Memphis mayor needs lesson on correlations involving guns

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The city of Memphis, Tennessee is kind of a rough place. It might not be the same as the rougher parts of Chicago, but it’s bad enough.

So it’s not surprising that local officials are talking about dealing with it, especially after what some are terming a mass shooting left eight people injured.


Yet the mayor is like many others in larger cities. He’s blaming guns, but he needs a few lessons if he wants to be convincing about it.

Especially regarding the term “direct correlation.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s response to an early Sunday morning shooting that left eight people injured was simple: “I’m hacked off.”

The Downtown Memphis shooting was one of two incidents that happened within hours of each other this weekend just a block away from Beale Street.

Monday, however, the Memphis mayor also pointed to Tennessee’s state legislature weakening gun regulations as another aspect of the rise in gun violence. In 2010, Tennessee allowed guns to be brought into bars, the state allowed guns to be kept in cars in 2013 and, in 2021, Tennessee became a permitless carry state.

“It is a completely different world than it was 10 or 20 years ago with respect to the number of guns on American streets,” he said. “As the United States, and as Tennessee in particular, have loosened restrictions on guns, there are, as a result, more guns on the streets and more shootings and more gun deaths. It’s directly correlated.”


Except that it’s not.

During that 10- or 20-year span, most of those years saw a reduction in so-called gun violence. Violent crime was dropping across the nation, even as states like Tennessee passed pro-gun legislation.

If there was a direct correlation as Strickland suggests, we’d have seen violent crime increase during that same span.

It was only during 2020 that we saw violent crime soar, particularly the homicide rate.

2021 and 2022 saw a decrease in the homicide rate, though, even as many states passed their own permitless carry bills, including Tennessee. If that direct correlation existed, we’d have seen something different. Only, we don’t.

See, to make the case that there is a direct correlation, there needs to be a correlation.

Even then, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Yet causation should result in correlation. It doesn’t in this case and in most cases when anti-gun voices try to claim otherwise.

That’s because guns aren’t the problem.

The problem is and has always been some people who seek to use violence to commit crimes or resolve conflict. Many of them use guns–guns obtained by circumventing gun control laws already on the books–but even if you remove guns from the equation, they’d still be violent.


Yet you can’t remove guns from the equation because it’s kind of hard to pass a law that will disarm those who don’t abide by the law.

You have to focus on the individuals committing the crime if you want to reduce the crime.

However, Mayor Strickland is doing what a lot of other larger city mayors do. He’s blaming something he’s powerless to address because it’s a way to acknowledge the problem without having to actually do anything about it.

But if he’s going to do anything, he should probably learn what the phrase “direct correlation” means first.


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