Peace, Police and Pistols

I am not certain how I missed this, but the 2012 United States Peace Index has been released to the interwebs. The premise is relatively straightforward: data is analyzed for five factors to determine the relativel peacefulness of the individual states. These factors are as follows:

  • Number of homicides
  • Number of violent crimes more generally
  • Rate of incarceration
  • Number of police employees
  • Availability of small arms

Higher numbers for each of these are correlated to less peacefulness–according to the index authors.

I could see a direct correlation for homicides and violent crimes–that’s pretty straightforward. Incarceration rate and number of police employees are indicators, but not directly. After all, incarceration rates have as much to do with the application of the law, if not more, than the commission of the crime. With reference to the number of  police employees, is that not influenced by budget decisions–particularly in these increasingly difficult economic times?

In the weighting of these factors, homicides and violent crime get 5 each, incarceration and police get 3 ( I might have gone with 2, but I didn’t get the funding) and the last item, small arms, gets a 1.

Now, why is small arms on index at all? All four of the other items have to do with either the commission of crimes or the cleanup after the fact. Why include a factor, particularly with such a small weight in the overall, which seems a stretch to correlate at all? Why not include access to knives or baseball bats or tire irons?

Like many who wish for peace without addressing the root cause of the problem (the state of the human heart) the authors of the report seem to believe that the presence of guns influence human beings to do things which the absence of guns do not. Hence, their inclusion of the access to guns as a factor, albeit a lightly weighted one.

So, read the report, consider the data presented and think about what would constitute real peace.

If you were wondering, South Dakota is ranked 20th most peaceful but suffers from a “decade-long fall in peacefulness” as it drops 6 places from last year.