Monday, April 22, 2019

The 2nd Amendment does more than keep King George away

A year ago, in the aftermath of the Florida shooting, I used a neighbor-net as a way to visualize U.S. gun legislation (see the first graph here). In this post, we will use this network to explore some other aspects of American society.

A network illustrating the diversity in U.S. gun legislation. Blue stars – states with a gun registry.

The network picture emphasizes those states where guns are regulated to some extent (in green), but this means that the states at the bottom-left have little or no regulation of gun ownership. Note, first, that the U.S. gun lobby argues that the absence of any gun control is covered by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,which covers the right of citizens to form a "well regulated militia", an amendment installed to protect the freedom of the new republic from the former British sovereign (ie. to "keep King George away").

This claim ignores the fact that "well regulated" implies regulation of some sort, while the network emphasizes its absence in many cases. Besides, the risk of being re-conquered by Her Majesty's Royal Army is quite low these days, with or without Brexit. More to the point, the world itself has changed quite a bit since the 1700s, while the Constitution has had only a few Amendments added and subtracted.

If we start our use of the neighbor-net to look at the data, then we can see that there is at least one obvious consequence of unregulated gun ownership. For example, the next plot shows the number of gun-related deaths (in 2016) super-imposed on the gun-regulation network.

The total number of firearm-related deaths in 2016 (includes accidents and suicides.
Data from; this and more plots can be found here:
Visualising U.S. gun legislation, and mapping politics, economics, and population)

There seems to be a good correlation between unregulated gun ownership and the probability of getting shot or shooting yourself — the number of shootings is greatest in the lower-left of the network, where gun ownership is essentially unregulated (see the Gun Violence Archive for current numbers).

Arming every citizen may have helped to fend off King George's Redcoats, but in the long run, a substantial amount of Americans (c. 275,000 per year; when compared with Canada's rate) would still be alive if the Colonies would have become HRM's dominion like Australia or Canada; both Canadians and Australians own a lot of firearms per capita (see the Small Arms Survey for up-to-date estimates), but while Canada long had Europe-style legislation (and low casualty frequencies); Australians implemented them more recently leading to a massive drop in firearm-related deaths (see above).

As a side note, arming every male citizen to secure freedom from a feudal lord was probably a Swiss invention (see the Swiss Federal Charter of 1291, the Bundesbrief). Switzerland has a compulsory general draft of young males; and after this service they take their Sturmgewehr back home for the yearly training exercise, and to be prepared to fend off invaders (until 2007, including the ammunition). They have ~4-times lower rate of firearm-related deaths (2.8 in 2015 according to; nearly all of them males) — the only EU country approaching lowest U.S. values is Finland, and it's near exclusively accidents and suicides.

Other factors

It is important to keep in mind that the United States is a true federation of states, with each state having a substantial amount of autonomy, which is not found in any other country with a federal organization. Hence, many other aspects differ between states, not just the substantial differences in gun legislation.

For example, economics differ greatly between the states, and this also shows a reasonable correlation with gun regulation, as seen in this next version of the network. Note that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the goods and services produced annually — rich places have high GDP and poor places have lower GDP.

Real gross domestic product per capita mapped on the gun-legislation-based network.
Red, below global U.S. value; green above global U.S. value.
Data source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

So, the economically poorer the state, the less likely there is to be gun regulation.

Modern developments include allowing women into the armed forces, and granting them the right to vote. For example, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women the right to vote, which was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. This first map shows the situation for the European Union, some parts of which lagged behind the U.S.

Implementation of general right to vote within the countries of the EU (source: Süddeutsche Zeitung).
In the case of Germany and France, the reason was a lost war leading to the (re)establishment of new republics.

Women make about 50% of the populace and (usually) more than 50% of the electorate (having a generally higher life expectancy), but they are still typically under-represented in parliaments (here are a few examples). The United States is, sadly, a good example of this imbalance. This next map shows that the women in 13 states currently have no same-sex representation in the U.S. Congress.

Female representation in the current U.S. Congress.
The green part of each pie chart indicates the proportion of women representatives.

This leads to the obvious question for this blog post: how does the absence of female representatives (and senators) relate to the absence of gun regulation? So, let's map the above collection of pie charts onto the gun legislation network.

Female representation in the U.S. Congress after 2018 mid-term elections
(includes Senate and House of Representatives).
The c. 700,000 inhabitants of DC, District of Columbia, have no representation in
Congress at all, but send a non-voting delegate to the House.

There is a general trend — those states with little or no gun regulation (bottom left) have less female representation than those with (some) gun regulation. Perhaps someone took the 2nd Amendment a bit too literally (the right that every man to carry a gun), and this keeps not only King George away, from the country but also women away from Congress?

Exceptions from the generalization (starting with 75% going down to 33%) are sparsely populated states with only a few members of Congress: New Hampshire (NH, 75%; 2 representatives in addition to the two U.S. senators representing each state), Maine (ME, 2 reps.), West Virginia (WV; 3 reps), Alaska (AK; 1 rep.), New Mexico (NM; 3 reps), and Nevada (NV; 4 reps). All of these states have one thing in common: a substantial proportion of the state is wilderness.

At the other end, some states with relative high levels of gun regulation, like Maryland (MD; 8 reps), Rhode Island (RI; 2 reps), New Jersey (NJ; 12 reps) and Colorado (CO; 7 reps), lack women in Congress (0–15%, ie. one representative or none). This may relate to these state being very densely populated (MD, RI, NJ), and, irrespective of outside threats, no-one wants their close neighbors running around with guns. Colorado is particular in this sense, because with Denver it includes a major population center (the nucleus of the emerging Front Range megaregion), and it enforced much stricter gun regulation than found elsewhere in the state.

A map showing Colorado's congressional districts, for the 113th Congress.
Data from the defunct digital version of the U.S. National Atlas.

Do more women in parliament save American lives?

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans have the highest regard for nurses, a profession mostly occupied by women and lowest regard for Members of Congress, a profession mostly occupied by men. Hence, it would make sense to explore the data the other way around. We will explore this in a later post.

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