This might be too soon. The wound too fresh. Then again, if it isn’t fresh in memory, people fall back on old attitudes, where when we are raw and aching, maybe we are open to new information. I am thinking this is the first of two important posts whereby I prove I should be ruling the world. Or not.
I am not anti-gun.
Okay, I AM, but for ME, not for people broadly. Exactly. I grew up in Idaho and come from a long hunting tradition. In 7th grade PE we had gun safety because it was the belief (backed by statistics) that many YOUNG people who died in gun accidents weren’t the children of gun owners, but the curious friends who came over and didn’t know how dangerous the things could be.
We learned RESPECT. SAFETY. And to load and unload, and SHOOT a rifle. I was good, actually. It just required a steady hand and the patience to line up the site. I have decent special skills. I didn’t just get a bulls-eye; I pierced the X at the very center of the bulls-eye, and ALL my bullets hit the target.
I’ve also shot tin cans off fences at my friend Tammy’s house, and then there were my b-b experience with cousins, but that was pre-gun safety. THAT I was bad at (having never been taught). My dad had guns and hunted. My step-dad had guns and still hunts.
My point? I grew up IMMERSED in gun culture. MANY of my friends are die-hard advocates.
But what I do, when I am not being naked and silly and ridiculous or writing (or all of the above), is statistics. That’s it. My day job is to run numbers and find truth in them. Not graphic, single-incident anecdote, but collective FACT. THAT is what I am here to talk to you about right now.
First… A Lesson: Philosophy versus Science
People use philosophy to guide what they believe. And that is normal and rational. But when a philosophy is DISPROVED by science, it can no longer be held by reasonable people. Take the flat world view of the middle ages. A lot of OTHER beliefs centered around the WORLD being the center of the universe. Decisions and conclusions factored this in. When SCIENCE proved the SUN was actually the center, it undid ALL the stuff that posited the earth at the center.
I apologize here as I step into a sensitive topic, but it runs so perfectly parallel. Creationism and evolution: the former being philosophy, the latter being science… if someone sees creationism happening THROUGH evolution, they are good. If they see creationism as allegory (which was the intent of the authors, by the way—that is HISTORY, or rather anthropology of how lessons were taught—Biblical literalism only arriving about the 11th century at the word of the Pope), they are good, but if they believe creationism means evolution is wrong? Then THEY are wrong. Philosophy CANNOT EVER trump science. Science is testable. We see ACTIVE evolution in near lakes here and now. It HAPPENS. Faith in a particular philosophy is FINE, so long as it isn’t scientifically disprovable. But if it is, science trumps.
So now, while I’ve already offended some subset of my audience, though presumably the portion who was chased off long ago by my nakedness…
Applying Philosophy and Science to GUNS.
You know what makes science? NUMBERS. Statistics. Tests, though honestly, in real life, randomization is hard… though there are a lot of ‘prisoner experiments’ and they aren’t very promising. (for an entertaining, yet still enlightening version of this, there is a Veronica Mars episode, season 3…)
Most people evaluate on GUT. Something rings true, and they believe. And this is normal. But it gives too much power to the case study. Because of my background, I am far more inclined to look at collective data. YES, the individual examples are moving. But what should guide POLICY is the collective. The COLLECTIVE shows us what is most likely.
Let me delineate these for you, as they apply to gun themes.
If someone is determined, they can still get a gun.
TRUTH: Yes and no. They can, but it will be harder. And so a person set on SPECIFICALLY guns who has a long-retained determination can get them. But anti-gun laws mean they have to go through criminal routes (something not all people are willing to do—even murderers), and more importantly, this instills a ‘cool down’ time… so if a person is being IMPULSIVE, this will be an effective deterrent. Some portion will still get them, but another portion WON'T, so the events won't be eliminated, but lives will still be saved.
Sidenote: THREE women from my high school have been shot by partners. In TWO of these cases, I believe the partner regretted it the minute he did it. Still abusive assholes, yes, but not having a gun present would have prevented the deaths.
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.: I suppose this is true. But a person with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon or even just a handgun can be much more deadly in far less time than a determined person with another weapon. Take the Chinese episode the SAME DAY as the US one: man with knife in elementary school… attacks… wounds 23, 22 of them children, but not a single one is dead.
So a gun without a person can’t kill. Right on. Gotcha. But a person with a gun instead of another weapon is FAR more deadly. That is just the truth of it.
The crazies and mad men can still get the guns: (I know this sounds like the first, but I have another argument). Yes. They can. But if a crazy steps into a crowd with a gun, and someone ELSE pulls a gun, he will shoot MORE. After the Colorado Theater shooting one of my friends… spouse of a cop… said when a gunman appears the WORST thing to do is to ADD MORE GUNS. The body count amplifies VERY fast. The BEST thing would be to get the gun OUT of the situation (jump and disarm him).
“I feel safer with a gun.” Feel away my friend. But that is an emotion that is actually contradicted by facts. Gun owners, FACTUALLY are far more likely to die by gun than non-gun owners.
Several years ago, there was a well-done blog post by BarryEisler--and here is a more recent update--that contrasted countries without guns with the US, acknowledging how the US probably COULD NOT give up our gun addiction, and so in the presence, it is reasonable to have certain attitudes, but people in countries where nobody has them are absolutely safer.
There was also a terrific article yesterday by NicholasKristof of the New York Times. He proposed a number of ideas that put guns in a similar place as cars legally. People can HAVE THEM, but there need to be rules about it.
I’ve heard some promising ideas. Re-enacting the automatic weapon ban that expired in 2004 for one. The most innovative is requiring gun owners to hold insurance for the damage the firearm might do—cost dependent on storage, who has access, how it’s normally used, and damage potential it has (so faster firing and larger magazine potential means more expensive.)
I really get that some people feel philosophically that they should be able to have guns. I just really wanted to make sure you all knew that IN REALITY, guns in our presence makes us LESS safe. I promise.