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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

 
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 13, 2014
A couple of thoughts: (1) US civilians have approx. 180 Million guns, the military and police together have about 15 Million. We've got them outgunned, but (2) The populace of this country is so easily pacified that we're not likely to use guns to resist encroachment on our rights by the oligarchs. Witness the reaction of Texans who were totally screwed by Skilling et al in the Enron scandal. People lost their life savings and pensions to a group of wealthy bastards and, even though well armed, did nothing about it. That Skilling and his family still live is testament to how wimpy the wild west has become. I don't think potential tyrants need give it a second thought.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 13, 2014
Perhaps this issue will be best settled by technology. Biometric locked weapons and built-in location sensors would go a long way to solving some of our issues. Privacy advocates might scream about this, but you have the right to gun ownership, not gun privacy.
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 13, 2014
Common sense tells me that if all schools followed the example of this Texas school district, http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-school-district-arm-teachers/story?id=18823381, then gun deaths in schools would drop dramatically. The people with guns and the desire to kill go to where there are no guns to act out their insanity.

Now that you know which way I lean, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of a readily armed citizenry, but I see that there is no way around all the existing guns. You gotta play the hand you're dealt.
 
 
Jun 13, 2014
@alphasigmookie

[When people make arguments that the US is"the only developed nation" that has such a high crime rate they fail to recognize the fact that income inequality in the US is also unlike any other developed nation and it's more like places like Brazil and South Africa.

This is the best I can do on short notice. Compare these two lists:

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate]

Is your assertion about the high crime rate in the US about JUST homicide or does it include other kinds of serious crime? When I did my own research on the matter I saw that the rates of assault/rape were lower here than elsewhere.
 
 
Jun 13, 2014
After Sandy Hook I did a bit of research. Unfortunately being lazy I never wrote any of it down or saved my links and I don't have time to replicate it here, so those who read this will have to do their own research, but the data is out there to make the comparison. Violent crime and murder rates are most strongly correlated not with the development of a country or the rate of gun ownership, but with income inequality. When people make arguments that the US is"the only developed nation" that has such a high crime rate they fail to recognize the fact that income inequality in the US is also unlike any other developed nation and it's more like places like Brazil and South Africa.

This is the best I can do on short notice. Compare these two lists:

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

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

You will NEVER hear a politician from either political party make this argument. Republicans will not like it because although it largely proves that guns aren't the problem, it does say that income inequality is and that's not a message any Republican will want to make and still keep his rich donors. Democrats will like the fact that it bolsters their arguments for social justice but it neuters their arguments in favor of gun control.

PS I know this doesn't address the specific issue of school shootings, but those are a very minor fraction of all gun deaths and violent crimes. Although they gain disproportionate attention in the media, they are a very tiny risk to the average American. My best guess as to the growth in school shootings and other mass shootings is the media attention. Almost every one of these shooters expresses some significant level of narcissism and a wish to become (in)famous from their actions. I wonder if the media stopped covering these events or at least talking about the killers in ways that make them household names it might reduce the numbers back to some lower baseline level. That's just my best guess. I don't have the data or a control experiment to support it one way or another.

[Interesting hypothesis but I don't see it in the links you provided. -- Scott]
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 13, 2014
I agree with Scott on the main idea (e.g., Canada has the same level of gun ownership; other factors must be important).

But the title "School Shootings" and notice that "maybe the rate of stabbings would skyrocket if guns disappeared and that would close some of the violence gap"...? Stabbing spree in school would hardly be possible with the same effect.

Also - it's not that simple to keep guns from kids, regardless of safes or other measures. I had three childhood friends whose fathers had safes (an accountant for a group of restaurants - cash held those days, an illegal jewelry dealer and just a very rich guy). All three somehow had found out how to get into safes.
 
 
Jun 13, 2014
Data needed to support gun control:
- Bad people do bad things with guns.

Data needed to support gun rights:
- Bad people do bad things with guns.

Oh, and one key distinction between US and England is this little piece of data:
- There are no wolves or bears in England.

In general, when thinking of gun control vs gun rights, it's valuable to see the perspective from various locations... specifically: rural vs urban

You can't expect an inter-city Chicagoan to have the same opinion as a hiker in Denali.



 
 
+28 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 13, 2014
"let me state my position as clearly as possible: I am pro-data."

HE'S A WITCH! BURN HIM!!!
 
 
Jun 13, 2014
[I reject the UK comparison as invalid because one can't control for the other variables that make the situations different. But I would note that (I think) gun ownership in the U.S. is increasing at the same time violent crime is decreasing. That isn't evidence that guns reduce crimes; it is evidence that other factors are more important. -- Scott]

True. But we CAN say 'look, things aren't so bad here, yes you have a better chance of being shot here, but you have a better chance of getting raped where you are'. And if our rape/assault rate is lower than everyone elses...well, there must be SOMETHING different about us.
 
 
Jun 13, 2014
The last time gun control came up here I asserted that having guns reduces our overall crime rate, that it reduces our rate of rapes and assaults, and to back that up compared our rate to that of the UK. I then challenged anyone to counter that example with the crime rates of a country that A) was lower than ours B) had a much lower gun ownership rate and C) was also a developed nation (comparing us to developing or poor countries isn't fair). There were no takers.

[I reject the UK comparison as invalid because one can't control for the other variables that make the situations different. But I would note that (I think) gun ownership in the U.S. is increasing at the same time violent crime is decreasing. That isn't evidence that guns reduce crimes; it is evidence that other factors are more important. -- Scott]
 
 
 
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