A Conversation About Guns

by Glenn R. Geist

It’s hard to think that anyone hasn’t heard of Nate Silver’s 538 and their data-driven analyses of – well, just about everything. We tend to concentrate more on political predictions.  But not too long ago I read an article in the Washington Post from a journalist at 538, who had had to run for her life during the Las Vegas mass shooting.  I was wrong in thinking it would be another demand that we ban “assault rifles” and asserting all the usual numerical misrepresentations that are standard fare in gun control polemics.

Being just like everybody else, I find it gratifying to see support for some of my viewpoints that others find either troubling or outrageous, especially when it comes from real numbers and statistics people, but looking at how strong are the gun control opinions that fill my mailbox every day, I really don’t put much faith in the ability of facts to overcome them – particularly the obsession with “assault rifles” that account for such a minuscule proportion of the overall death toll. In the last week, I’ve had more exhortations for banning these things than I have damning Trump’s murder of children.

Assault rifles writes Leah Libresco, are:

“an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.”

This is something anyone who looks at the gun publications and catalogs knows well. Indeed some of these parts can be made at home using kits supplied for the purpose. Indeed previous bans have been so loosely defined and generated by people with lots of anger but no knowledge that every gun shop in America during such times has been well stocked with guns and magazines – with elevated prices.

What’s less apparent is how few of our annual gun murders involve them, with the handgun accounting for over 95%. What’s less apparent is that firearm related murders continue to decline, although the venues may have changed. In a handful of recent years, the graphs show, there have been larger death tolls in mass shootings, but the numbers of them haven’t changed as much as you might think, in years. 4 of the last 8 years have shown an increase over where it’s been since 1993.

Suicides using firearms have increased quite a bit and older males seem to be the source. Is there the same passion for offering counseling and medical care as there is to buy back 300 million guns? Not really. And of course suicide is always lumped in with the overall statistics and the false number will always be used, every time, to create false fear. Every time. More than 60% of gun deaths are suicides. 13,000 in a country of 325 million is too many, but just isn’t as scary as 33,000 and fear is what this is all about because the goal of a death-free society warrants any means to achieve it.

Next to suicides in number, are the young men aged 15 to 34. Much of it having to do with gangs and drugs and vendettas. Next in volume are the approximately 1,700 women victims of domestic violence. Still we aren’t told to demand more in the way of removing guns from those with restraining orders or in making them easier to obtain. Just ban assault rifles and it will all go away.

Most of the specific measures needed to target different categories of killings are never discussed and the rarest category is the focus of nearly every effort. We see lots of hysterical rhetoric about “sensible” gun control, which means nothing, or the “Gun show loophole” which seems to be statistically irrelevant. We have, as the writer says:

“Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.”

Americans want simple solutions for complex and diverse problems and they will shout you down if you suggest something else and they will go on about things that have no statistical support, such as for buybacks in countries that had no significant mass shooting records anyway.

What we have, in my opinion, is just another symptom of our national madness and inability to do anything about a collapsing civilization, in the grip of fear and loathing.  Can it be that the loudest and most well-funded advocates are their own (and perhaps our own) worst enemy?

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Posted by on July 7, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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4 Responses to A Conversation About Guns

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    July 7, 2019 at 8:53 am

    In the early 1990s, crime rates had been on a steep upward climb since the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency. The crack-cocaine epidemic in the mid-1980s added fuel to the fire, and handgun-related homicides more than doubled between 1985 and 1990. That year, murders peaked in New York City with 2,245 killings. Politicians embraced tough-on-crime platforms and enacted harshly punitive policies. Experts warned the worst could be yet to come, except it wasn’t as crime started decreasing and no one knew why, and still don’t. It’s likely this decrease in overall crime that accounts for a similar decrease in gun crime. In point of fact, by decade’s end, the homicide rate plunged 42 percent nationwide. Violent crime decreased by one-third. What turned into a precipitous decline started later in some areas and took longer in others.

  2. Glenn Geist Reply

    July 7, 2019 at 9:27 am

    That things are getting worse and worse is a sales technique and has been a tool of prophets and preachers forever. Facts? Yeah right.

    I can’t find the link this morning, but I saw a chart showing what Americans fear the most next to one showing what the actual odds are. One should fear their spouse more than some kid at school, but we don’t.

    In many cases, the biggest fear was the least likely. I suspect the constant journalistic fear-mongering and the hyperbole from various groups drives our opinions more than the numbers do. Simplicity sells and the idea that one measure (and usually only that one measure) is needed does more harm than good because it puts people on the same side at odds with one another. It makes people focus on one and only one factor in an equation with more factors than we can count. Where no correlation exists we lie and where it does we ignore it.

    But I found this article compelling since it came from someone like me, who thinks we need to do more about guns, but is frustrated by the “activists” more interested in power and contributions yet who make progress impossible.

  3. Bill Formby Reply

    July 7, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Glenn, since I am somewhat of a murder hobbyist, i.e. I have been fascinated by people killing each other since I first read the first major comprehensive study on murder by Marvin Wolfgang. In fact I wrote an article several years ago about murder. I get aggravated trying to explain murders, mass killings, and serial killers to people who try to tell me about murder when they do not have a clue what they are talking about. Also, people who use stupid media induced terminologies. Until the early 1970s there were no serial killers because the term “serial Killer” was invented by Robert Ressler in the early days of the BAU. Sure there were what we later called “serial killers” around even before this country was founded, people just did not have a name for them. There were also mass murders back then also. In fact, some of the more horrendous involved plantation owners killing disobedient slaves. The “Gangs of New York” probably killed more Irishmen per capita than the gangs of today. Johnathan Swift ran the Gangs of London in the early 1700s. Yet, here we are in the 21st century with a lot more information about human behavior and yet people, especially legislators, are still stupid about the problem. There are no quick fixes, but more resources put into mental health would help a lot. Similarly, our approach to controlling drugs shows that we learned nothing from prohibition. Professor Herbert Packer’s treatise in 1968 “Limitations of the Criminal Sanction” told people that we were screwing up with our model of treating drugs as a criminal problem. and he was right. It is almost like the drug dealers and the government are working hand in hand. Dealers want to make a profit and the government makes them illegal, The illegality is -practically like a tax users pay to dealers for the product that is forbidden.
    But, as the old saying goes, “It is hard to fly like an eagle when we are stuck with a bunch of turkeys.

  4. Glenn Geist Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 8:23 am

    I believe that Ben Franklin wanted the Turkey to be the National Bird and perhaps he was right. As usual, I’m impressed with your knowledge.

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