According to Brady Campaign Data: Gun Control Laws Do NOT Decrease Gun Related Homicide

Each of us has moments or days in our lives that because of their circumstances are unforgettable. For most of us over the age of about 25, 9/11 was one such day; 9/11 was a day that collectively many of us will never forget. Other unforgettable days are more personal. For example, I’ll never forget the day that my father passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 59. That was more than a two years ago now and periodic waves of disbelief still wash over me regarding my father’s passing. Another such day that I’ll never forget is the day of the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

I was in fourth grade at the time, and we were headed back to class from a newly constructed playground on campus when one of my fellow students reported that “The President got shot!” I recall walking up the stairs to my classroom wondering about the President: Had he been badly injured? Would he survive? As time went on we learned that President Reagan’s injuries were not life-threatening, but that his Assistant and White House Press Secretary, James Brady, was badly injured and might not survive.

Though I was neither a Republican nor particularly religious at that time in my life, I recall being pre-occupied with Mr Brady and praying that he would be okay; that he would not only survive, but would make a full recovery. James Brady’s story held my attention for years after the assassination attempt.

As it turns out, while Mr. Brady was nearly killed and became permanently disabled as a consequence of the 1981 shooting, he did survive.

Brady went on to found The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit organization named for Mr. Brady, who following the shooting, became an ardent supporter of gun control. The stated mission of the Brady Campaign is “to reduce gun violence…” via “sensible gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.”

The Brady Campaign has released its fifth annual 100-point score card ranking all 50 U.S. states on the basis of gun laws that are alleged to prevent and/or reduce gun violence, including:

  • Background checks on all gun sales
  • Permit-to-purchase requirements
  • Limiting handgun purchases to one a month
  • Retention of sales records

The campaign by touts its own efficacy by stating

California continues to blaze legislative trails in saving lives, rising to a high of 81 points on the 2011 Brady State Scorecard rankings of state gun laws. California’s universal background check system, retention of purchase records, limiting handgun purchases to one a month, and an assault clip ban are just some of the laws that provide a road map to preventing gun violence.

The website is certainly visually appealing, and I’ll admit the interactive chart of U.S. gun laws is neat and a lot of fun to well… interact with. I’ll even go a step further and admit that it probably does feel good to enact gun laws that one believes will prevent or reduce gun violence.

Unfortunately, the question is not does any specific law feel good, nor is the question about what one believes will be effective; the only relevant question regarding gun control laws is whether or not they’re effective in reducing gun violence. Hence, the only relevant question convening the Brady Campaign’s 100-point score card is whether or not there is any correlation between Brady points and gun violence.

A quick analysis of the data suggests there is not. Shown below is a chart that compares 2011 Brady points with Gun Homicides per 100,000 citizens by state; visually, it’s obvious there is no correlation between the two variables. Those states with the highest Brady scores do not appear to have the lowest incidences of gun-related homicide.

Consider a couple of other varieties of analysis: For example, the 10 states with the lowest per capita gun homicide rates, have relatively low Brady Scores, which would suggest there are few laws ‘to prevent gun violence’ on the books in those states. If gun control decreases gun violence, the exact opposite would be observed.

State homicide rank Brady Score Rank 2011 Brady Points Gun homicides per 100,000 population
New Hampshire 50 27* 6 0.43
Vermont 49 27 6 0.48
Hawaii 48 6 50 0.51
Wyoming 47 39 4 0.59
North Dakota 46 47 2 0.71
Maine 45 25 7 0.72
Iowa 44 25 7 0.74
South Dakota 43 39 4 0.74
Utah 42 50 0 0.93
Idaho 41 47 2 1.22

Conversely, we see that a high Brady score, which suggests that there are laws existing to prevent gun violence in those states, doesn’t mean a low murder rate. It is particularly noteworthy that California, the only state to receive a “4 star” ranking by the Brady Campaign has the fourth highest rate of firearm-related homicides in the country.


State homicide rank Brady Score Rank 2011 Brady Points Gun homicides per 100,000 population
Maryland 2 7 45 6.95
Mississippi 3 39 4 5.55
California 4 1 81 4.82
Nevada 5 29 5 4.72
South Carolina 6 22 8 4.64
Illinois 7 9 35 4.59
Michigan 8 11 25 4.55
Arizona 9 50 0 4.54
New Mexico 10 39 4 4.44

While this common sense presentation of data will be sufficient for those with common sense, reader’s who have attended graduate school are likely to require a less obvious, statistical analysis in order be convinced. In order to satisfy those readers, I’ve subject the data to an analysis to determine the correlation coefficient, which is a measure of the interdependence of two random variables, with values that range from -1 to +1. At -1, a perfect negative correlation exists, indicating that when one variable increases the other variable will decrease. No correlation exist when the Correlation Coefficient is zero, and a perfect positive correlation occurs at +1; a positive correlation means that as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other increases as well.

The Correlation Coefficient for the dataset is provided in the table below:

Dataset Correlation Coefficient
All States 0.012398

When the data are considered as an entire set (All States), the CC value of 0.0124 suggests there is no correlation between increased gun control and gun-related homicide.

At best data generated by the Brady Campaign are inconclusive and at worst suggest that there is no evidence that increased gun control results in decreased rates of gun-related homicide.

The data provided by the Brady Campaign and the Brady Campaign itself are perfect evidence that the position that more control results in less gun violence is an emoted, unanalyzed, and factually incorrect statement that isn’t even supported by data alleged to work in its favor.

If only the left would take the time to look.

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