If it is Warm Today, Please be Careful, you Might be Murdered

Sound crazy? To me it does, but luckily for everyone else, MSNBC interviewed Christie Hefner and she doesn’t think so.  On Wednesday’s broadcast of “Morning Joe” Christie decided the time was right to align climate change with murders in Chicago.  The logic is simple, there seems to be more murders when it is warmer out and climate change is supposedly making it warmer out, therefore, climate change is causing more murders.

Ironclad argument if I have ever seen one.

Immediately after those words came out of her mouth, this genius detective tried to backtrack saying “there are other contributing factors as well, but that this was one of them.”  If that’s the case, why not pass a law to keep everyone inside their homes?  Anyone outside can then be arrested for potentially being a murderer!  I’m so glad we have such thoughtful and brilliant people broadcasting their perfect solutions to the country’s problems out to the masses.

Unfortunately, I do have to address a couple of minor issues with this logic.  They are really, really small though so I doubt it will have an impact on the overall “nice days cause murders” argument.  First, there is a well-believed scientific and statistical phrase that may be useful here: correlation does not imply causation.  Let’s look into that because we are, after all, testing Christie’s hypothesis: If it is nice out, people are more likely to murder others.

I don’t think there is any evidence (and Christie certainly didn’t deliver any) that would indicate a “nice day” makes humans lust for blood and destruction.  However, I would agree that there is some level of correlation between nice days and murders given that when it is freezing cold out no one, murderers included, wants to go outside.  Okay, so possible correlation, probably no causation.

So what could be the cause of the 500+ murders in Chicago that happened in 2012.  Let’s first look at the actual murders (Note to Christie: you need to evaluate data before you come screaming out of your ass about things on national TV), the Website Red Eye Chicago (www.redeyechicago.com) catalogs all murders that are reported in Chicago in a wonderful spreadsheet for easy analysis.  This includes neighborhood, weapon/method, ages, race, and substantiation in other news sources.  It is a great resource when looking into these matters.  So what did I find for 2011? (The 2012 spreadsheet is not available yet)

In 2011, there was a total of 448 murders.  Of those murders, 378 of the victims were killed by gun shot.  Of those victims, 304 were African-American and from lower income neighborhoods in/around the city.  That’s almost 2/3′s of the murders in the city: lower income, gun shots, in the African-American community.  There is no bias in these numbers, these are facts.  So how do we interpret these facts?

Those of you that are racist will look at the race and say “there is your problem.”  This, however, is an uneducated observation and not the cause of these murders.  As much as the KKK would like everyone to believe African-Americans are murders, there is no scientific data that supports the notion that your skin color has any bearing on who you are as a person.  What does have a significant bearing on who you are as a person is where you grow up.  Lower income neighborhoods have some huge problems between broken families and poor school systems.  Yes, there are plenty of people who went to bad schools and had bad family lives that came out fine, but study after study shows there IS a correlation between a rough childhood and future issues.

So we have a bunch of lower income neighborhoods in Chicago with poor school systems.  Kids in these environments are faced with a rough environment: everyone around you is low income.  You have no role models.  You have no clear path “out.”  You are, essentially, stuck.  So what do they do?  They look for the people that seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.  Well, the guys at the top of gangs appear to be doing okay.  They push drugs and can pay for food, cars, and parties.  To many, this may seem like the ONLY option to do better then low income/welfare status.  So they join the gang and then the gang gets them killed.

The lifespan of gang members isn’t great.  The money also isn’t great for most of the members (as was proven by the guys at http://www.freakonomics.com/ ) which may make them take greater risks.  Since gangs operate in these neighborhoods, there is also going to be collateral damage when a bullet goes astray.  These battles and the resulting damage make gun violence look out of control.  It’s not the guns, though, it’s the people holding them.  The people who are out of options, living on close to no money, and without hope.

From this brief analysis, we can see that climate change is not causing more murders, it’s lack of education.  If we can’t give everyone a clear-cut path to moving up in this country, they are going to gravitate towards other options.  Murder rates fall when educational systems are improved.  Gun control has very little to do with it.  How do I know this?  Well, Chicago has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.  These laws have done little to keep guns out of the hands of gangs or reduce murders.  If we want to truly reduce the gun violence, or just murders in general, we should be looking at the classroom, not at the climate.  I hope that our “news” outlets can figure this out.

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