Monday, March 12, 2012

The Famous 10% (Reposted by Popular Demand)

A couple weeks ago I made a statement that among the legal gun owners there are between 10% and 30% who should not have guns. After the bombardment of complaints I received, I retracted the statement and amended it to a simple 10%. Naturally, the pro-gun crowd who felt they had me on the ropes weren't satisfied with that. They were outraged. They demanded proof. They provided "proof" that the figure is really less than 1%. One guy suggested I downgrade my idea from "theory" to "hunch."

In this post I propose to offer a bit of what goes into my thinking. I won't call it proof, because as I've said before, much of this is not quantifiable. We must use common sense. So, in order to guard against bias, I'll downplay the numbers, allowing only very conservative figures to go towards the final result.

In the end, I will once again call my idea a "theory," and I would expect to never again hear the complaint that I make this up as I go along, that I say these numbers off the top of my head, and as Mike W. so eloquently put it, that I pull this stuff out of my ass.

Here goes. Let's presume there are 80 million gun owners. That means we need to identify 8 million who aren't fit to have a gun.

Good guys who turn bad. 1%

Some of you guys have generously provided the stats on concealed carry guys who get in trouble. That combined with the FBI stats of overall crime, allowing for the fact that some of the FBI criminals were not gun owners, we come up with about 1 million. So what we're saying is every year about 1 million gun owners out of the 80 million get in serious enough trouble to lose their right to bear arms. If you have trouble with that, look at the crime stats, add the felonies up and divide by 2, estimating that half the men own guns.

Alcoholics and drug addicts. 3%

It is estimated that 8.5% of the population is alcoholic. What percentage do you suppose has problems with other substances, anything from prescription medication to illicit drugs, another 10%?. Let's say 5%. That's 13.5% of our population at large and consequently of the 80 million gun owners. In all fairness, most of them, although I don't personally feel comfortable with their having weapons, won't cause any problems. But what of the worst 3%, say? These are the guys who become anti-social when they drink or party with drugs. You know the type. 3%.

Depression. 3%

It is estimated that about 8% of our population had at least one MDE (major depressive episode) in the last year. Gunowners, being no different from regular folks, can claim this same percentage, which I'll bet goes a long way explaining all those suicides. Since not everyone who suffers one of these episodes attempts suicide or does something else rash, let's call it 3%.

Rage (including road rage). 1%

One of the most frightening types of rage is called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). It is estimated that 4% of the population has yearly episodes. I say not a single one of them should own a gun. I realize some of these guys also suffer from depression and may have even been counted under "Alcoholics and drug addicts," so we can cut the 4% in half twice and settle on 1%. I'll throw in the regular rageaholics and road rage maniacs for free. 1%.

Domestic abusers. 3%

It is estimated that 22% of women in America have been abused. It's men doing that abusing, usually the domestic partner, so let's say 22% of the men out there are guilty of this behaviour. Only about half of those men are gun owners, so we're down to 11%. Now, let's eliminate the one's who slap their partners once in a while because they asked for it. Now let's cut it way down because many responsible owners of firearms can successfully separate their domestic squabbles from their proper gun management. I say 3%.

Rape. 1%

The U.S. Department of Justice statistics for 2005 say that 191,670 incidents of rape or sexual assault were reported. Only 16% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported which brings the total in 2005 to about 1 million. 1 of 6 U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. These rapists may be some of the same guys we already counted in the "Domestic abusers" percentage. Also, some of these1 million rapes per year might be done by the same people, creating additional duplicate counting. I say we need another small entry here, say 1%.

General stupidity and irresponsibility. one half of 1%

I couldn't find anything to support this except humorous things that weren't very funny. But, just look around. You know who these people are.

There you have it, support for my "theory" that about 10% of the legal gun owners should not have weapons. I honestly believe using the same method I could make a good argument for the higher figures I'd stated earlier, but in the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt in all cases, I'll leave it at 10% (rounded down from 13%, you probably noticed).

Some gun enthusiasts are very comfortable with the "us against them" mentality. They do it with the good gun owners and the criminal ones. They do it with the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks. It's all foolishness, say I. It is from their very midst, from this 10% that we have a significant "people flow." Not every one of the members of the group will go bad, and certainly not this year, but it is from their ranks that we see so many national headlines.

Please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear your opinion.


  1. So would Laci's negligent discharges fall under the "General stupidity and irresponsibility" category? Just curious as to what type of people you are considering as to be unfit to own guns.

    1. Did Laci shoot himself with his Glock 7? Poor guy.

  2. Your theory just doesn't hold water. Your FBI link is broke, so I used my own. According to the FBI, in 2010, there were 1,246,248 violent crimes (a 6% decrease from the previous year)and 9,082,887 property crimes for a total of 10,329,135 crimes. Juveniles account for 16% of crime (table 28). That leaves us with 8,676,473.4 crimes potentially committed by lawful gun owners. 80% of crime is committed by repeat offenders, so that leaves us with 1,735,294.68 crimes potentially committed by lawful gun owners. There is an estimated 20M concealed permit holders. Using your 1% of good guys, it would indicate that CCW permit holders are the problem and we should all be pushing for constitutional carry.

  3. 1. Theory does not mean guess in scientific usage. Theory is an explanation of observed data that has been confirmed by experiment or study.

    2. You provide evidence of problem people in our society, but you don't give evidence for how many of them are gun owners. Since many of them are prohibited persons, they're unlikely to answer survey questions. Begging us to accept what you call common sense won't work.

    3. You didn't say so, but you're treating these categories as discrete. That's a flaw in your argument. Look at the kind of people who commit the acts listed here. They often fit into more than one category. Without accounting for the overlap, you can't just add up your numbers (shaky as they are) and reach an answer.

    1. Maybe I forgot to say, the original Famous 10% came after a number of your fellow gun rights advocates insisted that gun owners are just like regular folks.

      You're not denying that are you? You're not saying that gun owners are somehow immune to these problems that the general public suffers from?

    2. I do know that concealed carry license holders show a much better record than the general population. I know that crime rates are dropping. I also know that people who have the problems that you named frequently have more than one of those.

      What I'm telling you here is that your numbers aren't as strong as you think them to be.

  4. Let's start with a look at how many citizens were murdered in 2010. According to FBI Uniform Crime reports, there were about 9,800 homicides in 2010 where the criminal used a firearm to kill the victim. We also know that criminals killing other criminals in connection with criminal activity are responsible for about 90% of those homicides. But criminals are already ineligible to own firearms. Thus we are left with about 980 innocent civilians in 2010 who were homicide victims. And let's assume that armed citizens with no previous criminal records "snapped" and are responsible for all 980 homicides of citizens in 2010. We know that is wrong and that hardened criminals committed most of those homicides but we'll be liberal. We also know that only about 20% of firearms injuries are fatal. Thus there were about 4900 firearm injuries in 2010 where an innocent civilian survived their attack. Again, we know that hardened criminals are responsible for a majority of those. But like before we will assume that previously law abiding citizens "snapped" and were responsible for all of them as well. And finally we know that there are something like 1000 unintentional firearm discharges annually that result in injury or death.

    So the maximum possible number of felony homicides, felony assaults resulting in injuries, and unintentional death/injuries from firearms at the hands of citizens who had no previous criminal record are 6,900 in 2010. Given that there are about 80 million firearms owners in the U.S., that means that just 0.008625% of firearms owners were "hidden bad people" that shouldn't have owned a firearm if we could foretell the future. And since hardened criminals were surely involved in a significant number of those homicides and assaults, the real number is even lower.

    So MikeB's theory is off by a factor of about 1000 from reality. Sorry MikeB, you don't get a pass on this one.

    1. "We also know that criminals killing other criminals in connection with criminal activity are responsible for about 90% of those homicides."

      Stop right there. We don't know any such thing.

    2. Why do you get to claim common sense, while we don't?

    3. MikeB ... yes we do. Look for the recent stories in major city newspapers. Various sources have studied crimes and found that the "victims" are criminals in anywhere from 85% to over 90% of violent crimes depending on the location. I'll search for the links.

    4. Capn, I can find sources too that say that. But the overall is nothing close to that. Domestic violence alone would ruin your spin.