Friday, January 17, 2014

The Gun Violence Debate in the US runs on ignorance

I've already mentioned that the federal funding for gun violence research has been cut since the facts have an "anti-gun" bias and the Tiahrt Amendment protects the  illegal firearms trade, which means that the debate has been running on literal science fiction (not to mention the work of Lott and Kleck which is figurative science fiction).  "Fat Tony" Scalia produced a judicial "opinion" that was pure sophistry hiding ignorance of the facts.

The real point here is that even statistics are suffering in this battle to stack the deck.  Thus, The National Rifle Association likes to argue that criminals, or people intent on committing a crime, will obtain guns no matter what the law says. Among the 5,417 gun homicides in 2012 that the FBI assigns a circumstance to (3,438 are "unknown circumstances"), a mere 1,324 were committed in conjunction with another felony. Three times that (3,980) were committed by otherwise law-abiding citizens. Of that, over half (1,968) were the result of an argument that escalated fatally out of control.

To put it another way: otherwise unpremeditated murders, where people kill out of momentary rage, are the single most common type of gun homicide in America. More than gangland killings (822); more than murders committed during robberies (505) and drug deals (311) combined.

But, are the data which is coming from official sources even accurate in this matter?  Slate magazine tried to find out the facts, but like concrete data as to how many concealed carry permit holders actually go bad and who REALLY relies on the "get away with murder" laws, anything that has to be turned up needs to be done manually.

The feature was meant to be a provocation of sorts: We knew that those rows of figures, each one attached to a name, piling atop one another every day, made for an arresting visual, one that might trouble even the most ardent gun-rights supporter.

But as time went by and the interactive was discussed, questioned, and cited, this provocation also became a kind of experiment. How many deaths were being reported on, and how many were falling through the cracks? Why was it that no single source was collecting this data in real time? In other words, we wanted to know if an interactive like this can actually be valuable as something besides a provocation—whether crowdsourcing can produce real-time data and whether that data is useful and complete. (Hoping people might use our data for their own research purposes, we made it available as a downloadable file.)

A year after Newtown, the 11,400-plus human figures on that list remain a chilling reminder of the toll guns take on Americans every day. And the answers to our questions have started to become clear. Some people did use our data, for both interesting visualizations and public programs (sometimes, alas, without reading it carefully first). But we’ve also learned some tough lessons about how hard it is to track death by gun in America. The overwhelming likelihood is that our interactive missed more than half of the gun deaths in the past 12 months. The main reason there is no single source collecting this data in real time is surely because it is an enormous, daunting task—one that we only made a small dent in, with the help of devoted volunteers.
The statistics which are slowly, painstakingly assembled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from death certificates, find that about 32,000 people are killed by guns in America each year.  Unfortunately, the CDC's data in addition to possibly being incomplete is not published in a timely fashion.  For example, the most recent year for which preliminary data is available is 2011 and the CDC's "exact" number was 32,163. Slate also found that some gun deaths fell through the cracks.  Additionally, Slate used everyone who was killed by a gun (e.g. Tamerlan Tsarnaev), which caused an uproar from the right.

Slate also found that:
Suicides, it turns out, are this project’s enormous blind spot. Most every homicide makes the local paper, even if in large cities these stories are sometimes relegated to a mere news brief. Accidental shootings are usually reported upon, as are shootings by law enforcement and incidents in which civilians kill in self-defense. But suicides are mostly invisible. And the fact is that suicides make up 60 percent or more of all deaths by gun in America. In our interactive, misleadingly, only about 10 percent of recorded deaths were deemed suicides by our crowdsourced categorizers.
Slate has a companion piece to this The Missing 20,000 Gun Deaths. Suicide accounts for the bulk of gun deaths, which is a fact I know annoys you greatly.   On the other hand, the data also shows that owning a firearm is far more dangerous to the owner.

Ultimately, the lack of information filters down to researchers. Though most scientists Slate talked to said that they’d always found individual police departments forthcoming and helpful.  There is widespread frustration that data isn’t systematically available in a more timely manner for people doing the research. “I don’t know why we don’t have rapid case accounts,” said Harvard’s Cathy Barber. “It’s crazy that we are using 2010 data.”

The real bottom line is that we cannot have a serious discussion about this topic without accurate information.  The information which has been fueling the debate is pretty much wrong whether it is that the Second Amendment relates to private arms or studies that show more guns is the reason there is less crime.  Indeed, it doesn't help your side of the argument if the "facts" you provide are bullshit, or just plain non-existent.

It's time the debate started using facts rather than wishful thinking.


  1. It runs on lies. The proof of that is to deal with cowardly liars like Greg, TS, and SS. They make their points by lying.

  2. Quote all the facts you want, but you still can't get over the fact that fewer than one tenth of one percent of gun owners injure or kill someone in a given year.

    1. Which leaves over 33,000 gun shot deaths a year. Acceptable to a criminal lying coward like you who could care less about innocent death.

    2. Why must you tell lies all the time? I don't find those deaths acceptable. I recognize that gun control wouldn't prevent them. Two-thirds are suicides, and that's a choice that each person makes to live or to die. I may disagree with the choice, but it's not mine to impose on anyone else. Of the remainder, some 2,000 are criminals going after criminals. And then there are the simple murders. We have laws to handle those offenses, and if we didn't imprison people for possessing marijuana, for example, we'd have plenty of room for violent criminals.

      What I've just shown you is how to deal with our problem of violence without gun control. What I'm demonstrating here is that I do care about deaths, but that I have a different answer.

    3. Parse the numbers anyway you want it's still 33,000 gun shot deaths a year. To say that's so small as to not be concerned, is to not care about those deaths.

    4. You haven't shown, or demonstrated anything. You have voiced your biased opinion. The fact that you are unwilling to use proven methods to lesson innocent death shows you care little about innocent deaths.

    5. Suicide is illegal in most places, so society has made it their business and legally you cannot take your own life. But hey, why let facts and the law get in the way of your thinking.

    6. "Suicide is illegal in most places, so society has made it their business and legally you cannot take your own life. But hey, why let facts and the law get in the way of your thinking."

      Yes, lets not let facts get in the way Anon. It seems that suicide has been pretty much been decriminalized over the years. Unless you don't do it right.
      It is a mental health problem. A chaplain speaking to my soldiers once referred to suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

      "In the United States, suicide is not illegal but may be associated with penalties for those who attempt it."

      "No country in Europe currently considers suicide or attempted suicide to be a crime.[124] England and Wales decriminalized suicide via the Suicide Act 1961 and the Republic of Ireland in 1993.[124] The word "commit" was used in reference to it being illegal however many organisations have stopped it because of the negative connotation."

    7. "Unless you don't do it right."
      A little hard to charge anyone, if they succeed, but there are laws against it.
      Of course the 2/3rds figure you insist on has been proven wrong.
      Why do you lie to make a point?.

  3. "Suicide accounts for the bulk of gun deaths, which is a fact I know annoys you greatly."

    I agree that suicide is a serious problem. While violent crime and homicides have been declining, suicides are increasing. The CDC show that the national suicide rate rose from 10.48 per 100k in 1999 to 12.08 per 100k in 2010. Interestingly, during the same period, firearm suicides rose at a slower rate, rising from 5.96 per 100k to 6.06 per 100k during the same time frame.
    The challenge is, what is the solution? I believe that much has been accomplished in the fields of mental health, the biggest of which is removing the social stigma of seeking treatment. There now seems to be a concerted effort by political groups to allow law enforcement to suspend gun ownership rights without due process on the grounds of adjudicated mental health issues.
    I believe this will result in bringing back the perception of that social stigma and result in fewer people seeking help, and so doing, increase the problem.

    1. Then we should demand that health insurance companies and the ACA pay for mental health examinations. Good luck with that with Republicans holding majority.

    2. 14 studies show it's only half, not 2/3rds.
      Nice when you can pick and choose the studies you use, even though those results are disputed by many other studies.

    3. Anonymous, read for comprehension. About half of suicides are done with a firearm, while about two-thirds of gunshot deaths are suicides.

    4. Keep those lies coming, in the face of 14 studies that prove you are wrong. HA HA HA HA HA HA

    5. ss, that's interesting. Does it mean that only half of suicides are done with guns while two-thirds of murders are?

    6. Mike, you are correct, though the disagreement here involves what percentage of gun deaths are suicides, which is 61% going by CDC figures.