Interpreting some charts about guns

January 23, 2013
By

(This article was originally published at Junk Charts, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Felix linked to a set of charts about guns in the U.S. (and elsewhere). The original charts, by Liz Fosslien, are found here.

I like the clean style used by Fosslien. Some of the charts are thought-provoking. Many of them may raise more questions than they answer. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Handguns_1

A simplistic interpretation would claim that banning handguns is futile, and may even have an adverse impact on murder rate. However, this chart does not reveal the direction of causality. Did some countries ban handguns because they are reacting to higher violence? If that is the case, this chart is confirming that the countries with handgun bans are a self-selected group.

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Handguns_2

The U.S. is an outlier, both in terms of firearm ownership and firearm homicides. This makes the analysis much harder because the U.S. is really in a class of its own. It's not at all clear whether there is a positive correlation in the cluster below, and even if there is, whether we can draw a straight line up to the U.S. dot is also dubious.

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Handguns_3

Fosslien is being cheeky to deny us the identity of the other outlier, the country with few firearms but even higher death rate from intentional homicide. These scatter plots are great by the way to show bivariate distributions.

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Handguns_4

I'd still prefer a line chart for this type of data but this particular paired bar chart works for me as well. The contents of this chart is a shock to me.

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Handguns_5

I just don't get this one. Why is there a fan?



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