The latest from Pew: Support for gun rights up, perception of gun crime still high (despite lower rates)

Why has public opinion shifted about gun control? As my colleagues at Pew Research Center have documented elsewhere, some of this is related to politics, as Republicans have become far more supportive of gun rights during the Obama years. The rise in support for gun rights has also spanned many other regional and demographic groups.

But there may be another factor behind this shift: Americans’ changing perceptions about crime. Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates. And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership – not gun control – makes people safer.

Keeping a low profile is part of avoiding trouble: “Two charged in theft of guns” after they targeted vehicles with pro gun stickers

Carrying a gun is a lifestyle choice.  Part of that lifestyle is being aware of your surroundings and understanding what’s going on around you.

Every advantage that you give to the bad guys is an opportunity for them to put you, or someone else, into the grave.  These gun owners put their pride ahead of being prudent and had a naive “it can’t happen to me” mindset:

The Cleveland Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division has connected the dots on a rash of motor vehicle burglaries targeting gun owners.

The burglaries began in late February and continued through the early part of this month, resulting in 16 weapons being stolen from 13 cars and trucks.

Warrants were issued for two suspects, James “Andy” Evans, 32, of Cleveland and Tyler Maxwell, 33, of Cleveland.

According to CPD Detective Bill Hicks, the two and a possible third suspect are believed to have been driving from parking lot to parking lot during daytime hours searching for guns in vehicles.

The men reportedly selected their targets by looking for cars and trucks that displayed stickers that might indicate gun ownership, such as NRA, pro-gun slogans and various gun brand logos.

According to police reports, all of the 13 vehicles burglarized had such stickers, and some of the victims even left handguns in plain sight.,6788

Pro gun stickers are giant “PLEASE ROB ME!” indicators.  Even worse, these guys may have endangered their families or loved ones – they were deliberately targeted because they advertised they own firearms without caution.   The criminals had plenty of time on their hands to search for these vehicles; it wouldn’t have taken them any effort to crack the glove boxes and take photos of the vehicle registration and then visit the address listed.

Hopefully this serves as an object lesson: don’t draw attention to yourself.  Your biggest ally is to not let the bad guy prior knowledge of your capabilities.

TED Talk from Gary Slutkin: Let’s treat violence like a contagious disease

Found yesterday on Reddit, here’s the transcript of a TED talk by Gary Slutkin, a doctor who’s traveled the world treating outbreaks and epidemics.

I’m a physician trained in infectious diseases, and following my training, I moved to Somalia from San Francisco. And my goodbye greeting from the chief of infectious diseases at San Francisco General was, “Gary, this is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.”

But I landed in a refugee situation that had a million refugees in 40 camps, and there were six of us doctors. There were many epidemics there. My responsibilities were largely related to tuberculosis, and then we got struck by an epidemic of cholera. So it was the spread of tuberculosis and the spread of cholera that I was responsible for inhibiting. And in order to do this work, we, of course, because of the limitation in health workers, had to recruit refugees to be a specialized new category of health worker.Following three years of work in Somalia, I got picked up by the World Health Organization, and got assigned to the epidemics of AIDS. My primary responsibility was Uganda, but also I worked in Rwanda and Burundi and Zaire, now Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, and several other countries. And my last assignment there was to run a unit called intervention development, which was responsible for designing interventions.

After 10 years of working overseas, I was exhausted. I really had very little left. I had been traveling to one country after another. I was emotionally feeling very isolated. I wanted to come home. I’d seen a lot of death, in particular epidemic death, and epidemic death has a different feel to it. It’s full of panic and fear, and I’d heard the women wailing and crying in the desert. And I wanted to come home and take a break and maybe start over.

Obviously this guy has been in the trenches and has tons of hands on experience fighting threats at a population level.  He’s seen the horrors of the third world and knows what it takes to address them.  And more than that, he’s actually solved problems.  After years of selfless service, he comes home:

I was not aware of any epidemic problems in America. In fact, I wasn’t aware of any problems in America. In fact — seriously. And in fact I would visit friends of mine, and I noticed that they had water that came right into their homes. How many of you have such a situation? (Laughter) And some of them, many of them actually, had water that came into more than one room. And I noticed that they would move this little thermoregulatory device to change the temperature in their home by one degree or two degrees. And now I do that.

And I really didn’t know what I would do, but friends of mine began telling me about children shooting other children with guns. And I asked the question, what are you doing about it? What are you in America doing about it? And there were two essential explanations or ideas that were prevalent.

On one hand, this is pretty funny because he’s just come from places where people are experiencing actual medical horrors… and he comes home and is greeted by people who have no idea what an actual epidemic looks like.  But wait…

Ruh roh.  I know what you are thinking: “Is he going to seriously say that gun violence is an epidemic? That guns are a virus?”

Read on:

And one was punishment. And this I had heard about before. We who had worked in behavior knew that punishment was something that was discussed but also that it was highly overvalued. It was not a main driver of behavior, nor was it a main driver of behavior change. And besides that, it reminded meof ancient epidemics that were previously completely misunderstood because the science hadn’t been there before, epidemics of plague or typhus or leprosy, where the prevalent ideas were that there werebad people or bad humors or bad air, and widows were dragged around the moat, and dungeons were part of the solution.

The other explanation or, in a way, the solution suggested, is please fix all of these things: the schools, the community, the homes, the families, everything. And I’d heard this before as well. I’d called this the “everything” theory, or EOE: Everything On Earth. But we’d also realized in treating other processes and problems that sometimes you don’t need to treat everything.

IE, what we’re doing now isn’t working.  Jail time doesn’t stop violence.  You can’t solve every problem.

And so the sense that I had was there was a giant gap here. The problem of violence was stuck, and this has historically been the case in many other issues.Diarrheal diseases had been stuck. Malaria had been stuck. Frequently, a strategy has to be rethought. It’s not as if I had any idea what it would look like,but there was a sense that we would have to do something with new categories of workers and something having to do with behavior change and something having to do with public education.

This is the interesting part. The smooth segue from the complaint of ‘gun violence’ (specifically “children shooting other children with guns”) into violence as a whole:

But I began to ask questions and search out the usual things that I had been exploring before, like, what do the maps look like? What do the graphs look like? What does the data look like? And the maps of violence in most U.S. cities looked like this. There was clustering. This reminded me of clustering that we’d seen also in infectious epidemics, for example cholera. And then we looked at the maps, and the maps showed this typical wave upon wave upon wave,because all epidemics are combinations of many epidemics. And it also looked like infectious epidemics. And then we asked the question, well what really predicts a case of violence? And it turns out that the greatest predictor of a case of violence is a preceding case of violence. Which also sounds like, if there is a case of flu, someone gave someone a case of flu, or a cold, or the greatest risk factor of tuberculosis is having been exposed to tuberculosis.

This is extremely valuable insight.  He’s not working from feelings and trying to find facts to fit them.  He’s looking at the data and examining how it occurs and what patterns are displayed.

He didn’t go “I think guns are the problem here!” He’s not focusing on a symptom and trying to treat it by itself, which is typical for the antigun that believes “remove guns, problem solved

So he outlines the multipronged way that stops actual epidemics:

And so there’s good news about this, though, because there’s a way to reverse epidemics, and there’s really only three things that are done to reverse epidemics, and the first of it is interrupting transmission. In order to interrupt transmission, you need to detect and find first cases. […] In this case, it’s someone who’s very angry because someone looked at his girlfriend or owes him money,and you can find workers and train them into these specialized categories.

And the second thing to do, of course, is to prevent further spread, that means to find who else has been exposed, but may not be spreading so much right now like someone with a smaller case of T.B., or someone who is just hanging out in the neighborhoods, but in the same group, and then they need to be, in a way, managed as well, particular to the specific disease process.

And then the third part, the shifting the norms, and that means a whole bunch of community activities, remodeling, public education, and then you’ve got what you might call group immunity. And that combination of factors is how the AIDS epidemic in Uganda was very successfully reversed.

Which all makes perfect sense.  So lets cut to the chase, how does this work in practice:

And so what we decided to do in the year 2000 is kind of put this together in a way by hiring in new categories of workers, the first being violence interruptors.And then we would put all of this into place in one neighborhood in what was the worst police district in the United States at the time. So violence interruptors hired from the same group, credibility, trust, access, just like the health workers in Somalia, but designed for a different category, and trained in persuasion,cooling people down, buying time, reframing. And then another category of worker, the outreach workers, to keep people in a way on therapy for six to 24 months. Just like T.B., but the object is behavior change. And then a bunch of community activities for changing norms.

Now our first experiment of this resulted in a 67-percent drop in shootings and killings in the West Garfield neighborhood of Chicago.

Eureaka! Success!  67% drop in shootings in the area ranked #1 for violent crime in Chicago is incredible, no matter how you look at it.

But of course, the funders said, “Wait a second, do it again.” And so we had to then, fortunately, get the funds to repeat this experience, and this is one of the next four neighborhoods that had a 45-percent drop in shootings and killings.And since that time, this has been replicated 20 times. There have been independent evaluations supported by the Justice Department and by the CDC and performed by Johns Hopkins that have shown 30-to-50-percent and 40-to-70-percent reductions in shootings and killings using this new method. In fact, there have been three independent evaluations of this now.

So not only does it work, it works repeatedly, and…

Many of the major cities in the U.S., including New York City and Baltimore and Kansas City, their health departments are running this now. Chicago and New Orleans, the health departments are having a very large role in this. This is being embraced more by law enforcement than it had been years ago. Trauma centers and hospitals are doing their part in stepping up. And the U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed not only the approach but the specific model. Where there’s really been uptake even faster is in the international environment, where there’s a 55-percent drop in the first neighborhood in Puerto Rico, where interruptions are just beginning in Honduras, where the strategy has been applied in Kenya for the recent elections, and where there have been 500 interruptions in Iraq.

And it’s working everywhere it is applied, even in third world or war torn countries.  It has measurable success data, repeatable information that doesn’t rely on magic.  Unlike gun control.

Instead of narrowly focusing on guns as if they are the problem, he rightly identified that the violence is the problem, no matter what method is used to carry it out.

If the anti gun movement really cared about violence, they’d work to address these issues. Instead they just want to ban guns that are used in less than 3% of all crimes, high capacity magazines, and ignore that lives could be saved.

Politicians aren’t interested in these programs either, because they require work, and someone has to pay for all that work.

You can be sure that this isn’t going to make the rounds or garner worldwide media attention.

“Obama Says He Hasn’t Given Up On Gun Control” and in other news, Water is wet

The President sat down for some softball questions today on “Good Morning America”

“But the power of NRA and the gun lobby in Congress is formidable,” Obama said. “And you know, we’re going to keep chipping away at this, but until you get intense public demands for this, it’s probably not going to happen because some special interests and lobbyists in Washington are really, really strong and their membership feels very intensely about the issue. Whereas the general public is concerned about it, but doesn’t make it their top priority.”

I like this for a couple reasons.

Number One, it’s just so shameless because he flat out admits that incrementalism is the order of the day.  Next time someone tells you gun control isn’t a slippery slope, quote the President stating it outright.

Number Two, he admits that they depend on public outcry and craven opportunism by exploiting tragedies to push their agenda forward.  Think about that for a minute.  They want to strip away your rights, and gladly tell you that they will use any media friendly excuse to do so.

Number Three, he’s pretending that the NRA with it’s millions of members is a special interest group, while the antigun astroturf movements of Everytown, MAIG, CSGV, Ceasefire, the Bradys and more aren’t.

President Obama has things backwards:

The general public spoke up in the 2014 elections, where 91% of NRA backed politicans won.  The general public has doubled firearms purchasing in the last ten years.  The general public is pushing for liberalized firearms law, expanded concealed carry, and more rights.

In fact, the only places where anti gun proposals are gaining ground are where multibillionaires are astroturfing their way to victory as seen in Washington last year.

Opinion polls “debunk” facts now? “New Harvard Research Debunks the NRA’s Favorite Talking Points”

Mother Jones (never known for their journalistic integrity or honesty on the topic of firearms) vomited up this piece of journalistic excrement today:

New Harvard Research Debunks the NRA’s Favorite Talking Points
Surveys drawing on scores of experts reveal a clear consensus against the gun lobby.

In it we have the usual uncritical fluff piece fawning over anti-gun shill David Hemenway’s latest work that is lauded as a decisive & stunning blow against the evil NRA… an opinion survey.   Opinion surveys should always be taken with a dump truck of salt since they don’t always match up with reality as documented in this Pew Research Survey where despite gun crime being at decade lows, 56% of people believe it is higher than 20 years ago.

The article opens with the scoff worthy platitudes that anti-gun writers peddle as without merit:

Anyone familiar with the gun debate has heard the talking points of the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates: “Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.” Or: “If only more ordinary citizens were armed, they could stop mass shootings.”

Yes, because being unarmed is certainly safer when facing someone who is willing to kill your child when you don’t have enough money to given them.   And a mass shooting has never been stopped by a concealed carrier. Certainly not in the last two weeks, in Philly.

As we’ve shown in our reporting, these arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, commented on another long-running assertion from the gun lobby: “There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime,” he told the New York Times.

If by “don’t stand up to scrutiny” you mean “don’t survive our straw man arguments” – arguments like:

“Myth #1: They’re coming for your guns” where they say that just because outright confiscation isn’t on the agenda yet, there’s no middle ground between that and nothing at all.  Certainly nothing like trying to ban assault weapons.  Nevermind that confiscation has happened in places like California under Roberti-Roos, Canada, or elsewhere.  It certainly isn’t happening in New York, where law enforcement officers barely wait for the bodies to cool before swooping in to confiscate legally owned firearms from the families of the deceased.

or “Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.” where they conveniently make an apples to oranges argument by blaming firearms for suicides and use those suicides to pad total homicide stats, while undercounting defensive gun uses by limiting them to justifiable homicides.  After all, situations where a mother defends her child against a home intruder by shooting him 5 times don’t count since the attacker didn’t die.

As for the “no evidence that having more guns reduces crime” comment, that’s also been addressed as there’s zero proof that firearms availability has an effect on firearms crime either.

Yet, Hemenway says that some in the media have continued to treat such assertions as legitimate points of debate. That leaves the public thinking, “Okay, so there’s disagreement on this,” he says. It occurred to Hemenway that this was a familiar problem, so he set about surveying a wide range of experts on guns—modeling his project after a game-changing 2010 study on climate change, which found that 97 percent of researchers believe that humans are responsible for global warming. Hemenway’s team at Harvard went through about 1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology. In May 2014, Hemenway began sending monthly surveys to the authors of these articles—upwards of 300 people—with questions concerning firearm use, background checks, and other gun policies. The Harvard team has completed nine surveys so far, with about 100 researchers responding to each: They show that a clear majority of experts do not buy the NRA’s arguments.

So let’s cut to the chase, let’s look at the information itself:

Expert firearms researchers were defined as those individuals that 1) publish in peer-reviewed journals and 2) publish specifically about firearms in the public health, public policy, sociology, or criminology literature. Expert researchers were defined as first authors on at least 1 peer-reviewed journal article from 2011 to the present (February 2014). It was felt that including all authors would overweight the public health/medicine area of research since articles there tend to have more authors.

If you can spot the selection bias already, give yourself a pat on the back.

Let’s dig further and look at the first survey dataset and see who responded:

Emails sent: 287
Emails opened: 194
Surveys started: 158
Surveys completed: 150

Interesting.  So out of this highly cherry picked group, just over half responded.  What did they have to say about the first question?

Q1: “In the United States, having a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide”
Strongly disagree 3%
Disagree 5%
Neither Agree or Disagree 8%
Agree 26%
Strongly Agree 58%

Looks like these people never read the research coming out of Australia showing that firearms availability has little effect on overall suicide rates.  Of course I’m not the only one to mention that other countries with much harsher gun control can have higher overall rates of suicide as well.

But what really takes the case of this opinion poll is this:

Q3: Rate your level of familiarity with the literature on this topic
Not knowledgeable 7%
Slightly knowledgeable 13%
Medium 19%
Knowledgeable 33%
Very knowledgeable 28%

Yeah, no possibility for confirmation bias or Dunning-Kruger here.  No possible selection bias.  No one invested in firearms research or policy. No breakdown of disciplines past vague generic

Public health/medicine 48%
Criminology/sociology 33%
Public Policy 5%
Other 14%

Which lumps in psychiatrists with cardiac surgeons like noted shill antigun hack Arthur Kellerman.

The rest of the surveys are just as worthless.

The entire exercise is an Appeal to Authority writ large, with healthy amounts of the previously noted fallacies thrown in for good measure.  Of course, since there’s no benchmark or standard behind who is viewed as an expert, simply that they were “peer reviewed” at some point, we can dismiss this as junk science like most antigun agitprop.