Gun Control Body's Figures Really Need Shooting Down; Legal Gun Ownership Has No Link to Illegal Firearm Crime Statistics
I THOUGHT the graph that inspired my last column was the worst example of the journalistic misuse of figures I was likely to see for a while.
Sadly I came upon another example on Monday, January 9, courtesy of the Herald Sun.
Admittedly the article did not involve a graph but every journalist should be aware that quoting anything produced by the National Coalition for Gun Control without having a really long think about what it actually means, is a recipe for a nasty surprise.
Short of all the padding, the base article was an unsurprising non-story demonstrating that most of the guns used in crimes are neither stolen nor have ever been registered.
After wrapping a few figures around that however, the Herald Sun produced a horror story to keep the kids staring into the dark, or at least the gullible toeing the gun control line.
One of the supposedly startling revelations was that there are several small Victorian towns where the number of guns is larger than the number of people.
One town of 278 people has 774 registered fire arms. It sounds alarming, until you do the maths. That is 2.8 guns per person.
There is no indication how many belong to security firms, police officers, gun collectors, professional shooters or even military museums.
The figures tell us nothing about the actual distribution or use of the guns.
If you think I am being pedantic, the next breathlessly alarmist statement was that, shock, horror, Victoria has almost 23% of all the registered firearms in Australia.
In reality, this is hardly surprising as Victoria has almost 24% of the total population.
Then there followed what are supposedly quotes from the Victorian police who are worried that there were 39,000 extra firearms registered in Victoria in the 18 months to June 2011 but only 5000 new licences issued.
Their biggest concern was expressed about the number of pistols in the community and people's willingness to use them to commit crimes. All sounds frightening so far.
The article then made a heroic attempt to connect the high rate of legal gun ownership in country Victoria with the prevalence of gun-related crime in the North-western suburbs of Melbourne.
This was followed by a pledge by the police of unremitting harassment to deter the use of pistols. Leaving aside the question as to whether harassment is ever a legitimate policing tool, who are they going to harass?
Harassing registered gun owners is not going to worry the criminals. They are not dependant on stealing guns to obtain their fire arms.
The rate of gun theft has actually fallen by over half in the same period as the article covers, so any increase in gun crime is not attributable to stolen guns. …