Murder by Gun: An analysis of the numbers

by Charles Henderson

It is interesting to consider that Hawaii has the fewest murders of any state in the USA, with 7 murders in 2011, of which one murder was committed with a firearm, a rifle, and the six remaining were committed with knives or other odd weapons or no weapons at all. Yet ask the average American who watches TV and Hawaii Five-0, one of televisions more popular shows, and they will consider that Hawaii is right up there with plenty of gun violence. They do sling a lot of lead on Hawaii Five-0. The point is that much of America’s hand-wringing over violent crime is media driven.

Comparing states and their murder numbers, weapons used, and population is also interesting. Iowa compares closely with Colorado and Oklahoma with unrestrictive gun laws. The three states have low population density given area of land and are fairly comparable in total population, Iowa 3.1 million, Oklahoma 3.8 million and Colorado 5.2 million people. Interestingly, Oklahoma leads with homicides at 204, firearms accounting for 131 of those murders. Colorado is next with 147 homicides, of which firearms accounted for 73 of the murders. Then comes the state of Iowa with only 44 murders, of which 19 were committed with firearms.

All three states are consistent with the national average of 67 percent of homicides committed with firearms. Yet Colorado, with the greatest population, nearly two-million more people than Oklahoma, has fewer murders than Oklahoma. Iowa with a near comparable population to Oklahoma has a fraction of the number of homicides, only 44 committed in the year 2011.

Gun laws in Iowa are less restrictive than most states, and compare well with Colorado and Oklahoma. So, why is gun violence so much less in Iowa than Oklahoma and Colorado, and much less than the national averages? The US Census Bureau may hold some answers.

Average annual median household income for Colorado is $49,863.00 per year. Median household income in Iowa is $50,451.00. Oklahoma median household income is significantly less with $44,287.00. Both Iowa and Colorado have comparable median household income, but Oklahoma is more than $5-thousand dollars a year less. This might be a clue to the significantly greater percentage of murders in Oklahoma. And, as I said, gun laws of the three states are much the same, unrestrictive with no registration required anywhere.

In Iowa, 85 percent of the people have lived in the same household for more than one year, and 90.3 percent of the population graduated high school, with 25 percent graduating college. Iowa’s population is 93 percent “white” with 3 percent “black” and 5 percent “Latino.” More than 73 percent of people in Iowa own their own homes.

In Colorado, 81 percent of the people have lived in the same household for more than one year, and 89.7 percent of the population graduated high school, with 36 percent graduating college. Colorado’s population is 88 percent “white” with 4.3 percent “black” and 21 percent “Latino.” Nearly 69 percent of people in Colorado own their own homes.

In Oklahoma, 81 percent of the people have lived in the same household for more than one year, and 85.9 percent of the population graduated high school, with 23 percent graduating college. Oklahoma’s population is 75.8 percent “white” with 7.7 percent “black” and 9.2 percent “Latino.”Nearly 68 percent of people in Oklahoma own their own homes. Nearly 9 percent of Oklahoma’s population reports that they are “American Indian.” Iowa has only one-half of one percent, and Colorado has 1.6 percent.

The telling difference between Oklahoma, Iowa and Colorado is the median household income, with Oklahomans earning more than $5-thousand dollars a year less than Colorado or Iowa, and nearly $8-thousand dollars a year less than the US national average. Does this equate to more murders?

West Virginia is $5-thousand dollars a year less than Oklahoma’s median household income, with $39,550.00 per household, but only 74 murders took place in West Virginia in 2011, of which 43 involved firearms. Education wise, West Virginia falls behind Oklahoma, Colorado and Iowa, but in racial demographics compares with Iowa. Population of West Virginia is just less than 2 million people.

What the US Census Bureau and FBI do not tell us is which states have strong family values. Which states have the most people going to church on Sunday? Perhaps that may have more bearing on commissions of violent crime and murder than anything else.

But in the end, murder by firearm for most states is a small number compared to greater population. Is gun control really a priority, or is it a political hot topic and high agenda item for greater, other objectives that have nothing at all to do with violent crime by guns?

 ©Copyright 2013 Charles W. Henderson 

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