Merced murders again

David Friedman examines John Lott’s claims that safe storage laws were to blame for the deaths in the Merced pitchfork murders, and comes to similar conclusions to me:

Putting it all together, I conclude that the Merced murders provide evidence against gun control laws, but weaker evidence than John Lott (and Vin Suprynowicz, from whom I think John got the original story) claim. Even without safe storage laws, the parents of small children–one of them was nine, I don’t know if she was the youngest–would be likely to keep firearms unloaded and on a high shelf or otherwise out of easy reach. Even if the Carpenter gun had been kept loaded and in easy reach, it isn’t clear whether Jessica could have gotten to it.

The case does not, contrary to John’s claim, provides clear evidence of media bias. The AP story did not remove evidence of the evils of gun control from the local story that was presumably its source, because the evidence wasn’t in the local paper until after the AP story went out. That conclusion might change if it turns out that there are later stories in the national media, based on later wire service versions, but I didn’t find any and would be mildly surprised to find national stories on a local killing still appearing three or four days after the event.

There is more discussion in posts by Patri Friedman and Bryan Caplan. Lott shows up in comments and insists that he is still right.

Comments

  1. #1 ben
    July 11, 2007

    If you think there should be a gun in the home to protect your family, then there better be someone there who can use it effectively. In this case, it doesn’t seem that clear that there was. Any way you slice it, there should have been someone older in the home at the time.

  2. #2 bigTom
    July 11, 2007

    How many of these “if only the victim had a gun” cases could realistically have been prevented. I suspect the number is very small, as we don’t normally go around with loaded guns in our hands, and criminals aren’t likely to telegraph their intentions to their victims early enough for the victim to be able to get to and/or load his weapon.

  3. #3 ben
    July 11, 2007

    “…as we don’t normally go around with loaded guns in our hands…”

    Speak for yourself :)

    On the other hand, in cases where the victim knew there was a real threat, such as in cases where a woman has an abusive ex-boyfriend, a gun can be the only thing to help. The worthlessness of the paper restraining order has been proven time and again. In fact, right here a UW, a nut job ex-boyfriend killed his ex-girlfriend on campus a couple months ago. The cops tried to serve him with a restraining order, which wouldn’t have done much good anyway, but they couldn’t find him. He walked into her office one day and shot her five times before killing himself. He stole the revolver from one of his acquaintances.

    I remember that in the South somewhere a law was proposed in which any woman who was granted a restraining order against someone deemed dangerous to her was to be instructed by the judge granting the order of how to obtain a concealed weapons permit and a handgun. The police certainly can’t protect women in such cases, and neither are they obligated to by law. What other choices are there for people who find themselves in such situations?

  4. #4 vinnie
    July 11, 2007

    “I suspect the number is very small, as we don’t normally go around with loaded guns in our hands,”
    I use a holster most times. I think a percentage of people in 40 some states carry a concealed weapon legally.

  5. #5 QrazyQat
    July 11, 2007

    The biggest problem with “if they only had a gun” is that in order for your carrying to be effective, you should be carrying a loaded gun mostly at home to guard against your family. Is that when and why you carry yours, vinnie? Do you think that’s when and why most concealed carry people carry theirs?

    That’s without getting into the problem of how much these concealed carry people ever practice with their gun(s).

  6. #6 vinnie
    July 11, 2007

    I practice on average twice a month live fire(at the range). I practice presentation(getting my gun out and ready to fire) about once a week for a few minutes. I practice with my off hand both shooting and presenting and in many other adverse conditions. Safety first by the way. As for my family…well next you will tell me I am more likely to be killed with my own gun. The kellor(sp?) study has been debunked. But if you want figures John Lotts book says that my gun is 800 times less likely than a police officers to kill an innocent person.

  7. #7 elspi
    July 11, 2007

    “John Lotts book says”

    It is a bad sign when the books start talking to you.

    The recent court case demonstrated that his book is full of crap.

    You are better off listening to your dog.

  8. #8 SG
    July 12, 2007

    ben, didn`t we go over this a while ago and you admitted that your carrying a gun (I didn`t think that was what you mostly have in your hand, btw) increases the risk that you will shoot an innocent bystander? And didn`t you say that it was worth the risk? And didn`t you say that it was worth the risk in a thread where someone had previously told the story of his brother-in-law being rendered permanently comatose by just such a trigger happy cowboy?

    QrazyQat, I`m sure that Vinnie doesn`t carry his gun to guard against his family.

    Ben, most men who break restraining orders probably don`t actually intend to kill their partners or even to shoot them (granted, I`m not in the US, so maybe it`s different there). Doesn`t arming up the restrainer against the restrainee just increase the risk of people getting killed or seriously injured? With an attendant risk of an arms race between the restrainers and the more insane restrainees?

  9. #9 Dunc
    July 12, 2007

    Nobody will be safe until the entire country is enganged in one giant mexican standoff! It’s just like Mutually Assured Destruction, but for individuals!

    /snark off

    Of course, the assumption behind MAD was that the participants were rational…

  10. #10 ben
    July 12, 2007

    ben, didnt we go over this a while ago and you admitted that your carrying a gun (I didnt think that was what you mostly have in your hand, btw) increases the risk that you will shoot an innocent bystander?
    I vaguely remember that, but I think what I ended up admitting to was that there was obviously some increased risk (sorta like the increased risk of puncturing my brain if I pick my nose), but that it was extremely small, possibly less than the probability that I’d ever need the gun for self defense.

    The thing about the restrainees is that they are typically the more vulnerable of the two to begin with. They are at a dissadvantage, and who is going to protect them? The police certainly are not. If they are under the threat of real physical violence, then I don’t see an alternative.

    As to practice, I can’t speak for everyone, but I practice more than your average police officer, who only goes in once or twice a year to qualify.

    Anyway, at home, I don’t carry too often, but I do have guns in places where I or my wife can access them quickly.

  11. #11 guthrie
    July 12, 2007

    I think QrazyQat is refering to the fact that you are more likely to get murdered by someone you know, especially your relatives.

  12. #12 QrazyQat
    July 12, 2007

    Absolutely, guthrie. While (hopefully) vinnie needn’t fear his family, carrying his concealed weapon to guard against them, that’s what most people should apparently be carrying them for. Of course those same stats show that vinnie should not be the one in his family fearing, or carrying the weapon — rather all his family members should be carrying to protect themselves against him… according to the stats.

    I’m glad to hear that vinnie practices every month. I’d love to see accurate figures on how many people who carry guns practice that often — or ever. As for “As for my family…well next you will tell me I am more likely to be killed with my own gun.” No. I will not tell you this next, nor did I even think of that; why did you? I mean it sounds like a preemptive strawman attempt. A lot like a preemptive strawman attempt. A lot.

  13. #13 ben
    July 12, 2007

    QrazyQat, you’re saying you have stats somewhere that show that people are more likely to be killed by a relative with a legal concealed carry permit than by a non-relative? I’d like to see those stats, as that is very interesting.

    Or do the stats simply say that people are more likely in general to be murdered by a relative than a non-relative? If that’s the case, then maybe we just shouldn’t have relatives.

  14. #14 QrazyQat
    July 12, 2007

    Or do the stats simply say that people are more likely in general to be murdered by a relative than a non-relative? If that’s the case, then maybe we just shouldn’t have relatives.

    It’s this one of course (and why you even thought of the possibility is beyond my imagining). Doing without relatives would be effective but has the side effect of rendering humankind extinct — good for a lot of things but bad for us, along with mice, coyotes, and raccoons. But it is clear that concealed carry, if done for self-protection, should mostly be done by women in defense against their male relatives and boyfriends — somehow I don’t think that’s ever make it to print in the firearms ad world. :)

    Scary strangers — the darker the better — is what I’d think most carriers see themselves protecting against, contrary to the real world.

  15. #15 SG
    July 12, 2007

    Well Ben, it may not surprise you to know that here in Japan, and in Australia where I am from, women with restraining orders aren`t generally able to be (or even choose to be) armed. Yet the rate of murders of these defenceless damsels isn`t up to American standard murder rates.

    Could this be because their assailants also aren`t armed…?

  16. #16 vinnie
    July 12, 2007

    Yep, japan is ideal. But they have a LOT more suicides than we do. No Miranda rights. Police interrogation that is NOT torture( according to dick cheney). and almost NO legal guns.
    They are a nation of ISLANDS. It is imposable to get illegal guns there. That fact has driven the price of guns up much less than it has driven up rent rates.
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20070513t1.html

  17. #17 SG
    July 13, 2007

    Vinnie,

    they have not so many more suicides than Australia. Are you suggesting that Japanese people are committing suicide because they can`t get guns? Or that there is some link between their suicide rate and a repressive society, the sort of society which would ban the ultimate form of free expression that is gun ownership? If so, you might like to read a little about the cultural history of suicide in this country. Hint: it`s not a christian country. Or is your point just that Japan is bad, and therefore the logic I used (which has nothing to do with Japan`s badness) must also therefore be wrong?

    As for the police torture thing, are you suggesting that the knowledge that the police can grab you, hold you without charge and torture you into confessing to a crime you didn`t commit is somehow a disincentive to committing the crimes that, well, that you will commit? And therefore the threat that people who aren`t carrying guns will be tortured into confessing they were carrying guns, will therefore discourage others who want to carry guns from carrying guns? This is strange logic.

    As for the bit about the ISLANDS, are you trying to suggest that America`s problem with guns is due to smuggling of guns, and that this can`t be stopped?

  18. #18 vinnie
    July 13, 2007

    I am not suggesting anything.
    FACT: the suicide rate in japan is greater than it is in America.
    Yes or no. Culture, reasons be damned. Yes or no.
    “, are you suggesting that the knowledge that the police can grab you, hold you without charge and torture you into confessing to a crime you didn’t commit is somehow a disincentive to committing the crimes”
    Uhmm Yep. That pretty much covers it. Last I heard japan has something like 98% solve rat on crime. Criminals expect to get caught there.
    As for the island thing: Japan is smaller than Montana and harder to get to. You need a boat. You cannot drive there.
    Makarov’s( a good semi auto pistol from rusia, Bulgaria or west Germany, I own one and wish I had a couple of more) go for about $415 on the street.
    Find a Russian Makarov in America for the same price and I will Find you a buyer. Prices in Japan are rumored to be higher for everything else. For those who are link challenged a Makarov sells for about $415 in japan ang a Glock sells for $600 in America. A Russian Mokarov sells for about 4-500% in america. Plus shipping and dealer fee’s.

  19. #19 ben
    July 13, 2007

    “Or that there is some link between their suicide rate and a repressive society, the sort of society which would ban the ultimate form of free expression that is gun ownership?”

    See SG, this is the thing. It’s not necessarily that they have a repressive society. It’s just part of their culture. For example, Britain has ALWAYS had a much much lower homicide rate than the USA, even when our gun laws were on par. The difference isn’t the guns, it’s the culture. We happen to have a more violent culture.

  20. #20 elspi
    July 13, 2007

    “See SG, this is the thing. It’s not necessarily that they have a repressive society. It’s just part of their culture. For example, Britain has ALWAYS had a much much lower homicide rate than the USA, even when our gun laws were on par.”

    That is to say never.

    The English have a much more violent culture as anyone who has attended a soccer game in England will attest.

    Our murder rate is much higher because our thugs have guns.

  21. #21 SG
    July 13, 2007

    Ben, can you back that up with any kind of actual facts, or are you going to fall back on the usual ridiculous claim that your silly camp football represents a violent culture? I have yet to see any viable comparison of cultures of violence. And it is so silly to reach for the unproven when you have the obvious fact sitting in front of you – one country is full to overflowing with deadly weapons, and one isn’t.

  22. #22 anthony
    July 14, 2007

    Vinnie
    Not that I can see what your point is, but you’re wrong on almost everything:
    Japan is two and a half times the size of Montana.
    Rents have been notoriously flat in Japan since the end of the bubble economy.
    Getting boats into Japan hasn’t been a problem since the Tokugawa shogunate.
    The 98% isn’t the ‘solve rate’ it’s the conviction rate. Which means someone gets punished.
    However, you are correct, you cannot drive there.

  23. #23 ben
    July 14, 2007

    “That is to say never. ”

    Not true. In the early 1900′s ordinary Brits could and did carry pistols in public.

    I’ll find the material I’m thinking of later, I’m on vacation right now. I know Kevin at The Smallest Minority has studied this, that’s where my info comes from.

  24. #24 SG
    July 14, 2007

    Vinnie, as Anthony observed, the Japanese system of forced confessions pretty much guarantees only that they get someone for the crime. Knowing they will grab the first person and force a confession is hardly a disincentive to criminals to commit crime is it?

    Why did you bother mentioning the suicide rate if it’s not relevant? Japan also has a lot of frogs. Does this have any bearing on the gun homicide rate?

  25. #25 z
    July 15, 2007

    “The police certainly can’t protect women in such cases, and neither are they obligated to by law. What other choices are there for people who find themselves in such situations?”

    Well, here in pinko Connecticut, in such cases if the person in question represents a risk to you (or to themselves) the law provides for the police to confiscate their firearms for a period of two weeks, with judicial review of the case. In quite a few cases, little arsenals have been temporarily seized; in one case, the police failed to carry out the seizure for no apparent reason, and the husband blew the wife’s head off in front of the whole town at one of our wonderful public concerts on the town green. Needless to say, the NRA is dead set against this law, in that some poor gunowner is likely to be framed by his wife and disarmed by the police, leaving him defenseless when his wife comes to kill him with a frying pan or some such. Luckily, we have not been cursed by this occurrence yet, but it’s certainly just a matter of time.

  26. #26 liberal
    July 17, 2007

    ben wrote, On the other hand, in cases where the victim knew there was a real threat, such as in cases where a woman has an abusive ex-boyfriend, a gun can be the only thing to help.

    Nonsense. A guard dog would be far more effective than a gun in such an instance (at least in her residence).

  27. #27 liberal
    July 17, 2007

    QrazyQat wrote, That’s without getting into the problem of how much these concealed carry people ever practice with their gun(s).

    Not to mention idiots like that American guy who shot the Japanese exchange student with a toy gun (he was at the wrong house) dead.

    Me, I worry about a road rage incident where some jerk shoots my head off.

    I’m not against people having guns, but (a) they should be required to periodically train, (b) they should be held fully criminally and civilly liable if they make a “mistake”. Definitely not the case now, AFAICT.

  28. #28 z
    July 17, 2007

    Welcome to the US. Be prepared to duck.

    Misunderstood hand signs trigger brawl
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A brawl involving five men apparently began over a misunderstanding when a man who is deaf and mute was communicating through sign language and another man took offense, thinking that the hand gestures were disrespectful. Police say what resulted was a brawl in which a gun was fired Sunday outside a pizza store in east Anchorage.

    Cop Shoots Daughter Mistaken As Intruder
    An off-duty New Haven police officer shot and critically wounded his 18-year-old daughter, apparently mistaking her for an intruder after she sneaked out of their Stratford home and re-entered through the basement.
    Eric Scott, 41, on the New Haven force for nine years, has not been charged in the Tuesday shooting.
    “Mr. Scott was under the impression his daughter had gone to bed for the night,” Stratford Capt. Thomas Rodia said. “He did not expect his daughter to be outside or down in the basement.”

    Snorkeler mistaken for nutria in shooting
    REEDSPORT, Ore. – The man arrested for shooting a snorkeler in the Smith River near here on Tuesday told police he believed he was shooting at a large rodent.