Built on Facts

Gun Control Debate with Mark, Pt. 2

This post is political. As always, physics readers who don’t care about politics are encouraged to skip it. I’ve got an actual physics post going up tomorrow.

Mark and I have been conducting a debate/discussion over gun control in the United States. For the first round, here’s his post and my response. Here’s his second round post, and this post is my response.

First, let me summarize where the debate stands. We have four main topics as set forth in Mark’s posts: gun violence in “ordinary” crime, gun violence in the context of mass shootings, suggestions for gun control, and miscellaneous ancillary arguments. Most of the points in the ancillary category were fairly comprehensively covered, and I think both of us are pretty satisfied with what has been said. The exception is the “good guys with guns” argument, which we’ll continue.

Mark classifies my responses to the ordinary crime and mass shooting topics as “no problem” arguments. This is incorrect. I am trying to quantify the problem, and to quantify the impact of the proposed solutions. If it turns out that both these quantities are so small as to be classified as “no problem” in the mind of the reader, well, the numbers are what they are. I myself reject the idea that there is no problem. But I also reject the idea that argument from anecdote is an effective guide to the truth. We want to ask whether or not there is a problem which is caused by the prevalence of guns, and if so whether or not gun control could do anything to ameliorate it.

Let’s dive right in to the general gun crime topic.

Mark quotes the Institute of Medicine in comparing the US to similar industrialized countries in terms of life expectancy found that our homicide rate is far in excess of comparable OECD countries, and significantly affects our life expectancy. The IOM study found our homicide rate to be 6.9 times higher than the other OECD countries, our gun homicide rate 19.5 times higher, and of the 23 countries in the study, the US was responsible for 80% of all firearm deaths.

There are two obvious questions. First, is the US comparable to those other OECD countries? Second, how much does gun control actually have to do with this?

The answer to the first question is an obvious no, and to demonstrate this we need look no farther than the very study linked. The US has higher than average death rates in almost every category from car accidents to disease, the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, and so forth. (But not suicide, incidentally.) In fact, in the words of the study,

On nearly all indicators of mortality, survival, and life expectancy, the United States ranks at or near the bottom among high-income countries.

I’m not trying to insult my country – it’s a great place, much better in most of these categories than most of the rest of the world. However, comparisons to these 16 other top OECD nations are untenable. We aren’t comparable. We are different in almost every measurable respect involving health and mortality.

Well ok, guns obviously don’t give people diabetes or make teens pregnant, but “lots of guns, lots of violence” vs “not many guns, not much violence” might look less like correlation and more like causation. (At least relative to the not-very-comparable top of the OECD.) This conclusion is unwarranted and probably false. Here’s some reasons, some of which I have mentioned in my last post.

1. US vs. OECD entirely aside, we can’t even easily compare US vs. US over time without running into extreme confounding variables. Our murder rate has been precipitously falling over the last few decades even as gun laws have become much looser (I do not claim a causal relationship). The last time our murder rate was as low as it is now, we were literally in the Leave It To Beaver era.

2. Murder rates vary wildly within the US under identical gun control regimes. White Americans, for instance, kill each other at roughly OECD rates (albeit on the high end), and well below the rates of eastern Europe and the Baltics. I shouldn’t have to point out that epidermis reflectivity doesn’t have squat to do with this. It does, however, show that socioeconomic and cultural variables overwhelmingly determine rates of violence.

3. Sharp changes in gun laws haven’t done anything significant to the homicide rates of other countries. The best-studied case is post-Port Arthur Australia. The effect on overall homicide rates was somewhere between negligible and nonexistent. The effect on gun homicide rates was similar. Let’s take a look at the study Mark cites:

Additional research, readily available suggests a significant drop in the rate of gun violence after the ban. This suggests to me, both in the specific intervention, and overall given their tight regulation of handguns, that Australia is quite a strong example of gun control working.

I will reproduce a few of the graphs from this paper, unedited. First, gun homicides and non-gun homicides:

The statisticians in the audience who have not died of heart attacks at the statistical illiteracy of the pre- and post- trend lines will of course notice that the overall decline in violence and gun violence continued just as it was doing before the gun control was implemented. In fact, the rate of non-gun violence displays a much more dramatic (though also statistically spurious) change. And this is Australia, the best possible scenario for the success of of gun control. Gun control did nothing to the overall homicide rate. It didn’t even do anything to the gun homicide rate. (More graphs from the paper here, about accidental deaths and suicides, if you’re curious.)

4. Trying to account for confounding variables is extraordinarily difficult in this context, but a number of studies have attempted to do so. One study compares the prairie provinces of Canada with their bordering US states. In this case,

Patterns of homicide in the United States and Canada were examined with a view to finding out whether the availability of firearms affects the homicide rate independently of the other social, demographic and economic factors in play.  If this is the case, then low-homicide areas, which generally have fewer social and economic problems but the same access to firearms, should have a higher proportion of their homicides by firearms.  This is not the case for the four border states.

Other studies (commenter LH pointed out these two) have come to similar conclusions. Now I strongly suggest that you not read too much into these results – while if they are accurate they support my point, attempts to disentangle confounding variables are fraught with danger even when the result happens to land on my side.

In short, there is no good evidence that gun availability causes increased crime rates. There is extremely good evidence that socioeconomic variables are far and away the primary drivers of crime rates. Violence in general and gun violence in particular are real problems in the US, but gun control as a solution is so ill-supported as to verge on superstition.

While Mark and I are mostly focused on numerical metrics as to what effects gun control actually produces, it’s probably worth looking briefly at the practical problems of implementing it as well. Mark quotes former Australian prime minister John Howard writing on the Port Arthur gun control measures:

In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons.

Howard is right. In Australia, gun control was implemented with the overwhelming support of the population. This is not the case in the US. The change in support for gun control after Sandy Hook is marginal[1], and those opposed to it are very opposed to it and are voting with their wallets. The single week of December 17-23 likely saw almost a million new guns sold. Over the last month I’ve had occasion to be in five gun stores, and every one of them was completely sold out of every AR-15, every semi-automatic rifle of any description for that matter, every magazine holding >10 rounds, and every box of .223 ammo. Every online retailer I’ve checked is in the same boat. I personally have an outstanding parts order with Rock River Arms, and they’re backordered so badly they won’t even provide estimated lead times.

On to mass shootings. Both Mark and I as scientists run into some trouble here in that there is very little available systematic data of any kind. Trying to disentangle ordinary crime statistics from their confounding variables is hard enough, but the small-N statistics of mass murder are much harder still. We have noted that the Wikipedia lists of mass killings are similar in size in the US and Europe, and the US’s is slightly larger (119 vs. 100). This is worse on a per-capita basis because Europe has a higher population. But it is clear that confounding cultural and socioeconomic factors are in play as well. Mexico, for instance, has a homicide rate about 4 times that of the US but as far as I can tell has apparently never had a school shooting. (There have been a few “ordinary” murders at schools, but I have not been able to find any examples of a school shooting of the crazed-gunman variety.) Australia seems to have some success with their gun control regime in the specific case of mass violence, but their success is probably not replicable in the US which is (as I have pointed out) a very different place with 10 times the population and historically much higher levels of violence (gun and non-gun alike), to say nothing of the fact that we’re starting with gun ownership rates which are higher by a factor of 10.

We have a problem with mass violence. It’s a staggeringly rare problem, rarer than lightning strikes, but a dramatic and tragic one and one that deserves our best efforts to fix. The place to start is not a massive and likely completely ineffective reconstruction of a fundamental right exercised by nearly half the population of the country. As both Mark and I have both pointed out, government overreactions to tragedy tend not to turn out well in this country. We know for a fact that the last iteration of the assault weapons ban failed to prevent Columbine or to do anything significant to either ordinary or mass violence during the ten years it was in effect.

Instead, we should start with the obvious basics. Physical security of the entrances to schools would be my focus if I were a principal. Improved accessibility of mental health treatment is also a good idea (though this is a tall order and the verdict on its effectiveness is still out). The occasional presence of resource officers and/or the elimination of the silly “gun free zone” designation could also be a good deterrent. This last point we’ll discuss separately at the end of the post, as it’s quite controversial.

Mark makes a few suggestions for tighter gun laws. His primary suggestion is:

…since magazine-fed semi-automatic weapons are the weapons of choice in the last few dozen of these shootings that before sale the purchaser should get a bit more eyeball by authorities. Specifically in regards to the VT shooter, the Aurora Shooter, or the Giffords shooter, I suggested increased scrutiny for these purchases, law-enforcement taught training and competence testing for their use, and I also suggested the Canadian voucher system (as did Kristof immediately after Sandy Hook), which would require two other people to stand up for you and say you are responsible enough to possess such a machine.

As I pointed out last time, “magazine-fed semi-automatic weapons” is a near-synonym for “all guns”. Most shootings involve semi-automatic firearms because most firearms are semi-automatic. But that’s a side point, and doesn’t really affect his argument too much. (He’s not advocating a ban, but more on this later.)

Let’s start with the idea of a voucher system. If I want to buy a gun, I have to find two people who are willing to put their name to paper asserting that I’m not an obvious nut. Let me give three reasons I think this might be a bad idea, and two reasons I think it might work. First, even the most scuzzy two-bit crooks can round up two scuzzy two-bit friends to sign for them. Second, anyone’s good-faith assessment of another’s character could prove to be wrong. Third, it could be prone to abuse – are there exorbitant filing fees involved? Can New York decide a person needs twenty signatures? I would suggest that if you object to, say, voter ID laws then you can see how such a voucher system might be problematic. But there are a few reasons it might work in some cases. While Bugsy Siegel wouldn’t have a problem getting signatures, obvious dead-eyed psychopaths like James Eagan Holmes or Seung-Hui Cho might have found it a hurdle. Secondly, the second amendment does talk in terms of civic purpose. While the right to bear arms is obviously individual an individual right[2] and US law defines the militia as all able-bodied males between 17 and 45, the civic purpose of the second amendment might suggest that something like a voucher system in an otherwise permissive regulatory regime might fit the bill. I’d have to chew on the voucher idea for a while longer before deciding if I really think it’s a good idea, but on its face it seems much more in the spirit of the reason behind the right to keep and bear arms than do some other gun control suggestions.

Mark has also suggested greater scrutiny such as background checks for the private sale of guns. I’m much less sanguine about this. It would certainly accomplish nothing to prevent mass shootings – these weapons are usually purchased legally or stolen – but in the context of keeping guns out of the hands of crooks it seems like a reasonable place to start thinking. So we should ask ourselves what we might gain by implementing such a scheme. It’s an old staple of this debate to assert that criminals inherently aren’t inclined to have a lot of respect for gun laws. This can be countered by asserting that their respect for the law is irrelevant if there were no guns in the first place, but in terms of doing paperwork on transfers this response doesn’t work so well. Bugsy buys a gun for convicted felon Mugsy, cops trace the serial and ask Bugsy how Mugsy got the gun: “I dunno officer, he musta stole it”. In the mean time law-abiding gun owners are effectively forced into a registry and have to deal with the expensive bureaucratic morass of the FFL system. Maybe this could be sidestepped by some clever way of opening NICS to private parties other than FFLs, and such proposals ought to be heard out. Once somebody proposes one, anyway.

Training and competence testing? I’m all for people being trained and competent, but that has nothing to do with crime and violence and formal training is pretty expensive. I’d hate to see it made into an effective “no poor people need apply” restriction. Safe storage? Fantastic, especially for people with kids, but the same caveats apply.

Finally, we should discuss the ban vs. paperwork hoops issue:

Every time you talk gun regulation at all it seems to become a ban in the pro-gun side’s mind. However, at no point, for any currently available weapon, have I suggested a ban. Just paperwork. It’s not the end of the world people.

This is true, and fair enough as it goes. We gun-rights types are justifiably a bit jumpy about this sort of thing. It would be nice if Mark were the one writing the various laws being proposed in congress and various state legislatures. Unfortunately it’s people like Dianne “Turn ‘em all in” Feinstein and Carolyn “Shoulder thing that goes up” McCarthy and Andrew “Confiscation could be an option” Cuomo. It’s great for the two of us to discuss our Platonic ideals of the way things ought to be, but we also have to remember that we’re dealing with members of the world’s second oldest (and least reputable) profession. Since their stated intent is to take a mile, I’m not very willing to give them any free inches without an airtight case as to effectiveness and respect for the rights of the law-abiding.

Finally let’s return to the idea of stopping shootings via “good guys with guns”. Quoting Mark:

In the vast majority of cases, mass shootings are stopped when the perpetrator is shot…by themselves. Do we have evidence of police or armed citizens interrupting even one of the mass shootings in the last 20 years? Do we have any evidence of good guys with guns making a dent except after the shooting is done? Nope.

The “Nope” is a link to a Mother Jones article which actually lists five cases in which good guys with guns did just that. Mother Jones’ point is that each of the five cases listed magically don’t count because the citizens involved were current or former law enforcement or military, not (say) some dentist who just decided to get a concealed carry permit. I’m not sure that this tells us much more than that people with experience are more likely to get permits and that ordinary citizens’ permits are not generally valid in the places where mass shootings occur, but in any case it kills the argument that armed citizens can’t possibly accomplish anything positive. While active uniformed police haven’t actually shot many mass killers, it is probably more than suspicious coincidence that the perpetrators tend to shoot themselves right when police arrive (Lanza and Cho are prominent examples). This is also alleged to have happened in the Clackamas shooting when a citizen with a concealed carry permit drew his weapon, but as this is not independently verifiable Mark (not unreasonably) dismisses it and I won’t try to build a case around it. Mark also mentions the fact that an officer was present at the initial stage of the Columbine attack but failed to stop the shooting. This is roughly as out-of-date as insisting that passenger resistance to hijackers is futile because it failed to stop 9/11 – at the time it was generally believed that these were hostage situations, and that the proper response was to wait until it was all sorted out much later. This mistake is no longer made.

It is possible, and it has happened, that in the process of trying to stop a mass killer a person carrying could get themselves killed. As Mark says

It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies, and the usual creepy fantasist gun lover who buys into this myth is not John McCain, he’s Walter Mitty.

Ok, ok, I can’t resist: Walter Mitty would probably fantasize about being Die Hard hero John McClane, not the senior senator from Arizona. But I’m at a loss to see how this is an argument against resistance. Am I extra-dead if I get killed while trying and failing to resist? All that’s being asked is that the situation be an improvement on an unopposed mass shooter, who is at any rate hardly Hans Gruber either. (Neither are ordinary criminals. See here for an example which is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious.) Same thing for the Mother Jones hysterics here:

They also make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their jobs. “In a scenario like that,” McMenomy told me recently, “they wouldn’t know who was good or who was bad, and it would divert them from the real threat.”

In the billions of man hours that millions of permit holders spend carrying ever year, this has literally never happened. This should not be a surprise. Defensive shootings almost exclusively take place at very short ranges and are over in seconds. As I said in the last post, it’s not possible for me to claim that police or armed citizens are a panacea. The statistical data is badly inadequate. But what data we do have indicates that the concept is plausible in principle.

All right, it’s about time to conclude this Part 2. In two-sentence summary: Gun violence is bad. Gun laws have very little to do with it.

 

[1] A policy is not automatically good or bad based on how it polls, of course. And sometimes public opinion doesn’t make a lot of internal sense anyway. The assault weapons ban polls rather poorly (sub 50% in the Gallup poll), but universal background checks poll very well even though none of the mass shooters in recent years acquired their weapons through private sale. Go figure.

[2] Even the four dissenting justices in DC v. Heller agree. They disagree as to the scope of this right, but agree that it is an individual right. The first lines of the dissent:

The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective right” or an “individual right.” Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt Springer
    January 28, 2013

    This isn’t a comment, it’s a blog post. The place for it is your own blog. In a comments section it’s spam. Don’t do it again.

  2. #2 Mark
    January 30, 2013

    I bet that damn thing is already all over the internet. Let’s check. Yep, he’s cut-and-paste commenting it all over. I’d just delete it as spam. You have to discourage the behavior because comments are about discussion, not hijacking a thread.

    Speaking of hijacking:

    This is roughly as out-of-date as insisting that passenger resistance to hijackers is futile because it failed to stop 9/11 – at the time it was generally believed that these were hostage situations, and that the proper response was to wait until it was all sorted out much later. This mistake is no longer made.

    I want to take issue with this right off because I don’t think these things are comparable at all. Those flights were themselves the weapon, and the passengers realized it. They were going to die if they did nothing, worse many more would die, as they were trapped on a doomed plane with a terrorist.

    In shootings, however, death with inaction or seeking cover is not a certainty. If someone starts shooting in a mall, my first thought isn’t going to be, “I’m dead no matter what so I might as well charge.” It’s going to be duck and cover. In the plane situation, everyone is cornered. There is no other way out. In Columbine, the officer took appropriate action. He engaged the shooters, was overwhelmed, he sought cover, called for backup etc. It’s not anyone’s job to be Rambo, not even cops, or firefighters or other first responders. They should operate by rules that keep themselves safe as well.

    So, I think this analogy doesn’t hold.

    As far as the Australia stats, it’s true, it’s not a perfect RCT or case control trial, but their slope did become more negative post law. It’s consistent with an effect, but not confirmation of that effect. I think if anything it’s evidence you can prevent mass shootings, as their pre and post rates (one every 3 years or so to now zero) are interesting.

    As far as the Mother Jones article, I think they did quite a good job showing the “good guys with guns” still showed up after the shooting was over. They didn’t interrupt anything. And usually, it was undercover cops, not untrained civilians.

    One of the points I’ve been trying to make is that I’m more afraid of an untrained moron laying about in “self-defense” than I am of these shooters. There are going to be many more incidents of people thinking they’re in the right, escalating fights, or maybe even being right but using a overpowered weapon carelessly. Living in a city in which people are routinely killed, in their homes or on the street, by stray bullets, this is a very real, and much greater threat to my health than a risk of a mass shooting.

    That’s why I don’t care if there is an economic cost to exercising this right. There is no expression in the constitution that exercise of rights needs to be free of any cost, and while prohibitive fees would be unconstitutional, reasonable costs for training seem to be almost called for by the “well-regulated” language. Worse comes to worse, the state should provide training for free for its militia, whatever, but the training should be there. Same for storage, my well regulated militia will store it’s guns safely, out of the hands of children, and difficult to access by crooks. Nor do I think having to rope in a couple of people to vouch for you is so onerous a burden (which by the way I think should mean they show up, in person to a local city hall, police station, magistrate clerk of court what have you, and swear in an affadavit – hence they can suffer a penalty for lying). I think it would help prevent the “dead-eye-killer” as well as more routine straw purchasers because criminals don’t like going to those places, showing ID, talking to cops and judges. Scrutiny is good. Part of my “well-regulated” militia is no loonies, no crooks. Also, I want no incompetents in my well-regulated militia. I want no one who might think it’s a good idea to use a rifle firing metal-jacketed ammo in a city for self defense ( I had one show up in my comments, the thought of such people give me palpitations). So there should be training in my well-regulated militia. If the citizens want to incorporate and train themselves, as long as they follow guidelines that demonstrate they are teaching firearms competence, great. But I like the idea of law enforcement-led training better. Criminals don’t like being around cops, they don’t like getting any more eyeball than they absolutely have to. I did one of these trainings, it was great, it cost me all of 50 bucks and a few dozen rounds of ammo, and I actually learned a bit, the cop actually gave me some tips that improved my accuracy.

    In my personal risk assessment of what is a threat to my life and safety, increased gun ownership, stand-your-ground laws, and more guns period are a far greater danger to me than mass shootings. More people laying about with weapons means more crossfire, more chance of being involved peripherally in a shooting. All the data shows the gun in the home is more likely to result in a homicide, intentional or accidental, than a self-protection incident. The survey data by Kleck and Gertz purporting to show a large number of self-protection incidents has been systematically destroyed by the criminology literature.

    Maybe this reflects a personal bias, or my flawed view of humanity. I admit it actually, I think most people are kind of stupid. I know from the data I’m far more likely in the next 30 years to be killed by another human (or my own error) than any disease. It’s trauma till I’m 60. And when I go to the range, one of the things that makes me really uncomfortable is the frequent realization that the person shooting next to me appears to be a total freaking idiot, and has a deadly machine in his hands. I hate that.

    This is probably what informs my philosophy towards this problem. I’m inclined to generally distrust others, and I see routinely how people are careless with the safety of their fellow man. Hence I don’t believe in gun bans, what’s the point? Instead I believe in scrutinizing people, training people, making them jump through a hoop or ten before they get handed some deadly piece of machinery. It’s funny when the gunners show up and accuse me of banning guns and blaming “inanimate objects” for crime. I’m not! I’m blaming people! Stupid people, careless people, and dangerous people are what will kill you in this life. Regulate the people, by all means, not the guns.

    I’m going to put in a final set of posts each addressing some common pro-gun tropes (not really related to your posts as much as my commenters). That and addressing Feinstein again pushing her goddamn stupid assault weapons ban that just bans ugly guns again. It’s so stupid it hurts. Sigh.

    • #3 Matt Springer
      January 30, 2013

      Good advice re: the spammer. I trashed the comment.

      First of all, your points about how “well-regulated” might be achieved are good. They’re infinitely more rational than most of what’s being discussed on capitol hill. I’m not quite sure I completely agree with all of them, but they’re a reasonable starting point for discussion.

      There are some quibbles I have. “There are going to be many more incidents of people thinking they’re in the right, escalating fights, or maybe even being right but using a overpowered weapon carelessly” is something I don’t think is well-supported by the numbers. Bystander injury or death in defensive shootings is extraordinarily rare. Ludicrously rare, an order of magnitude (maybe two) lower still than the lightning strikes and mass shootings we’ve discussed. And this is after a couple decades of millions of people concealed carrying. I wouldn’t spend my time worrying about it. (Or about people shooting .223 as opposed to something like 9mm. .223 is not much different in terms of overpenetration – see here for some Mythbusters-style testing) The stray bullets that bring people to your hospital are, I would guess, just about exclusively fired by criminals during the commission of a violent crime.

      Kleck and Gertz are probably wrong, but the lower-end estimates I’ve seen from other sources in the literature still are in the 100k range. Defensive gun use is a real thing, certainly. The “a gun in your home is more likely to get you shot” studies are another kettle of fish. Just about all of them I’ve seen are retrospective surveys of people who show up in morgues after having been shot, and which thus conflate P(a|b) with P(b|a).

      These are relatively minor points. I hope our posts get a lot of traffic. They’ve been a good discussion, and I hope they make people think.

  3. #4 Mark
    January 30, 2013

    Oh, and it took me 2 days to realize I had written McCain rather than McClane. But I did fix it, belatedly (with shame).

  4. #5 Mark
    January 30, 2013

    The stray bullets that bring people to your hospital are, I would guess, just about exclusively fired by criminals during the commission of a violent crime.

    True, reading about the gun shootings from last week, those killed by strays were both family members from accidental discharges. One guy shot his dog in an apartment though. It’s far more likely you’ll catch a stray from a neighbor cleaning their gun, arguing with their wife, a kid who found his parent’s weapon etc., but hardly more reassuring.

    I would say the 106k figure is actually the high end of the lower, and more realistic estimates. One should not, even it is 25 times lower than the absurd numbers produced by Kleck, which are still bandied about by gun nuts. To those unfamiliar with these data, I’ll just say, they are survey data (red flag) frequently cited as examples of guns serving a protective effect, but are so flawed as to be mathematically impossible, creating statistical improbabilities like self-defense gun usage in 140% of certain crimes.

    As far as some of the gun safety data, I think it’s actually quite strong. For instance, when they evaluate 100% of deaths in an area over a period of some years, then investigate the cause of each death. It’s not just matching probabilities, it’s often intensive investigative research. Not enough is being done. Such studies done in the past though, have suggested the gun in your home is between 4 and 10 times more likely to kill you or a family member than an intruder.

    This, however, is not a gun control argument. I’m not interested in risk people take on themselves, or banning risky behavior. I object to it only as a counterpoint to those that insist guns make us safe, a weak argument that is inconsistent with the literature and the consensus of criminologists. I only care about the risk others impose on me by virtue of their gun ownership. If they store their guns unsafely, carelessly, let them be easily stolen, don’t restrict access to the untrained, mentally ill or underaged, or sell them to criminals who may shoot me, etc., that’s what pisses me off. I’m not interested in imposing lower risk behavior on everybody, if I did that, we should ban smoking, SCUBA diving, whatever. No, I’m interested in imposing laws that prevent others from foisting risk onto me.

    My last post is going up.

  5. […] by and check out Matt’s second response on gun […]

  6. #7 Charlie Tall
    January 31, 2013

    @Mark:
    In another post you wrote “I’d be fine with the Swiss gun laws.” As I pointed out, despite your misconceptions, US laws are comparable with those of Switzerland and even somewhat more stringent. Have you reversed your opinion?

    You wrote above: “I only care about the risk others impose on me by virtue of their gun ownership. If they store their guns unsafely, carelessly, let them be easily stolen, don’t restrict access to the untrained, mentally ill or underaged, or sell them to criminals who may shoot me, etc., that’s what pisses me off.”

    No gun owner that I know wants to have his or her guns stolen, so that’s nonsense. And expecting gun owners to buy expensive safes is ridiculous. Even the Swiss don’t do that. Most of the folks I know can hardly afford $10 for a couple of gallons of gas for their trucks, much less $800 or more for a safe to protect their $150 shotgun. Get real.

    Now I guess you blame Adam Lanza’s mother for letting him shoot her just so he could get her guns. I hate to tell you, but there are already laws against murder, so another law against letting li’l Adam have a gun isn’t going to help.

    And what do you mean by under-aged? Who decides at what age a person is capable of safely using a gun? You? I think not.

    At the age of eight I was routinely riding the public bus to the last stop below New Castle, Delaware while carrying my little Savage Model 24.Sometimes, when I was strapped for the dime fare, I’d walk all the way…right down the public highway.

    I was on my way to go shooting and check my trap line. I often stopped at the drug store on the way back and had a coke at the soda fountain with my little rifle propped next to me.There were no self-appointed intellectuals like you to tell me that I was putting them at risk.

    Why don’t you tell me what harm I did or why you think I was not responsible enough to have a rifle?

    No, back in the 50s and early 60s, there were few gun control laws and the crime rate was far below what it is now. There were fewer accidents overall, but more per capita, but that was probability, not jurisprudence.

    Crime, violence, and all sociopathic behavior are human problems, so address human factors.

    You wrote, “…self-defense gun usage in 140% of certain crimes.” Has it ever occurred to you that if a gun is used to prevent a crime, then a crime won’t have occurred to be reported? I told you of a dozen times where I drew my service handgun, but did not discharge it. Compared to the one time I had to fire, that’s 1200%.

    Consider the widow in public housing who merely shows her little pistol to the toughs who are following her home. How about the home owner who comes to the door at 2AM carrying his shotgun? Or the woman who puts her hand in her purse when approached by a drunken man? That’s three crimes prevented divided by zero committed. What percentage is that?

  7. #8 Mark
    January 31, 2013

    In another post you wrote “I’d be fine with the Swiss gun laws.” As I pointed out, despite your misconceptions, US laws are comparable with those of Switzerland and even somewhat more stringent. Have you reversed your opinion?

    I’m at a loss to address this, because everywhere I look I see different accounts of what those laws are. You criticized the wiki entry, fine, whatever, it’s not that strong a source. Here’s an article in Time, which suggests they are as following:

    The subsequent opposition to widespread gun ownership spearheaded a push for stricter arms legislation. The government and pro-gun groups argued, however, that the country’s existing laws regulating the sale, ownership and licensing of private guns, which includes a ban on carrying concealed weapons, are stringent enough. The law allows citizens or legal residents over the age of 18, who have obtained a permit from the government and who have no criminal record or history of mental illness, to buy up to three weapons from an authorized dealer, with the exception of automatic firearms and selective fire weapons, which are banned. Semiautomatics, which have caused havoc in the U.S., can be legally purchased.

    since 2008, all military — but not private — ammunition must be stored in central arsenals rather than in soldiers’ homes.

    This, is notably on top of universal Swiss armed service, where every citizen goes and spends 6 months in military training, and a culture emphasizing safe use. This sounds more stringent than current US laws, and I think they sound reasonable. Guns require a permit. No stockpiling. Everyone is trained by the military, on top of a generally high-level of gun awareness and training in the population.

    I like all of these things. You have a country full of people with nearly universal military training, licensing of firearms with background checks, etc. I’d say, the one thing I’d like on top of this is a regulation that guns in home require safe storage. What have I suggested from the beginning of this debate? No bans, but scrutiny, training, and safety. Kind of like these descriptions of the Swiss.

    You wrote above: “I only care about the risk others impose on me by virtue of their gun ownership. If they store their guns unsafely, carelessly, let them be easily stolen, don’t restrict access to the untrained, mentally ill or underaged, or sell them to criminals who may shoot me, etc., that’s what pisses me off.”

    No gun owner that I know wants to have his or her guns stolen, so that’s nonsense.

    No shit. So are you suggesting no one is negligent about storing their guns in stupid places? Unlocked? In the open in cars? I’ve lived in the south for much of my life, and I’ve always been astounded reading the crime registers and you see guns being stolen from cars, guns being left on someone’s dashboard, and you just think, holy crap! How is that ok? Stolen guns are a major source of trafficked firearms that end up used in gun crime.

    And expecting gun owners to buy expensive safes is ridiculous. Even the Swiss don’t do that. Most of the folks I know can hardly afford $10 for a couple of gallons of gas for their trucks, much less $800 or more for a safe to protect their $150 shotgun. Get real.

    I never suggested safes for shotguns, although that would be ideal for storage of most guns of course. Gun locks would probably be fine. I was specifically suggesting this restriction for magazine fed semi-automatics. The Bushmaster, for instance, which has gained notoriety recently costs around 800-1000 bucks. I found an adequate 12 gun safe for 350 bucks. A 2 gun shotgun safe for under 250. Pistol safes can easily be found for under 100 bucks. Frankly, if you can’t afford to keep a weapon safely, you shouldn’t have a weapon. It’s like arguing that to put a 4 foot fence around your swimming pool costs too much money. Too bad. No pool for you then. I don’t want some dumb kid drowning in your attractive nuisance of a pool, just because you can’t afford the minimal safety precautions for responsible ownership. is this making you responsible for the safety of others, yes. Deal with it.

    Now I guess you blame Adam Lanza’s mother for letting him shoot her just so he could get her guns.

    Yes! Yes I do! One of the major risk factors for one’s guns being turned against you is existing violence in the home. From reports of what Lanza was like he was prone to violent outbursts, to the point other people, his baby-sitters, etc., were afraid of him. He was mentally imbalanced and his mother showed extremely poor judgement in allowing him access to weapons.

    I hate to tell you, but there are already laws against murder, so another law against letting li’l Adam have a gun isn’t going to help.

    So there is no role for safety legislation? There is no barrier that might decrease the frequency of access to weapons by these types or to make people store their weapons safely in general? This argument makes no sense. I absolutely blame his mother for every one of those deaths. If you’ve got some violent little monster in your house, and you don’t lock up your guns you should be thrown under the jail.

    This is the classic pro-gun simplification that is so inane, it’s almost impossible to debate. “Murder is illegal, so why do we need any other laws.” Well, so is vehicular manslaughter, why do we need laws making sure people know how to drive before we license them? Why do we require training before a driver’s license? And insurance? And safety features? And things like locks, and keys to start them? And why do we restrict driving by age? We’ve got vehicular manslaughter after all, why doesn’t that just magically take care of everything? Derp.

    And what do you mean by under-aged? Who decides at what age a person is capable of safely using a gun? You? I think not.

    I’ve been shooting since I was 10 or so. I never suggested that children can’t touch guns, simply that they shouldn’t have access to them without supervision. If that’s unreasonable, then we may have fundamentally different views on what is and what is not appropriate parenting.

    At the age of eight I was routinely riding the public bus to the last stop below New Castle, Delaware while carrying my little Savage Model 24.Sometimes, when I was strapped for the dime fare, I’d walk all the way…right down the public highway.

    I’m not sure I’d be happy about being on a bus with an 8-year-old with a gun. We might have to agree to disagree on that one.

    I was on my way to go shooting and check my trap line. I often stopped at the drug store on the way back and had a coke at the soda fountain with my little rifle propped next to me.There were no self-appointed intellectuals like you to tell me that I was putting them at risk.

    And you probably weren’t. I still would disagree with this. I was raised with guns, but I was never, and would never with my own kids, allowed unsupervised access until I was 16 or so. And that’s probably when I was most dangerous. 16 year olds are idiots. And is there an appointment process for intellectuals that I’m missing? Or is intellectual for you an insult?

    Why don’t you tell me what harm I did or why you think I was not responsible enough to have a rifle?

    Because you were freaking 8 years old! I’m fine with the bus. I’m even fine with walking the highway. Great. I did those things too. I also remember when I discovered how much fun matches were at the ripe age of 10. That was brilliant of me. Children don’t have adequate judgement to be safe with dangerous equipment at a young age without adequate supervision. Maybe you were the special exception. Good for you. Your experience is not necessarily generalizable to the whole of 8-year-old behavior.

    No, back in the 50s and early 60s, there were few gun control laws and the crime rate was far below what it is now. There were fewer accidents overall, but more per capita, but that was probability, not jurisprudence.

    Multifactorial, largely irrelevant comparison.

    Crime, violence, and all sociopathic behavior are human problems, so address human factors.

    That’s what I’m doing. I’m saying, we need to weed out the crazies, train people, and then make sure they safely store their semi-automatic arms.

    You wrote, “…self-defense gun usage in 140% of certain crimes.” Has it ever occurred to you that if a gun is used to prevent a crime, then a crime won’t have occurred to be reported? I told you of a dozen times where I drew my service handgun, but did not discharge it. Compared to the one time I had to fire, that’s 1200%.

    I shouldn’t have even mentioned it because I don’t want to get into another goddamn argument about the Kleck and Gertz stuff, which is totally unconvincing, ridiculous and debunked garbage. Sorry, the data has not held up.

    Consider the widow in public housing who merely shows her little pistol to the toughs who are following her home. How about the home owner who comes to the door at 2AM carrying his shotgun? Or the woman who puts her hand in her purse when approached by a drunken man? That’s three crimes prevented divided by zero committed. What percentage is that?

    All imaginary. I’m debating Walter Mitty again. Show me the data that shows guns make women more safe. Overwhelmingly, the gun is an independent risk factor for homicide and it’s increased in women. A good review for those interested

    I of course can not argue against imaginary, unmeasurable scenarios that the pro-gun crowd can dream up at an instant. But as I’ve mentioned at my own post, I’m not arguing against gun ownership, suggesting bans etc. I only debate that point because as much as the gun owners go on about all these imaginary prevented crimes, the data simply doesn’t support them. You are far more likely to be menaced with a gun than to use one to defend yourself. You are more likely to die from your gun in your home than to defend yourself with it. But so what? I’m not using this as a reason to ban or even limit guns. Never have. I just object to the bullshit that comes out of the pro gun side that guns make us more safe. The data says no. Give up already. Just because something makes you less safe doesn’t mean you should ban it. I’m not going to say we should ban SCUBA diving, or rock climbing or guns, based on the effect they have on an individual’s risk of homicide. However, if you do things that are negligent that put me or the neighbors at risk, that’s more concerning. Like leaving guns accessible to your horrible violent monster of a child that then shoots up a school.

    How do guns get in the wrong hands? When they’re sold to lunatics (VT, Aurora, Colorado), when they’re straw purchased (Columbine, guns used generally in crime), or when they’re stolen (another major source of guns used in crime, Jonesboro). My suggestions are to make it less likely we will sell them to lunatics, they give us tools that we can use to track and punish the criminals who straw purchase weapons, and that we take some common sense moves to prevent easy access to guns by criminals, the unauthorized etc.

    I’m continually astounded by just how severely intolerant the pro-gunners can be about anything to prevent immediate easy access of gun to anybody. Is there really nothing on the supply side that they are willing to address? Just armoring schools, more barbed wire, more weapons everywhere, more escalation. It’s sickening.

  8. #9 Mark
    January 31, 2013

    I think my comment got spammed because I linked some commercial gun safe sites.

  9. #10 Charlie Tall
    February 1, 2013

    Matt,

    Was that aimed at me? If so, my comment, I’ll point out, was aimed directly at Mark’s comment which drew no warning.

    By the way, how do you differentiate between comments and blog posts? What are the rules? Word count? Relevance to previous subject matter? Give us a hint, please.

  10. #11 ffreedom1957
    Arizona
    February 1, 2013

    Now that we all know that the current gun control doesn’t work and any additional restriction that will be added to the current gun control will also not going to work so read on.., Maybe it is time to admit that if you take away the gun from the innocent abiding citizen, only the none abiding citizen will have them and leave the good citizen unprotected and don’t even try say that we have the law enforcement to protect them because they can’t. Every day we have people getting killed in car accident and in most cases the driver stays in the car until the help gets there but sometimes we have what we called hit and run and if we get their license plate they will find out who owns that car. So the bottom line here is: Why not make it mandatory to register your weapons just like the way you register your car and just like your car, you need to renew it every year or whatever it is that they can agree on if when or how the registration will be good for. This is how we do it in the Military when you are overseas and also it is mandatory for Military SMs to register their POW to their respective duty station, so why not adapt that rules. And if the owner will sell their guns, and of course, just like if you sell your car, you need to make it sure that the transfer of ownership is completed..I am very sure this will resolve all this gun control issues if these suggestions are to be followed….

  11. #12 Mark
    February 1, 2013

    Now that we all know that the current gun control doesn’t work and any additional restriction that will be added to the current gun control will also not going to work so read on.., Maybe it is time to admit that if you take away the gun from the innocent abiding citizen, only the none abiding citizen will have them and leave the good citizen unprotected and don’t even try say that we have the law enforcement to protect them because they can’t.

    And we know this how? Because the ridiculous patchwork of laws we have in this country accomplishes nothing? No this is why federal regulation is needed. Current common sense controls are undermined by the nearest locality with lax laws. In my second post, I demonstrated this by showing the traces of confiscated guns in the states with higher levels of gun control.

    Until we make a couple of things universal, we will not be able to stop the illegal gun trade. I basically propose what you do, a method of making sure transfers of firearms can be followed up if a gun is subsequently used in a crime.

    Matt, I still have a comment in spam.

  12. […] BuiltOnFacts: Gun Control Debate with Mark, Part 2 […]

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.