Home
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

----------------------------

School Shootings

Is the rise of school shootings in America a case of too many guns or a simple failure to keep guns away from kids? Gun locks and gun safes exist.

That's not a rhetorical question. I actually wonder about the answer.

I assume 90% of the kids who become school shooters get their weapons from adults who left them unguarded. Correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.

I know you're furiously trying to determine if I am pro-gun or anti-gun so you can decide how much extra to hate me. So let me state my position as clearly as possible:

I am pro-data.

And the data is incomplete.

Obviously there's a strong correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. But how much of that is causation as opposed to correlation? One can never know if Americans own guns because we're violent people or we're violent because we own guns. Isn't it likely to be some of both?

Common sense says that having guns lying around the house makes gun violence more likely. But we don't know if the accessibility factor is 10% of the story or 90%. Maybe the rate of stabbings would skyrocket if guns disappeared and that would close some of the violence gap. My point is that it's hard to size the problem of gun risk, and that matters because the goal is low risk not zero risk. If we wanted zero risk in all things at the expense of personal freedom we would fill every swimming pool with bubble wrap.

We also can't know if gun ownership will ever protect future citizens from the tyranny of the government. One argument says that the army has the biggest guns and so citizens are effectively defenseless if the government becomes a dictatorship. Therefore, owning a gun doesn't protect you from the government.

The counterargument is that if an American becomes a dictator, every one of his friends and extended family members would be bullet-riddled by the end of the week courtesy of the gun owners. What would be the point of becoming a dictator in a country where you can't leave your enclave and you just killed most of the people you care about with your actions? I think gun ownership does add a thin layer of protection against a risk of a dictatorship by rational leaders, but that risk is of unknown size. How do you value the thing that might happen but doesn't?

We also don't know what would happen if we went hog-wild with gun control. Would we suddenly become Great Britain and prefer slapping each other with open palms instead of shooting? Or would it turn into another Prohibition fiasco? Nothing sells more guns than the threat of gun control in the future.

In the long run, all violent criminals will be caught every time. That's the payoff from our creeping lack of privacy. When that day comes, rational adults such as criminals will be doing less shooting because there is no hope of getting away with it. And if we keep guns away from kids, with mandatory gun locks for example, that helps with the school shooting problem.

Once the rational criminals and the kids are neutered, that leaves only the irrational adults with guns as our remaining problem. And probably the best defense against that bunch of nuts involves owning your own gun. But I can't back that assumption with data.

Anecdotally, I have one friend who gunned down a would-be rapist who broke into her house. And I have another friend who would have been raped by an intruder if her boyfriend hadn't coincidentally spent the night and taken out the intruder by hand. A gun would have worked if he hadn't been there. But those are anecdotes not data.

The only thing I know for sure is that the "It is in the constitution" argument is misplaced. No matter what the founders had in mind at the time, we have the option to change it. So the question is what makes sense today, not what a bunch of hemp-smoking slave-owners thought hundreds of years ago.

I'm curious if you think you have enough data to form an opinion on the topic of American gun control. Gun control qualifies as common sense, but in my experience common sense in the context of insufficient data is irrationality in disguise.

To be fair, both sides of the debate have insufficient data and so they must default to using what they feel is common sense but isn't. (If it were common, both sides would agree.). So I don't think irrationality is limited to one side of the debate.

Scott

 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +109
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Jun 16, 2014
[ Do guns actually change the stats for suicide? I don't know that there is a study that shows the correlation]

The use of a firearm in a suicide attempt significantly improves the odds of success, but doesn't actually increase suicide attempts.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
[Given that the average male Iraqi in 1980 owned an AK-47, I find the argument that "without a gun, some dictator like Saddam Hussein will take over our democracy" kind of silly.
If firearm ownership led to democracy, we never would have needed to enter Iraq, it would have been a democracy already, heck, given how many more guns they have than we have, we should be taking lessons in democracy from them, right?]

No, of course not. Weapons ownership doesn't lead to democracy, thank God. Even the US is not, and never has been, a democracy. However, the distribution of weapons has always had an effect on the development of civilizations...

http://jpfo.org/articles-assd02/marko.htm

You can mock that article if you like, but I'd love to see some dispute the argument that civilizations; both the kind we'd like to emulate and those we would not, were developed in an invironment of some dominate form of organized force.


[Also, only 4/5ths of deaths from firearms are either the owner of the gun or a member of his/her immediate family, so if you buy a gun you have a 20% chance of killing someone other than yourself or one of your loved ones! I don't know what the numbers are for non-fatal wounding... ]

That's total BS, what oriface did you pull that one from?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 16, 2014
Given that the average male Iraqi in 1980 owned an AK-47, I find the argument that "without a gun, some dictator like Saddam Hussein will take over our democracy" kind of silly.
If firearm ownership led to democracy, we never would have needed to enter Iraq, it would have been a democracy already, heck, given how many more guns they have than we have, we should be taking lessons in democracy from them, right?
Also, only 4/5ths of deaths from firearms are either the owner of the gun or a member of his/her immediate family, so if you buy a gun you have a 20% chance of killing someone other than yourself or one of your loved ones! I don't know what the numbers are for non-fatal wounding...
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
[If there are plenty of strict rules for gun ownership, there must be plenty of loopholes to bypass them.
I only know of the problem concerning concerning gun shows:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_shows_in_the_United_States#Controversies

(The wiki tries to provide a more nuanced view, but my impression is ultimately that a gun show facilitates illegal trade).]

Have you actually been to a gun show? I've been to dozens, and the 'gun show loophole' is likely a myth. I've never seen any vendor, at any show, that wasn't required to be a licensed gun dealer; and licensed gun dealers have to perform the background checks every time.

What can happen, is that some shady guy is standing outside the gun show entrance trying to sell some gun for cash. These are probably stolen guns, and the cops regularly come outside and try to nab these guys. I've never actually seen real people give these guys the time of day while the event is underway, but that doesn't mean that sales of stolen guns don't occur. Legal owners don't sell their guns this way, because (like I mentioned earlier) the legally registered owner is always somewhat responsible for how his gun is used, no matter who does it, so if you see an ad for someone selling used guns, and they never ask for an ID, the gun is stolen. While I can sell a used gun to someone that I personally know, or give them to my children, if any of those guns are ever used in a crime, the BTAF agents are going to want to have a private conversation with me. The phrase, "I sold it to some guy, I can't remember his name" is never going to fly. You can do that with a car, but you sure can't do that with a firearm. Not legally anyway.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
[You are more likely to kill yourself or someone you care about than to use a gun to protect yourself from someone else.]

I doubt the accuracy of such a statement, because it's literally impossible to incorporate the number of altercations diffused and crimes prevented by the brandishing of a firearm by the intended victim, wherein the intended victim didn't actually end up firing a shot. We know these events occur, we just really don't know how often.

Still, let's assume that statement is correct. So what? Wouldn't that imply that the rate of violent crime was low enough that it was below the nominal advantage of owing and carrying a weapon? That would have to be pretty low, all things considered, since most gun owners aren't exactly juggling their loaded handguns in the backyard during a child's birthday party. There are more functioning firearms in the United States than there are adults legally able to buy them, the relative accident rate is pretty low; so then, doesn't that imply the relative crime rate is also pretty low? In many ways, the perception of crime in the US is false; there are many other things more likely to kill you than owning a firearm, or not owning a firearm in a high crime area.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
@MTBob: In another context someone suggested looking at past predictions to decide which side of an argument is more likely correct. I would also add that more transparent side is likely hiding less--if a study links to its data, the specific questions and definitions, confounding factors it used and otherwise makes it easy to reproduce, it is more likely accurate than a study that is vague about everything but the part of its findings that matches its message.

@rascalLT: You can drive an unregistered car on private property, with no restrictions on power. You can trailer or tow an unregistered car on public streets, you just can't drive it unless there's an emergency. ("Trailer broke, racecar can't be locked" was enough emergency when a friend was caught) Public schools have classes to help kids get licenses at 16, including hands-on training, and they can drive to school. Many states don't require training if you are 18 or older and can pass the test once in your life. A license is good in all 50 states, even where requirements are different. Public schools and government offices have a place to store your car. People can get several DUI's, have several injury accidents without significant jail time. You think the laws should be the same as that?

 
 
Jun 16, 2014
If there are plenty of strict rules for gun ownership, there must be plenty of loopholes to bypass them.
I only know of the problem concerning concerning gun shows:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_shows_in_the_United_States#Controversies

(The wiki tries to provide a more nuanced view, but my impression is ultimately that a gun show facilitates illegal trade).
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
Another way to look at the debate about guns and crazy people in society is that one of the hallmarks of a free society is the occasional act of random chaos.

On a different note, if there is a way to make it so that the criminal's and the mentally disturbed are unable to obtain a gun while allowing others free access I would love to hear it. So far I have heard one side call for banning all guns (improbable) and the other side calling for everyone to be armed (unrealistic). The moderate gun banners call for only an armed militia (which makes me think that they don't know what a militia is) and the moderate gun proponents call for proper training prior to ownership with more of the population trained and armed (sort of like an unorganized militia).
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
Do you have enough data to conclude that you have insufficient data? I'd argue there may be a wealth of data available, say from the overwhelming majority of nations that have strict gun control.

Furthermore, I find it too convenient to so strongly link gun possession and access to school shootings. I guess the kid's mental state, the desperate reason they decided to take this option, is not interesting enough as an explanation?

I don't buy your statement that you thrive on data, since you make zero effort to obtain it, and selectively leave out things that are essential. I'm OK with that, just don't claim that you do.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
[guns are owned by people for millennia, while cars are around for just a little bit over a century. however, we have a much healthier set of rules for car ownership, which I cannot explain. after all, car can be just as deadly as a handgun, takes technical skills to use, even minor mischievous behavior while driving (speeding) is punishable, and is registered and tracked for its entire life. So why can't we do the same with guns? ]

We do. In fact, the rules for guns are much more strict in most cases. All that I had to prove to get my driver's license was that 1) I knew how to drive & 2) I could read the streetsigns, and I had my license at 16 years. While it may seem like all that you have to do to get a legal firearm is walk into a gun store with enough cash, there is a lot that is going on there. First, you have to prove that you're neither a felon, nor have had ANY charges of domestic violence against you, even dropped charges will stop the sale. And that's anywhere in the nation, not just places where guns are more heavily regulated. This is a painless process for the vast majority of legal buyers, because most never even know about it, it's called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics

However, if you are former military (like myself) things get a bit harder. Mostly because I was in the US Marine Corps, and trained as rifleman, anytime I buy a 'long gun' class firearm (rifles or shotguns), I have to have a short conversation on the phone with an agent; she then asks (it's always been a she for me so far) a number of psychological questions that seem designed to identify undiagnosed mental issues, such as PTSD and depression. Since I've never had any problem with either, I've always been approved.

It also gets much harder if you desire to carry the weapon in public, as opposed to simply transporting it in your car from house to gun range and back. My concealed weapons license required two days of rather extensive legal training on the legitimate use of force, taught by a prosecutor in my own case; then followed up with a 30 minute practical shooting test, just to make sure I actually know how to use the weapon I paid for.

Furthermore, any gun owner is at least as responsible for what happens with that firearm as any car owner is responsible for what happens with his or her car. In many ways, more so. A gun owner is also somewhat responsible for how his gun is used by others, even if it's been stolen. If the firearm wasn't stored in the right way, the gun owner can be charged as an excessory to a crime if his gun is stolen and used in a crime. Also, the owner is responsible for the final course of every bullet that leaves his gun while it's in his possession, even if he leds it to a buddy; and some classes of firearms explicityly cannot be lent or borrowed. (class 2 and class 3). If you lend your car to your friend, and she get's drunk and kills a family of four, are you held responsible?
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
guns are owned by people for millennia, while cars are around for just a little bit over a century. however, we have a much healthier set of rules for car ownership, which I cannot explain. after all, car can be just as deadly as a handgun, takes technical skills to use, even minor mischievous behavior while driving (speeding) is punishable, and is registered and tracked for its entire life. So why can't we do the same with guns?
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
@cpbower, Do guns actually change the stats for suicide? I don't know that there is a study that shows the correlation. Japan -- with roughly half the population of the USA -- has nearly twice the number of suicides per year despite their having a near complete gun ban.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
You are more likely to kill yourself or someone you care about than to use a gun to protect yourself from someone else.

Firearm suicides
Number of deaths: 19,392
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

All homicides
Number of deaths: 16,259
Firearm homicides
Number of deaths: 11,078
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm

That includes the whopping 230 Justifiable Homicides (self-defense).
http://www.vpc.org/studies/justifiable.pdf

Accidental discharge of firearms.............. (W32–W34) 606
Intentional self-harm (suicide) by discharge of firearms. . . (X72–X74) 19,392
Assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms .....(*U01.4,X93–X95) 11,078
Discharge of firearms, undetermined intent.......... (Y22–Y24) 252
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf

Older data, but still an interesting read:
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/hvfsdaft.txt

 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 16, 2014


I guess I'm becoming a cynical GOMLOF - I don't trust the reporting of any data anymore.

If you said here is a study where the data says we should all own guns, funded the (NRA) National Rifle Association, I would not trust it.
If you showed me a study funded by the Americans for a Gun Free America, I would not trust their data or their conclusions either.

If you showed me a study funded by the National Association of People for Democracy, my first thought is, 'What is their bias?' I still cannot trust it because their bias is hidden.
Is everyone biased? I'm, biased to think they are.

Choose different sets of data, choose different sources, choose different studies, choose different dates, choose different definitions, and you find whatever evidence you need to back whatever conclusion you want. And if you have enough money, you can fund a study to whatever conclusion suits your agenda.

But, now they ignore any data and just put crying parents on TV.

The manipulation of data is so problematic, it now affects every decision we make.

>>>- Bad people do bad things with guns.
I would add: Bad People Do Bad Things With Data



*Get Off My Lawn (And Get Your Hands Out Of My Pocket) Old F@rt


 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 16, 2014
Humans, just like lots of other critters, have an inclination to kill each other for various reasons. Food, mating, security, etc. Guns are just a means to the end.

Humans have been killing each other since the dawn of time, or since the Monolith landed, not sure which. The reasons are as varied as the as there are people in the world. The question is not gun control, rather emotion control. If there was some way to outlet the anger (in all its forms) in a non-violent, against each other kind of way, the killings, shootings, and other violence will diminish.

As for the government, tyranny and the right to bear arms... It only goes to say that we live in a violent, society. From induhviduals to communities to governments, we all have, or least portent to have a way to defend ourselves.

In some basic form or another it is the fear of not being able to overcome your foe that stays your hand. If that fear is removed, there is nothing to stop one tyrannical, evil person from doing as they wish upon others.

Of note: In our modern society, the most peaceful of people are the ones with lots to do and no competition for resources. They are engaged in their future and their needs are met.

The reason a person resorts to crime is to fulfill a need. The terrorists are living in a deplorable life. They want better and are willing to kill and subvert entire peoples for it.

As for kids and guns, that is the responsibility of parents. Sadly, there are a lot of lousy parents. There are also lots and lots and lots more good parents out there.

So bottom line... create better societies, fairness and equality, but keep a piece handy. You'll never get to 100%, but let's try.
 
 
Jun 16, 2014
> We also can't know if gun ownership will ever protect future citizens from the
> tyranny of the government.
It's true that we can't know with 100% certainty, but we can gather some good data on it. We need only to look over the past 100 years at how many coups and government takeovers were foiled by an armed citizenry and how many tyrannical governments came into being despite the citizens of the nation in questions being armed.

Those two numbers will give us a good idea of how effective an armed populous is in preventing a tyrannical government.

 
 
Jun 15, 2014
[ I am pro-data. ]

An obvious Star Trek reference ... Kind of fits with Robots Read the News, too.
 
 
Jun 15, 2014
Workerant, not only is your data wrong, your focus is also wrong. While it's true that gun murders, and murders in general, are much lower per capita in Britain than the United States; that's certainly not true of non-lethal violent crimes. Violence, including gun violence, has skyrocketed in the decade & a half since guns of all sorts were banned in England; and is higher today than it is in the United States, which has seen slowly decreasing rates of violent crimes since the mid-1990's. Which also happens to be around the start of the push for 'shall issue' concealed weapons licenses in US states. Corrolation is not causation, but it puts to the lie that increased gun regulations are corrolated to reductions in crime.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223193/Culture-violence-Gun-crime-goes-89-decade.html

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323777204578195470446855466?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323777204578195470446855466.html

But at least a total ban on guns has prevented another rampaging nutter right? Nope.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbria_shootings



 
 
Jun 15, 2014
dilbertSpawn, I read about Renisha McBride, and I agree that it's a fair example of someone who got shot & killed over a misunderstanding; but it's also an outlier. Many more people get killed by cops over misunderstandings in this country than by armed citzens, who vastly outnumber the cops as well. And while this case is tragic, and Theo Wafer deserves some kind of punishment for the event even if it truely was an accidental shooting; would you have even heard of this case (outside of Detroit) if Theo was an eldery black man who shot and killed an intoxicated Renisha on his front porch at 4:30 am? Be honest with yourself, even if you're not honest on this forum; Theo Wafer is being tried for 2nd degree murder because he's an old cracker. If he was the same race as Renisha, the court would have accepted his admission of guilt to accidental homicide at it's face value.
 
 
Jun 15, 2014
EMU- Concerning the 'More Guns, Less Crime' thing, that's mostly a short version of the claim. More accurately, the better the distribution of firearms across the general population; the lower the (violent) crime rate generally is within the context of the United States. Mexico & Somalia are poor counter-examples, simply because those firearms are not well distributed. The "gun culture" in the United States may make us look crazy from a European perspective, but it exists and it will continue to exist. While it might actually be arguable that such crime would be significantly lower if we could remake our culture in the image of Germany, that is a non-possibility. Germany, as a nation, greatly fears divergent sub-cultures, to the point that there are laws against Christians who don't wish to send their children to public school for the fear that they will be exposed to anti-christian viewpoints. German law basicly says that is the cost of preventing the rise of a divergent sub-culture. The United States couldn't do the same thing without true tyranny and civil warfare, because there are several dozen major culture types and hundreds of distinct sub-cultures. The very fact that there isn't more conflict than there is can largely be attributed to the fact that just about any member of any sub-culture in this country (without a criminal record, a history of mental health problems, and over 21) can aquire some kind of firearm. It's statistcly demostratable that most criminals (excepting unidentified nutcases, like every single example of a rampage shooter in at least 30 years) respond to the risk of harm in a somewhat logical manner. Your example of thieves in Germany responding to additional prison time being a fine example. The distribution, or realistic possibility of said distribution, of firearms does (provablely) have a deterent effect against violent clashes (culture conflicts, or otherwise) within the "great melting pot" of cultures that is the United States. We know this, in part, because in regions were personal gun ownership is relatively rare; culture clashes manifest themselves in many violent ways (gang fights, riots, mass thefts/flash mobs, organized crime) both historicly and in the modern era. So while the United States does have a gun culture as such, and is a more violent society than most places in Europe; cultures in the United States have coexisted in relative peace for far longer than Europeans have managed to do the same. While such culture conflicts occur in the US more often than within Europe; those conflicts in Europe often rise to the level of true warfare. Sure, it's been a while since Europe blew up; and the modern Germans don't really have a grudge against any other nation within Europe, I'm sure that you'd have to admit that doesn't mean that the Greeks or the French don't hold their own grudges against Germans. So while "more guns, less crime" is false enough from a European perspective, and inmaterial to the original topic of school campus shootings, it's still true enough within the United States itself.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog