Tag Archives: statistics

Pro-click: “The Political Philosophy Of Guns – Would America Really Be A Better Society Without Them?”

Came across this last night:

America’s decades long national argument about gun control is not a normal political debate about addressing policy to problems but about what kind of politics to have. It is fundamentally about how citizens should relate to each other and the state, and that makes it a matter of political philosophy, Politics with a capital P. That in turn explains why the debate has gone on so long without resolution and the division and frustration it inspires.

Of course it is up to Americans to decide what kind of society they should have, not philosophers, and certainly not foreign ones like me. Indeed, part of my argument is that even this most fundamental question must be decided politically, by the people, and not by appeal to the special authority of sacred constitutional principles or social science or even philosophy. Philosophers’ pronouncements of truth and rightness have no special authority over politics, nor should they. What philosophical analysis can do is offer new perspective and argumentative resources by which a political debate such as this one might be improved from its toxic stalemate.

I know what you are thinking.  This is going to be a long winded argument about how guns are bad.  WRONG!

So what does my philosophical perspective come down to? First a diagnosis. Both sides of the gun control debate know they are right. But only one side recognises it as a fundamentally philosophical dispute. The other has systematically evaded the real debate about values in favour of the faux objectivity of a statistical public health argument [See Hunt for a discussion of what the gun control debate is actually about]. Second some positive advice. The advocates of gun control need to take the political philosophy of the gun rights movement seriously and show that a society without guns is a better society not that it is a safer one.

It only gets better from there:

I’m going to have to be blunt. Gun control advocates rely excessively on a public health case that is not only much weaker than they believe it to be but also crowds out the kind of arguments that might actually win over their opponents. Their confidence that they are on the right side of history has blinded them to the fact that they have chosen to fight on the wrong ground. They keep harping on about guns killing people. As if guns were like cigarettes, and as if the numbers were big enough to matter

Guns are an excellent killing technology. They are extremely good at transforming an intention to kill into its achievement. However, that doesn’t mean that they are a particularly significant cause of death; only a particularly exciting one.The idea that forcibly removing guns from citizens would reduce death rates in any appreciable degree is a triumph of moral indignation over statistics. America is not 43rd in the world for life-expectancy because it kills so many people with guns, but, principally, because of the social gradient in health that follows from its shameful levels of socio-economic inequality [1].

Let’s go into this a little more.

We hear a lot about the large number of deaths caused by guns in America, around 33,000 per year. This sounds like a big number. But understanding whether a number is big enough to matter requires considering it in context. 2.6 million Americans die every year [CDC] [2]. Gun deaths represent just over 1% of deaths, and two thirds of those are suicides. From a public health perspective, many other causes of death seem much more deserving of our worry, and also more likely to yield to government intervention.

So happy to see someone else making the same arguments I’ve been using for years.  This one addresses a plethora of typical arguments: Guns vs Cars, Suicide, Mass Shootings, etc.  I have to disagree with the author’s “Your gun isn’t going to stop the military” argument for reasons outlined in previous posts, but you can’t have everything.

Get ready to strap on your stupid: David Smalley vomits “Why Gun Nuts Lie – I Know From Experience”

So I came across an article this morning where David Smalley, Proud Atheist, lectures America about “Why Gun Nuts Lie – I Know From Experience” – and with a premise like that, you know you are in for quite a wild ride.

First, he starts with his credentials:

I live in Texas. I’m a gun owner. I have a concealed handgun license. I’ve taught my kids how to fire weapons.

I also understand and appreciate our Constitution. I’m fully aware of the 2nd Amendment, and how its authors wanted to prevent government tyranny. Considering what they had gone through, they had every right to demand such a thing.

I know enough about weapons to have a near perfect score on my firing test, to know that the “c” in SR9c stands for “compact” to make the weapon easier to hide; and to know that the AR in AR-15 doesn’t stand for ‘Assault Rifle,’ but ‘Armalite’ after the original company who made the gun.

Am I a gun nut? Maybe. But I like to keep myself skeptical and informed. And that includes realizing when I’m being illogically influenced by my culture, and taking necessary steps to correct it.

Great, you’d think someone so informed would also be up to speed on current laws and important court decisions like Heller v DC or McDonald v Chicago.  Of course, he isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.

At this nation’s beginning, it made sense for the citizens to be armed similarly to the government to prevent tyranny.

Today, that’s ridiculous. The very concept is outdated. Some have said to me; the point is for the citizens to be “as armed as well as the government.”

Really? The concept is outdated? This would seem to indicate that Mr. Smalley’s beliefs are predicated on either strawman arguments or a lack of history (or both).  We’ll go into detail though, don’t worry.

For starters, today, the military has fully automatic M-16s. Citizens can’t buy that. You have to get a tamer version: AR-15.

You can’t have flame throwers, bombs, bazookas, Z10 attack helicopters, bradleys, tanks, fighter jets, nuclear reactors, or a plethora of other secret military weapons you don’t even know exist.

Mr Smalley shows a fundamental lack of knowledge with these statements, starting with current gun control laws.  Citizens can buy fully automatic M-16s, they are regulated as Machineguns under the National Firearms Act of 1934.  Flamethrowers? Not even federally regulated (even CNN scratched their head on that) and there are models for sale online right now in various configurations.  Bombs & Bazookas? They are considered “destructive devices” and have similar paperwork to machineguns.  Attack helicopters (Z10? wtf) & fighter jets? Uh, here ya go. Bradleys, tanks? Whoops.

So right off the bat, Mr. Smalley is entirely full of shit.  Of course if you confront him on this, he will shift the goalposts to whine about how you can’t buy the latest in military weapons systems like AH-64 Apaches with full Block upgrades, or a F-22, but that is besides the point – anyone citizen based uprising doesn’t require full air dominance & support.  They just have to apply the same asymmetric warfare principles that were used against the US in Iraq, Afghanistan & Vietnam.

Secondly, what if you were? I could hand you 50 AR-15s, give you 1000 illegal bombs, steal you a couple of tanks, and smuggle in some bazookas, and even let you fully train 500 of your closest friends.

If the government wants your shit, they’re going to take it.

You still wouldn’t be a match for even a single battalion of the United States Marine Corps. Not to mention the Air Force, Army, Navy, National Guard, Secret Service, FBI, CIA, and Seals.

So stop acting like your little AR-15 is going to stop tyranny.

There’s the money shot!  The argument is “your AR-15 doesn’t matter against the full weight of the US Government.  At a base level, he’s correct – one person cannot stand against the government.  One person, however, can make a difference, whether they are Ed Snowden, or Bradley Manning, or others.  If Mr. Smalley had a base level of knowledge, he’d recall back to how WWI was started before making such a vacuous argument.

Here’s the thing though: We’ve been at war since just after 9/11 – 15 years now.  Despite that, we haven’t been able to pacify two areas that are smaller than Texas.  We still have troops deployed in Afghanistan, and despite “withdrawing” from Iraq, we have troops fighting there as well.  So while one man with a rifle can’t make a difference, it would behoove Mr. Smalley to recall the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, or the LA Riots from the 90s,  before dismissing the effectiveness of large groups of people.  Larry Correia has a great article on why your “citizens can’t stand up to the government” argument is not grounded in reality, I suggest you read it.

But that can’t be all of his argument now, can it? Of course not:

Just be honest. You like it because it makes your pee-pee big, and when you fire it, it gives you a tingle in your no-no place.

Of course, nobody could want an AR-15 (or equivalent rifle) because they are fun guns to shoot. Or that they are excellent for home protection. Or that they work for shooters as tall as 6’6″, or children barely in their teens. No, it’s because we’ve got little dicks.  And Mr. Smalley has a vast amount of experience with the genitalia of gun owners because he’s clearly conversant and can speak from experience having handled many of them, right?

So what’s next? Oh, more of the usual antigun talking points:

A collection of studies from 2012-2013 found that having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death—and that of your spouse and children. If you have a gun (regardless of how it’s stored), everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.


Oh look, a list of 10 strawman arguments from Mother Jones, followed by a moronic “correlation = causation” argument that ignores that firearms homicides or suicides aren’t even on the top ten lists of ways to die in America.  Guess what, Mr Smalley – owning a car makes it more likely you’ll be in a car accident too.  Please, let go of your pearls.

Gun owners and their families are not more suicidal than non-gun-owners, research shows. Nor are they more likely to have a history of depression or other mental health problems.

But they—and their families—are at significantly increased risk of successfully taking their lives with a gun.

Sure, because firearms are pretty efficient like that.  But, as I’ve stated before, “Remove guns, PROBLEM SOLVED” doesn’t work with suicides either, as people will switch methods.  See (gun free) Japan with 2x our suicide rate, and (gun free) South Korea with more than 2x our suicide rate, and (heavily gun restricted) Belgium with 1.33 our suicide rate.

Next, Mr. Smalley fails at the google:

Let’s play a little research game. Google: “man fights off gang of bad guys with AR-15” and the first thing that pops up is a video of criminals shooting at a moving car with handguns.  …

Your fantasy of wiping out those 14 burglars, like Rambo spraying bullets from your AR-15, just isn’t going to happen.

It doesn’t happen. Period.

It doesn’t happen? Oh ok.  Let’s try that with videos. First result for “man defends with AR-15” is this:

Second result:

Here’s another video:

And here’s a woman defending her home in Detroit with a Hi Point carbine:

Hmm, sure looks like people defend themselves with rifles, Mr. Smalley.

I’m not advocating for you to lose all your guns. Even aware of the statistical dangers, I struggle with what to do with mine. I want my kids to be educated on the dangers, but I don’t want to act like guns make me safer. At least if I’m being skeptical even when it hurts.

Ah yes, the “No one wants to take your guns” strawman rears its head.

Here’s an idea: Disarm yourself.  If you don’t want a gun, don’t buy one. We’re pro-choice like that. As a matter of fact, I’d suggest you sell all of yours immediately because you sound like an asshole and I’d hate for you to hurt yourself or someone else.  Because you aren’t being skeptical: you are showing confirmation bias and are ignoring information that counters your viewpoints.

Then comes the litany of gun control masturbation:

But we have to draw the line somewhere. The bottom line is, we just need common sense. And we need to stop lying to ourselves.

I detailed my proposal for gun legislation on Dogma Debate #211: Guns & Atheists. But here’s the gist of it:

Treat guns like cars.
Mandatory licenses
License renewals
Mandatory training
Mandatory insurance
Operating laws
Operating age limits
Restrict some models
Require safety inspections
Mandatory registration
Background checks

I’m drawing the line well before that, because you aren’t educated enough about the laws to have a layman’s opinion and your facts are wrong.

Your laundry list is dumb for a few reason. For one, you don’t want to treat guns like cars, because if you did, you’d actually be making the case to loosen laws.  Here’s a couple things for you to read about why your argument has the facts exactly backwards:

All of those lay it out in very simple language why your argument is dumb.

Mandatory licenses? This is a non-starter unless they are freely available on a shall-issue basis.  By the way, Illinois has mandatory licenses for even purchasing ammunition under their Firearms Owner Identification requirements. Guess how that works out for them?

But hey, are you going to be ok with 16 year olds getting concealed carry permits? Because that’s what you are asking for.

Mandatory training? I’m down for that if you make it part of K-12 public school curriculum.  Otherwise you are just using dogwhistle racism to try to deny those who live in lower income brackets the ability to defend themselves.

Mandatory insurance? There’s not an insurance company out there that’s going to cover criminal actions (the primary reason you want firearms insurance, right?) and suicide requirements are pretty strict in existing health insurance as well.  But again, this goes back to dogwhistle racism as the people most likely to be victimized are also the same group disproportionately represented as homicide offenders.

Age limits? Why?  This sounds like you aren’t interested in safety whatsoever.  We have 360x more children 12 & under being injured in bicycle accidents every year (144,573 in 2014) than firearms (460 again 2014).  Hell, almost 6800 kids under 12 almost drowned in 2014.  Even looking at fatal injury data, bicycles killed 29 kids, 597 were drowned, 43 fell to their deaths, and 44 were killed unintentionally by firearms.  Roughly the same number of kids died falling down stairs or off ladders as were accidentally shot.  Double digit numbers of deaths, while tragic and horrendous for the families, are not reasons to curtail constitutional rights.

Model restrictions? Why? What restrictions?  Let me guess, ones that scare you based on cosmetic features.  We already have model restrictions, thanks, and we don’t need more for dubious reasons.

Safety inspections? Why?  Sounds like you aren’t a fan of privacy either.

Mandatory registration? LOL no.  Sorry! First, registration schemes are the epitome of Southpark’s Underpants Gnomes style gun control logic.  It’s one of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but doesn’t actually work out in practice.  Why? Because when guns are stolen, or straw purchased, or otherwise disappear, your registry is useless. Registries are good for one thing, and that’s revenue generation.  Past that, they don’t work unless the firearm is recovered at the crime scene… and if you have the gun, you typically have the shooter too.

Finally, Background Checks. See Illinois above.  If you want truly effective background checks, open a publicly accessible NICS portal that requires two party token authentication and you’ll have actual gun owners supporting the concept.  Meanwhile until straw purchasing and the like are eliminated, not to mention burglary, you are missing the crime gun forest for the trees.

Thomas Sowell’s take on the President’s speech: “On Gun Control, Obama Is Showman In Chief”

Those of you who read this blog should be familiar with my use of the term “security theater” and how most gun control proposals are little more than soundbites.   Thomas Sowell, noted economist, wrote an article covering yesterday’s Presidential address and reminded me of the flip side; political theater.

Those who have been marveling at Donald Trump’s political showmanship were given a reminder of who is the top showman of them all, when President Obama went on television to make a pitch for his unilateral actions to restrict gun sales and make a more general case for tighter gun-control laws.

It was beautifully choreographed, like a great ballet, and performed with consummate skill and understated eloquence.

First of all, the scene was set with a room full of people who have lost loved ones to gun violence. A father whose son had been gunned down made a long introduction before the president showed up, walked down the aisle and up onto the stage to growing applause.

As political theater, it put Donald Trump’s rantings in the shade.

As for the substance of what Obama said, there was very little substance, and much of it false, but one of the signs of great artistry was that the presentation overshadowed the substance.

None of the things proposed by the president is likely to reduce gun violence. Like other restrictions on people’s ability to defend themselves, or to deter attacks by showing that they are armed, these new restrictions can cost more lives on net balance.


I’m always glad to read when my point of view is the same as others that I respect.

People who are prepared to defy the laws against murder are not very likely to be stopped by laws against guns. Only law-abiding citizens are likely to be stopped by gun-control laws, and to become sitting ducks.

As for facts and statistics, the only ones likely to be mentioned by gun-control zealots, including the media, are those on how many people were killed by guns. How many lives were saved by guns will never make it through the ideological filters of the media, the political establishment or our educational institutions.

Yet factual data on how many threats or attacks were deterred in a given year by displaying a firearm have long been available. Seldom is it necessary to actually pull the trigger to get some thug or criminal to back off and go elsewhere, often in some haste.

Are the only lives that matter those that are lost, usually because there is no gun immediately available to protect them, but not the lives saved because they did have a gun at hand to protect them?

Gun-control zealots seem especially opposed to people being allowed to carry their guns concealed. But concealed weapons protect not only those who carry them, but also to some extent those who do not, because criminals have no way of knowing in advance who does and does not have a gun.

Muggings and rapes become much more dangerous activities for criminals where many law-abiding people are allowed to carry concealed guns. It can take a lot of the fun out of being a thug.

Obama said that we are the only “advanced” nation with so much gun violence. But there are a number of countries with higher murder rates than ours and stronger gun-control laws. But that leaves the definition of “advanced” to Obama — and makes for clever political theater.

Damn straight.  Thank you Dr. Sowell, for seeing through the bullshit.

WSJ Calls out Administration on false mass shooting report: Obama’s Gun-Control Misfire Before the 2014 election, the FBI claimed that mass shootings were up. False.

Last year, the FBI released a report about active shooters that was seized upon by the antigun faithful and twisted into a screed about mass shootings.  Last week, it turned out that the information was not only wrong, but massaged.  Yeserday, the WSJ showed a rare moment of honesty and reported on it:

Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply—by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013. Moreover, the problem was worsening. “The findings establish an increasing frequency of incidents,” said the authors. “During the first 7 years included in the study, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually. In the last 7 years of the study, that average increased to 16.4 incidents annually.”

The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.

Source: WSJ

The author understates how far and wide this was spread:

New York Times: F.B.I. Confirms a Sharp Rise in Mass Shootings Since 2000

A report released by the F.B.I. on Wednesday confirmed what many Americans had feared but law enforcement officials had never documented: Mass shootings have risen drastically in the past half-dozen years.


NBC: Number of Mass Shootings on the Rise, Most at Schools: FBI Report

The number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or a school, according to an FBI report released Wednesday. The study focused on 160 “active shooter incidents” between 2000 and 2013. Those are typically defined as cases in which a gunman in an attack shoots or attempts to shoot people in a populated area. The goal of the report, which excluded shootings that are gang and drug related, was to compile accurate data about the attacks and to help local police prepare for or respond to similar killings in the future, federal law enforcement officials said.


Newsweek: Mass Shootings on the Rise, New FBI Study Shows

A new study released Wednesday by the FBI shows that mass shootings, or “active shooter incidents,” as the bureau calls them, are increasing in frequency.

The study tracked 160 shootings between 2000 and 2013. Between 2000 and 2007, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually, according to the study. That number more than doubled—to 16.4 incidents annually—between 2008 and 2013. “This trend reinforces the need to remain vigilant regarding prevention efforts,” the study said, “and for law enforcement to aggressively train to better respond to—and help communities recover from—active shooter incidents.”


WSJ wasn’t above the joining in the fray: Mass Shootings on the Rise, FBI Says | Data Show Average of 16.4 Active-Shooter Incidents a Year From 2006 to 2013

Mass shootings are happening more often, resulting in more deaths and usually ending before police get to the scene, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation study released Wednesday.


Reason magazine was made an effort to point out that the media was getting the FBI report wrong:

To be fair, the authors of the FBI’s “active shooter” report explicitly cautioned their study was not about mass shootings, although this caveat was later ignored in much of the news media’s coverage of it.

The bulk of the article is directed towards destroying Mother Jones’ propaganda and didn’t address the widespread media misinformation.

The antigun supporters in mass media made sure to make hay while the sun was shining.

There was just one problem: The facts didn’t support the FBI report.

But late last week, J. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale, two academics at Texas State University who co-authored the FBI report, acknowledged that “our data is imperfect.” They said that the news media “got it wrong” last year when they “mistakenly reported mass shootings were on the rise.”

Mind you, the authors did not issue this mea culpa in the major news outlets that supposedly misreported the original findings. Instead, the authors published it in ACJS Today, an academic journal published by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. “Because official data did not contain the information we needed, we had to develop our own,” wrote Messrs. Blair and Martaindale. “This required choices between various options with various strengths and weaknesses.” You don’t say.

Surprisingly, VICE Magazine has written about this too, citing it as an example of media bullshit:

As noted recently by the Wall Street Journal and others, the authors of the study — Texas State University academics J. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale — have been forced to backpedal, acknowledging that their data was “imperfect” and asserting that the media coverage of their findings “got it wrong.”

In an ongoing exchange in ACJS Today, a regular publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Blair and Hunter have defended their work, but they still stand accused of playing fast and loose with the numbers for political ends. As others have since pointed out, going all the way back to 1970 — instead of just the narrow 2000-2013 timeframe used in the study — shows that there has been no significant increase in the rate of mass shootings.

Never fear though, the partisan hacks over at Media Matters are quick on the trigger to make sure that they can try to attack the character of the people going against the party line, by criticizing Lott without addressing any of the points he’s raised.  This is par for the course with antigun activists – if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger.

Charles W. Cooke’s words are ever so appropriate here:

But who cares, right? Black gun scary. NRA crazy. Shootings sad. Automatic, shmautomatic. The real question: Are you on the right side? No? Me good. You bad. Let’s not get bogged down in the facts.

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.


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.

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.