Megapundit Extra: The numbers game

Dan Gardner’s Second Law of Crime Statistics holds that critics of the justice system treat rising crime numbers as “a perfectly accurate reflection of the frightening reality,” but falling crime numbers as “so transparently flawed that only fools, Liberals and criminologists would believe them.” Peter Worthington evinces a more complex tendency: he considers low or falling crime numbers accurate when they suit his argument, and wholly inadequate when they don’t.

Here he is on May 7, 1998, arguing that the Liberal gun registry was unnecessary and, ahem, would turn into a hideously costly boondoggle. (For obvious reasons, my intention here is not to take issue with his argument.)

Interpreting statistics to suit one’s individual (or collective) agenda is an ongoing phenomenon that’s unlikely to change. The Canadian Firearms Centre and its political masters in the justice department are committed to registering all firearms with an overall aim, one suspects, of confiscating them.

Take Canadian Crime Statistics 1996, issued by Statistics Canada: a grand total of 5.9% of all violent crimes in Canada in 1996 involved firearms – hardly a crime wave to justify the hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars gun registration will cost, not to mention eventual confiscation.

Of all violent gun incidents, 6.9% involved rifles or shotgun- – or less than one-half of 1% of all violent gun crimes. The overwhelming majority of violent firearms incidents — 74.9% — involved handguns, the majority of which were illegal.

And here he is yesterday:

Ironically, Toronto is in the midst of another “Summer of the Gun” — at a time when Statistics Canada tells us (reassures us?) that it is the safest city in Canada.

Tell that to the 144 people who’ve been shot this year — up 22% over shootings this time last year.

And there’s five months to go.

So what if murders are down from last year? Small solace, when one considers that every person wounded by gunfire this year is alive only because the shooter missed a vital organ.

Crime statistics can be misleading. …

The apparent drop … may indicate people just don’t bother reporting certain crimes, knowing that if caught, the perpetrators will plea bargain their way to ludicrously light sentences, and soon be back on the street.

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