Sunday, December 30, 2012

If you live with a librarian. . .

Lunchtime conversation may include, “I was looking at the UN statistics on homicide yesterday and noticed some very odd things.” Then the spousal eyes glaze over—sandwich in hand he heads for his man cave.

Of course, the compilers warn that not all countries keep stats the same way, nor are all current. But you can’t miss the obvious—the homicide rates for North America-- Canada (1.6 per 100,000) and the United States (4.8)--are far lower than Central and South America. Brazil 21 per 100,000, Columbia 31.4, Dominican Republic 25, Jamaica 40.9, El Salvador 69.2, Honduras 91.6. 

And then there is poor little French speaking Haiti (6.9)—apparently far safer than its island neighbor, Spanish speaking Dominican Republic, which is much more wealthy and developed.  And the African countries are almost as high—Cote d’Ivoire is 56.9 for instance, Lesotho 35.2, Malawi 36, except those African countries with Islamic rule have low homicide rates.  (Maybe covering up the women works since most homicides are committed by men.) The tables don’t specify guns or knives, clubs or poison. But countries with lower gun ownership than the U.S. do have higher homicide rates. 

Like every other bad social charting, our homicide rate soared with the war on poverty and then began dropping in the 90s, although it hasn’t returned to the 1950s level before the government encouraged men to leave their families and let them fend for themselves.

Norway has the highest rate of gun ownership in Western Europe, yet possesses the lowest murder rate. In contrast, Holland's murder rate is nearly the worst, despite having the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe. Sweden and Denmark are two more examples of nations with high murder rates but few guns

There are plenty of statistics out there—but I’m sure Congress will just throw them at each other since this isn’t about life, safety or property, but about politics.

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