG

    EM

    GR

    JM

    JR

    KM

    LR

    LS

    MS

    MP

    RP

    SG

    TB

    BG

    1.00

    -0.50

    0.70

    0.10

    0.70

    0.60

    0.47

    0.30

    -0.40

    -0.80

    0.36

    0.80

    0.90

    EM

    -0.50

    1.00

    -0.10

    -0.30

    -0.10

    -0.30

    -0.63

    -0.40

    -0.30

    0.40

    -0.82

    -0.90

    -0.70

    GR

    0.70

    -0.10

    1.00

    0.60

    1.00

    0.90

    0.00

    0.70

    -0.60

    -0.50

    0.36

    0.30

    0.60

    JM

    0.10

    -0.30

    0.60

    1.00

    0.60

    0.70

    0.00

    0.90

    -0.20

    0.10

    0.67

    0.10

    0.20

    JR

    0.70

    -0.10

    1.00

    0.60

    1.00

    0.90

    0.00

    0.70

    -0.60

    -0.50

    0.36

    0.30

    0.60

    KM

    0.60

    -0.30

    0.90

    0.70

    0.90

    1.00

    -0.16

    0.90

    -0.20

    -0.60

    0.67

    0.40

    0.70

    LR

    0.47

    -0.63

    0.00

    0.00

    0.00

    -0.16

    1.00

    -0.16

    -0.32

    0.00

    0.16

    0.63

    0.32

    LS

    0.30

    -0.40

    0.70

    0.90

    0.70

    0.90

    -0.16

    1.00

    0.00

    -0.30

    0.82

    0.30

    0.50

    MS

    -0.40

    -0.30

    -0.60

    -0.20

    -0.60

    -0.20

    -0.32

    0.00

    1.00

    -0.10

    0.36

    0.10

    0.00

    MP

    -0.80

    0.40

    -0.50

    0.10

    -0.50

    -0.60

    0.00

    -0.30

    -0.10

    1.00

    -0.41

    -0.70

    -0.90

    RP

    0.36

    -0.82

    0.36

    0.67

    0.36

    0.67

    0.16

    0.82

    0.36

    -0.41

    1.00

    0.67

    0.67

    SG

    0.80

    -0.90

    0.30

    0.10

    0.30

    0.40

    0.63

    0.30

    0.10

    -0.70

    0.67

    1.00

    0.90

    TB

    0.90

    -0.70

    0.60

    0.20

    0.60

    0.70

    0.32

    0.50

    0.00

    -0.90

    0.67

    0.90

    1.00

    One other measure is worth mentioning. The Kendall W statistic indicates how much congruence there is among the ratings of the tasters. The Kendall W for the "Heavy Reds tasting was only 0.214, indicating there should be very little confidence in the judges' overall ratings.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Jan 27 12:57 PM | Link | Comment!
  • US Guns: What Should And Should Not Be Done

    US Guns: What Should and Should Not Be Done

    © Elliott R. Morss

    January 2013

    Introduction

    Recent mass shootings have again focused US attention on something the rest of the world thinks is crazy - permissive US gun laws. In my recent pieces, I have provided documentation on how US gun laws have resulted in a society with as many guns as people and a belief that somehow having a gun will protect you from other people with guns. I have also argued out that the main justification for gun possession - the Second Amendment to the US Constitution - has been badly misinterpreted by the US Supreme Court.

    The shootings have rekindled talk about enacting more restrictive gun laws. This often happens with little result as the gun manufacturers and owners, organized and managed by the National Rifle Association, keep further restrictions from being enacted. But in the current climate, I fear there is just as good a chance that bad gun laws will be passed as good. I review both good and bad new laws below.

    Bad Laws

    1. Bans

    Whenever you hear the word "ban", like in "ban" assault weapons, you can be sure it would be a bad law. Why do I say this? Because I have reviewed US history on past and current bans, i.e., drinking (Prohibition) and drugs. My conclusion: they don't work because of the sizable US market for both products. Worse still, the bans create a criminal element that provides the product to the US market. During Prohibition, American kept drinking with most of the booze provided by a machine-gun carrying mafia. The war on drugs? As I have documented, a complete disaster. Despite spending billions each year at home and abroad, US consumption of drugs is just as high as ever with US jails full of drug "possessors". One interesting point: the US ranks 10th in the world as measured by total shooting deaths and of the 9 countries above it are from Central and Latin America. Why do they have so many shootings? Most of the shootings stem from the criminal elements operating in those countries to provide drugs to the US market.

    1. Another Attack on the Mentally Ill

    In reaction to the latest shootings, some have suggested cracking down on people with mental problems. Bad idea. We all have some degree of mental problem, and there is no reason to return to the 1950s when mental hospitals became prisons for reasonably normal people.

    Good Laws

    Over the last two weeks, I have heard probably 20 gun defenders concede the US has a gun problem but there is nothing the government can do that would make any difference. This is just nonsense. Consider cigarettes - a documented killer that is legal. The program in place to restrict their use is working. What is that program? Restrict cigarette use by age, limit cigarette advertising, and tax them heavily.

    So what should we do about guns? I suggest three new steps:

    1. Heavier Taxes

    Guns, like cigarettes, have high social costs. Consequently, guns should be taxed like cigarettes. A Federal law should be passed that imposes a 100% sales tax on any gun sale.

    1. Unregistered Gun Possession Penalties Should be Increased

    Right now, penalties for the possession of unregistered guns are administered by states. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of winking and blinking going on. A new Federal law is needed that requiring a mandatory three years in prison and a $100,000 fine for possession of an unregistered gun.

    1. Gun Insurance

    You are required to pass a driving test and carry insurance on autos. Why mandatory insurance? Because autos are dangerous: people driving autos get in accidents and mandatory insurance means accident victims get compensation.

    How are guns any different? Guns are dangerous: people using guns cause accidents and mandatory insurance would mean accident victims would get compensation.

    There are about 30,000 auto fatalities annually. The FBI reports 10,000 firearm homicides annually and another 200,000 are injured by guns.

    Guns should be treated no differently than cars. Accident insurance for all guns should be mandatory. Gun owners should be required to carry insurance for every gun they own.

    Conclusions

    The US gun problem is so vast that one wonders where to start. And we hear a lot about "lawful gun owners". But don't kid yourself. Listen to the following "lawful gun owners" make their case:

    Do you want these people to own guns?

    I do not.

    The gun culture is so ingrained that there will be great resistance to any new gun restriction proposals. However, I believe the new laws I have suggested above are a good place to start.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Jan 14 1:09 PM | Link | 6 Comments
  • US Gun Policies: Facts You Should Know

    US Gun Policies: Facts You Should Know

    © Elliott R. Morss

    January 2013

    Introduction

    With the numerous recent mass US shootings, much has been written by pro-gun and anti-gun advocates, with each selecting arguments to bolster their positions. Let me be clear from the outset:

    1. Given the proclivity of guns/nutcakes in the US, I agree with the NRA that all schools should have armed guards;
    2. But longer term, I view guns as too dangerous for citizens to possess.

    However, I do not believe data and research should be hand-picked by one or another group to support their position. And in what follows, I have tried not to do this.

    Data and Research

    I draw most of my data from Wikipedia for firearm deaths and gunpolicy.org for guns. Wikipedia assembled a table based on information from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organization, and the Organization of American States. Most of the research findings I cite come from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

    1. Civilian Guns

    The US ranks 1st against 177 other countries in the number of civilian guns owned - 270 million. Looking at the rate of guns per 100,000 people, the US also ranked number 1.1 In the following sections, international data on total shootings, homicides, suicides, and shootings recorded as unintentional deaths are presented (as a percent of 100,000 population) along with data on guns per 100 population).

    1. Total Shooting Deaths

    In Table 1, shooting deaths for 10 countries with the most and least are presented. There are several points worth noting: The average shootings rate for the top ten is 30.2 deaths per 100,000 while the civilian gun ownership is 17.9 per 100 citizens (US civilian gun rate is an amazing 88.8). In contrast, the average shooting for the lowest 10 is 0.2 shootings with the civilian ownership rate of only 5.8.

    If you look at the countries that have more shootings than the US, most are from Central and South America where criminal elements developed to provide illegal drugs to the US. And while the guns came in to support the gangs, guns are now used for other purposes. For example, in Jamaica, the murder rate has been increasing steadily, and most of the murders are with firearms. Most gun homicides occur during disputes or are revenge killings. The principal motives are disputes and revenge. Drugs, gangs, and political killings are no longer the main factors associated with murder.2

    Most of the countries with the lowest shooting rates have laws that make it very difficult for citizens to possess guns. In these countries, if you are found to have a gun illegally, the penalties are severe.

    Table 1. Total Shooting Rates and Civilian Gun Ownership,

    Top and Bottom 10

    Highest

    Country

    Total shootings/100,000

    Guns/100

    El Salvador

    50.4

    5.8

    Jamaica

    47.4

    8.1

    Honduras

    46.7

    6.2

    Guatemala

    38.5

    13.1

    Swaziland

    37.2

    6.4

    Colombia

    28.1

    5.9

    Brazil

    19.0

    8.0

    Panama

    12.9

    21.7

    Mexico

    11.1

    15.0

    United States

    10.2

    88.8

    Average

    30.2

    17.9

    Lowest

    Country

    Total shootings/100,000

    Guns/100

    United Kingdom

    0.3

    6.7

    Singapore

    0.2

    0.5

    Romania

    0.2

    1.0

    Mauritius

    0.2

    14.7

    Hong Kong

    0.2

    0.1

    Qatar

    0.2

    19.2

    South Korea

    0.1

    1.1

    Japan

    0.1

    0.6

    Azerbaijan

    0.1

    3.5

    Chile

    0.1

    10.7

    Average

    0.2

    5.8

    Sources: Wikipedia for firearm deaths; gunpolicy.org for guns.

    1. Homicides

    It is well documented that where there are more guns there are more homicides.3 This holds across high-income nations4, and also among US states.5 States with higher levels of household gun ownership have higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide. This relationship holds for both genders and all age groups.6

    Table 2. Total Homicide Rates and Civilian Gun Ownership,

    Top and Bottom 10

    Highest

    Country

    Homicides/100,000

    Guns/100

    El Salvador

    50.4

    5.8

    Jamaica

    47.4

    8.1

    Honduras

    46.7

    6.2

    Guatemala

    38.5

    13.1

    Swaziland

    37.2

    6.4

    Colombia

    27.1

    5.9

    Brazil

    18.1

    8.0

    Panama

    12.9

    21.7

    Mexico

    10.0

    15.0

    Philippines

    9.5

    4.7

    Paraguay

    7.4

    17.0

    Nicaragua

    7.1

    7.7

    Zimbabwe

    4.8

    3.4

    United States

    3.7

    88.8

    Average

    22.9

    15.1

    Lowest

    Country

    Homicides/100,000

    Guns/100

    Hong Kong

    0.1

    0.1

    Australia

    0.1

    15.0

    Singapore

    0.1

    0.5

    Germany

    0.1

    30.3

    Chile

    0.1

    10.7

    Slovenia

    0.1

    13.5

    Norway

    0.0

    31.3

    United Kingdom

    0.0

    6.7

    Romania

    0.0

    1.0

    South Korea

    0.0

    1.1

    Azerbaijan

    0.0

    3.5

    Poland

    0.0

    1.3

    Japan

    0.0

    0.6

    Mauritius

    0.0

    14.7

    Average

    0.0

    9.3

    Sources: Ibid.

    In Japan, most kinds of guns are illegal, and almost no one owns a gun. In 2008 there were 11 shooting homicides. The country has nearly eliminated murder by firearms. In 2009 in the United Kingdom only 18 people were murdered with a firearm. The greatest number of gun caused homicides in the last 14 years was 2004, with 52 people killed. But in these and other "low gun" countries, it is more than just the numbers. The people in these societies accept the fact that civilians should not own guns.

    1. Suicides

    One point is stands out from the suicide data: in high income countries, guns are used primarily for suicides, not homicides. I believe people should have the right to commit suicide. But I would far prefer to die under the supervision of a doctor/nurse than have to use a gun.

    Suicide Research Findings:

    • The higher rates of suicide among gun owners and their families cannot be explained by higher rates of suicidal behavior, but can be explained by easy access to a gun.7
    • Adolescents who commit suicide with a gun use the family gun. The vast majority of adolescent suicide guns come from parents of other family members.8
    • Levels of gun ownership are highly correlated with suicide rates across all age groups, even after controlling for lifetime major depression and serious suicidal thoughts.9
    • Gun owning households do not have more mental health problems than non-gun owning households. So differences in mental health do not explain why gun owners and their families are at higher risk for completed suicide than non-gun owning families.10
    • Gun owners are not more suicidal than non-owners. The higher rates of suicide among gun owners and their families cannot be explained by higher rates of suicidal behavior, but can be explained by easy access to a gun.11
    • Adolescents who commit suicide with a gun use the family gun. The vast majority of adolescent suicide guns come from parents of other family members.12

    Table 3. Total Suicide Rates and Civilian Gun Ownership,

    Top and Bottom 10

    Highest

    Country

    Suicides/100,000

    Guns/100

    Montenegro

    6.5

    30.0

    United States

    6.1

    88.8

    Canada

    3.7

    23.8

    Finland

    3.3

    45.7

    Switzerland

    3.2

    45.7

    Serbia

    2.8

    50.0

    Austria

    2.7

    30.4

    Croatia

    2.4

    15.0

    Slovenia

    2.3

    13.5

    France

    2.3

    31.2

    Average

    3.5

    37.4

    Lowest

    Country

    Suicides/100,000

    Guns/100

    Georgia

    0.1

    7.3

    Mauritius

    0.1

    14.7

    Kyrgyzstan

    0.1

    0.9

    Hong Kong

    0.1

    0.1

    Kuwait

    0.1

    24.8

    Romania

    0.1

    1.0

    Japan

    0.0

    0.6

    Uzbekistan

    0.0

    1.5

    South Korea

    0.0

    1.1

    Azerbaijan

    0.0

    3.5

    Average

    0.1

    5.6

    Sources: Ibid.

    1. Unintentional Shooting Deaths

    Table 4 provides data on the top and bottom ten countries on unintentional deaths. As one might expect, unintentional deaths are much higher where citizens own more guns. The average number of guns for the top unintentional death countries is 21.82 per hundred people; for countries with the lowest unintentional deaths, guns are only 8.99 per hundred people.

    Table 4. Total Unintentional Shooting Deaths and Civilian Gun Ownership,

    Top and Bottom 10

    Highest

    Country

    Unintentional/100,000

    Guns/100

    Georgia

    1.00

    7.30

    Argentina

    0.64

    10.20

    Mexico

    0.47

    15.00

    Slovakia

    0.39

    8.30

    Kyrgyzstan

    0.28

    0.90

    Canada

    0.22

    23.80

    United States

    0.20

    88.80

    Brazil

    0.18

    8.00

    Serbia

    0.18

    50.00

    Colombia

    0.14

    5.90

    Average

    0.37

    21.82

    Lowest

    Country

    Unintentional/100,000

    Guns/100

    Norway

    0.02

    31.30

    Azerbaijan

    0.02

    3.50

    Poland

    0.02

    1.30

    Belgium

    0.01

    17.20

    Netherlands

    0.01

    3.90

    United Kingdom

    0.01

    6.70

    Kuwait

    0.00

    24.80

    Hong Kong

    0.00

    0.10

    Singapore

    0.00

    0.50

    Japan

    0.00

    0.60

    Average

    0.01

    8.99

    Sources: Ibid.

    1. Countries with the Most Guns

    What do we find if we look at countries with more guns per 100 citizens than any others? These data are presented in Table 5. The US again leads in all categories by a wide margin. There one other notable feature worthy of note: most of the countries in Table 5 are high income European, and it appears they mostly use guns to commit suicide with very low homicide rates. But then there is the US: it has the highest gun suicide rate of them all, but guns are also used to murder a lot of people.

    Table 5. Leading Civilian Gun Ownership Countries and Shooting Deaths

     

     

    Country

    Guns/100

    Homicide/100,000

    Suicide/100,000

    Unintentional/100,000

    United States

    88.80

    3.70

    6.10

    0.20

    Serbia

    50.00

    0.62

    2.81

    0.18

    Switzerland

    45.70

    0.52

    3.15

    0.10

    Finland

    45.70

    0.26

    3.34

    0.02

    Cyprus

    36.40

    0.24

    0.48

    n.a.

    Uruguay

    31.80

    3.24

    n.a.

    n.a.

    Sweden

    31.60

    0.19

    1.20

    0.06

    Norway

    31.30

    0.04

    1.72

    0.02

    France

    31.20

    0.22

    2.33

    0.05

    Austria

    30.40

    0.18

    2.68

    n.a.

    Sources: Ibid.

    Gun advocates cite Switzerland and Israel as examples nations with widespread gun ownership and permissive gun laws. In actual fact, when compared to the US, Switzerland and Israel have lower rates of gun ownership, stricter gun control laws, and policies that discourage gun ownership.13

    Arguments for Why Citizens Should Be Able to Possess Guns

    Three arguments are put forth:

    1. It is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution;
    2. Hunting;
    3. Protection.

    The 2nd Amendment Argument

    The 2nd Amendment reads "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." What did this amendment mean when written? Back then, the US had no standing militia. In the case a militia was needed, citizens with guns became that militia. But today, this is anachronistic nonsense: the US has a standing army of 1.4 million personnel with an annual defense budget of almost $1 trillion. In short, the US has "a well regulated militia". As a consequence, we don't need citizens to possess guns. The Supreme Court frequently reinterprets the Constitution, and it is time this canard was put to rest. Can you imagine what the authors of the Constitution would think if they saw what this literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has led to?

    Hunters

    A new study funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and carried out by Southwick Associates has found that that 21.8 million Americans hunted at least once over the past five years.14 Hunted at least once over the last five years? Real hunters? The study went on: "it was determined that for every two hunters in the field this year, one is taking the year off."

    The Interior Department reported that in 2011 13.7 million people, or 6% of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting.15 So for this 6% of the population, the NRA wants semi-automatic weapons that can shoot 100 bullets without reloading?

    Any "real" hunter will tell you that a good hunter kills his prey with one or two shots at most. If three shots or more are needed, you should "get out of the woods". So how about allowing registered hunters to buy rifles (not handguns) that shoot no more than 6 bullets without having to reload?

    Protection

    Many people have guns "for protection". They say it makes them feel safer. And it has to be said, there are cases where guns have protected people. But the benefits of "feeling safe" have to be weighed against the costs of guns being misused, for example:

    • Newtown;
    • Unintentional shootings;
    • Trayvon Martin, or
    • The latest as reported by the New York Times: "The suspect, Michael Dunn, 45, of Satellite Beach, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and attempted murder. Mr. Dunn told his lawyer that the victim, Jordan Davis, 17, who was parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville on Friday night with three other teenagers, pointed a shotgun at him through a partly rolled-down window, threatened to kill him and began to open the door. Mr. Davis, a junior at a Jacksonville high school who had moved from Georgia two years ago to live with his father, died after being shot twice. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said officers had not found a shotgun in the car."

    What are the research findings on using guns for protection?

    1. Guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns.16
    2. Firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense.17
    3. By a margin of more than 3 to 1, Americans would feel less safe, not safer, as others in their community acquire guns. Among women, but not among men, those who have been threatened with a gun are particularly likely to feel less safe.18
    4. Owners of semi-automatic weapons are more likely than other gun owners to be male, own a gun for protection, and report binge drinking.19
    5. To believe fully the claims of millions of self-defense gun uses each year would mean believing that decent law-abiding citizens shot hundreds of thousands of criminals. In actual fact, few criminals are shot by law abiding citizens. Using data from surveys of detainees in six jails from around the nation, it was found that very few criminals were shot by citizens.20
    6. For adolescents, most of the reported self-defense gun uses were hostile interactions between armed adolescents. Males, smokers, binge drinkers, those who threatened others and whose parents were less likely to know their whereabouts were more likely both to be threatened with a gun and to use a gun in self-defense.21
    7. Adolescents who commit suicide with a gun use the family gun. The vast majority of adolescent suicide guns come from parents of other family members.22

    Spurious Arguments

    In the aftermath of recent shootings, there have been calls to bring back "mental care". Tread carefully here. We got rid of most mental institutions because they had become jails for people with the mildest of mental problems. The problem is not "crazy people". The problem is how easily they can get their hands on guns.

    I was struck by a Wall Street Journal article trying to justify citizens owning revolvers that can shoot a lot of bullets without reloading: "Nor are magazines holding more than 10 rounds something new. They were invented decades ago and have long been standard for many handguns. Police officers carry them for the same reason that civilians do: Especially if a person is attacked by multiple assailants, there is no guarantee that a 10-round magazine will end the assault." What do you think of the notion that citizens should be carrying revolvers that can shoot more than ten bullets at assailants?

    Conclusions

    What can we draw from the above?

    • The more guns there are, the more shootings there will be. Data and research find this to be true internationally and among US states.
    • Because there are so many guns in the US, everyone is at risk of being shot.
    • Already, four US Presidents (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy) have been gunned down, not to mention Reagan (a near miss). There is no other country in the world with such a record. And then there are the tragic cases of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King….
    • Whatever happens with US gun policy, the US will remain a dangerous place for a long time. I draw from this that if we care about our children, all schools should have armed guards for the indefinite future.
    • There appears to be no justification for citizens possessing guns that can shoot more than 6 bullets before reloading.
    • History tells us that if there is a market for a product in the US, banning it will create a criminal element to provide it - just look at what happened with Prohibition and what is now happening with banned drugs.
    • The policy implications of this are to do what is being successfully done with cigarettes: tax guns heavily and use the proceeds to reduce the number of guns in the US.
    • However, the gun problem is so serious in the US that sales of all should be banned except for rifles shooting no more that 6 bullets at a time for hunters.
    • What do we do about the 270 million guns owned by civilians? Start by requiring licensed owners of revolvers and semi-automatic weapons to give them up.

    1 http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states

    2 Lemard, Glendene; Hemenway, David. Violence in Jamaica: An analysis of homicides 1998-2002.Injury Prevention. 2006; 12:15-18.

    3 Hepburn, Lisa; Hemenway, David. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. 2004; 9:417-40.

    41 Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 high income countries. Journal of Trauma. 2000; 49:985-88.

    5 Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. Household firearm ownership levels and homicide rates across U.S. regions and states, 1988-1997. American Journal of Public Health. 2002: 92:1988-1993.

    6 Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. State-level homicide victimization rates in the U.S. in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003. Social Science and Medicine. 2007; 64:656-64.

    7 Betz, Marian E; Barber, Catherine; Miller, Matthew. Suicidal behavior and firearm access: results from the second injury control and risk survey (ICARIS-2). Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviors 2011; 41:384-91.

    8 Johnson, Rene M; Barber, Catherine; Azrael, Deborah; Clark, David E; Hemenway, David. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. 2010; 40:609-611.

    9 Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. The association of rates of household handgun ownership, lifetime major depression and serious suicidal thoughts with rates of suicide across US census regions. Injury Prevention. 2002; 8:313-16.

    10 Miller, Matthew; Molnar, Beth; Barber, Catherine; Hemenway, David; Azrael, Deborah. Recent psychopathology, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in households with vs. without firearms: findings from the National Comorbidity Study Replication. Injury Prevention. 2009; 15:183-87.

    11 Betz, Marian E; Barber, Catherine; Miller, Matthew. Suicidal behavior and firearm access: results from the second injury control and risk survey (ICARIS-2). Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviors 2011; 41:384-91.

    12 Johnson, Rene M; Barber, Catherine; Azrael, Deborah; Clark, David E; Hemenway, David. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. 2010; 40:609-611.

    13 Rosenbaum, Janet E. Gun utopias? Firearm access and ownership in Israel and Switzerland. Journal of Public Health Policy. 2012; 33:46-58.

    14 http://www.nssf.org/PDF/HuntingLicTrends-NatlRpt.pdf

    15 http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/upload/FWS-National-Preliminary-Report-2011.pdf

    16 Azrael, Deborah R; Hemenway, David. In the safety of your own home: Results from a national survey of gun use at home. Social Science and Medicine. 2000; 50:285-91

    17 Hemenway, David; Azrael, Deborah. The relative frequency of offensive and defensive gun use: Results of a national survey. Violence and Victims. 2000; 15:257-272.

    18 Ibid.

    19 Hemenway, David; Richardson, Elizabeth. Characteristics of automatic or semi-automatic firearm ownership. American Journal of Public Health. 1997; 87:286-88.

    20 May, John P; Hemenway, David. Oen, Roger; Pitts, Khalid R. Medical Care Solicitation by Criminals with Gunshot Wound Injuries: A Survey of Washington DC Jail Detainees. Journal of Trauma. 2000; 48:130-132.

    21 Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. Gun threats against and self-defense gun use by California adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2004; 158:395-400

    22 Johnson, Rene M; Barber, Catherine; Azrael, Deborah; Clark, David E; Hemenway, David. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. 2010; 40:609-611.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Dec 30 4:10 PM | Link | Comment!
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