Tag Archives: suicide as “gun violence”

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.

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.

This guy gets it: Another Day, Another Shoddy Antigun Study from the Left

I came across this article today: http://www.townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2015/02/02/another-day-another-shoddy-antigun-study-from-the-left-n1950277

A refreshing read, written by Matt Vespa – he dismantles a Center For American Progress report about youth “gun violence” titled “YOUNG GUNS: HOW GUN VIOLENCE IS DEVASTATING THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION”

As you can imagine, it’s filled with the usual litany of junk science, twisted statistics, and more:

In the CAP study, they include suicide as gun violence, saying, “the third highest cause of death for this age group [15-24] in 2010 was suicide, and again, guns played a large role, accounting for a plurality—45 percent—of those deaths.” In that same year, the second most frequent cause of death was homicide, wherein a firearm was used in 83 percent of the cases.

Suicide is tragic, but it’s debatable to consider it gun violence. Furthermore, when police engage armed felons with their service pistols, should that be considered gun violence? If we’re tracking gun violence (i.e. homicides or other acts of violence committed by one person against another) in instances that resulted in fatalities, then the study has inflated numbers.

The article continues with a great deal of linked articles and statistics showing why the CAP article is wrong, but the summation is this:

The premise of the CAP report is that young Americans are being bled dry from gun violence. They must demand their representatives take action to curb Second Amendment rights–our civil rights–to prevent further loss of life. After all, a Democratic polling firm–GBA Strategies–says young people think gun culture is out of control.

In reality, they’re inflating the numbers, and desperately grasping for straws by trying to say that gang violence is a Millennial problem. It’s not.