Tuesday, July 31, 2012

But If We Outlaw Meth, Only Outlaws Will Have Meth

So there was this shooting in Colorado and you already know all the details about it. You're also already aware this has (as they always do) sparked a bit of a gun-control discussion. As such conversations go, it has been occasionally illuminating and mostly infuriating. And while everyone thinks their political opponents use specious reasoning, there's a bit of the pro-gun side that blows my mind. If the people making these arguments are being genuine, they have some serious mental issues themselves.

While anyone can pick out some random crazy argument to make a group they disagree with look bad, these are arguments I've heard repeatedly in personal conversations or from respected commentators in the media. These are points that go beyond disagreement and enter into sheer insanity:

Do you think gun control would have stopped that guy?

Well, yeah, kinda. I mean it would have at least made things much more difficult for him. For instance, it's well known now that dude had over 6,000 rounds of ammo. There's basically no legal reason anyone should ever have that much ammunition. Unless you're one of the incredibly small handful of professional target or skeet shooters in this nation (which seriously has to be in the double-digits, tops), the only reason you amass that much ammo is because you're going to kill a bunch of people. Not really much else to do with that many bullets. So yeah, there's a pretty legitimate interest in having law enforcement have a quick chat with anyone buying a small army's worth of munitions.

But for the sake or argument, let's grant that gun control wouldn't have stopped him and he would have killed a bunch of people anyway. Even ignoring the fact that it's harder to kill people without a gun, this is still a terrible argument. You know what else is illegal? Murder. Murder is very illegal. And yet he went ahead and murdered people anyway. So does that mean we shouldn't bother to make murder illegal? I don't think so. I think the reason we make stuff illegal is because we don't want people to do those things, even if we can't guarantee 100% enforcement.

If I (or someone there) had a gun, I/they could have stopped it.

Really? Let's recount what we know about the situation -- it was an already-darkened theater with vision obscured even more by a smoke bomb. Add to that the screaming chaos and a moving target and even Special Ops would have trouble landing that shot. To think that any regular ol' Joe with little to no situational training would be able to calmly pull their gun out and hit the shooter without hitting anyone else is a fantasy of the highest order. Anyone who can honestly say they think more people firing into the smoky darkness of that theater would result in less deaths is either lying or living in one hell of a fantasy.

But this isn't just logically wrong, it's empirically wrong. According to the FBI, there's been roughly 50 such mass shooting events in the US in the past 30 years. Not a single one has ever been stopped by an armed civilian in the vicinity taking out the shooter (even though we have more guns than people). Because that simply doesn't happen. It's fine if you want to have Charles Bronson fantasies and pretend you're some super shot who can solve the world's problems with your amazing gun work. No one's trying to take that away from you. But when you start to set public policy based on your absurd fantasies, then it becomes a problem.

If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.

Yeah, dumbass. That's the point of making laws.


Anonymous said...

How many bullets is too many bullets? What if he had only bought a pack of 100 and used that to kill or injure 60 people?

And of the 50 mass shootings you cite, in how many was a victim carrying a concealed weapon? Arguing that having a weapon to defend yourself wouldn't help ignores the fact that only a tiny minority of Americans actually carry weapons on their person.

Woz said...

"How many bullets is too many bullets?"

It's a good question, and one we as a nation clearly need to wrestle with. I don't really have that answer, but that wasn't really the point of the post. The idea was more to point out how some absurd arguments are used to shut down such conversations before they can even happen.

"And of the 50 mass shootings you cite, in how many was a victim carrying a concealed weapon?"

Unfortunately I can't find such records and don't think they exist (the FBI unfortunately often doesn't record a lot of useful info). However, there is a lot of evidence that conceal and carry laws do not reduce crime, and a significant amount of evidence that points to such laws making it more dangerous on the person carrying the concealed weapon (either through escalating a situation that wouldn't have been fatal or through a nervous person shooting either themselves or a loved one instead of their attacker). So there is some logical support for extending those findings to this particular situation.

But really the point of making that argument was to point out the "if someone else had a gun it would've been stopped" argument is continually trotted out with no proof (there exist no studies I can find that provide any evidence for an armed private citizen interceding successfully in such crimes). Add to that there have been numerous times when such an event could have conceivably occurred yet that response has failed to materialize. Given the studies of conceal and carry laws general effect and the fact this has yet to happen, the burden of proof is on people making those arguments. Not to mention the basic logic of more people firing in a chaotic and unpredictable situation seems highly likely to /reduce/ the number of deaths. So until there's any evidence that more armed citizens in such a situation would better the situation, this argument is just speculative guessing with no evidence. Indeed, as mentioned, what little scientific evidence that exists on this question points in the opposite direction, so it's pretty sound to reject that argument until its supporters have even a shred of evidence on their side.

Anonymous said...

"a significant amount of evidence that points to such laws making it more dangerous on the person carrying the concealed weapon"

Please cite this significant amount of evidence.

"there exist no studies I can find that provide any evidence for an armed private citizen interceding successfully in such crimes"

... Nor are there any studies that show that an armed private citizen interceded unsuccessfully in such crimes. If nothing else, the data is inconclusive. That you trot the lack of evidence as evidence makes me cringe. I can't believe how easy it is to get doctorates in sociology nowadays.

Woz said...

Whoops! Tried talking to you like an adult. My bad. I'll make sure not to make that mistake again.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. Asking for you to back up your outlandish claims with any reference to the "significant evidence" you say exists is clearly out of your league.

Writing about politics seems too much for you. Maybe you should start a blog about food instead.

Woz said...

Ah yes, a brilliant tactic. Ask a seemingly reasonable question followed by a completely out-of-nowhere and totally unnecessary insult. Then, when the person you've insulted refuses to answer your seemingly reasonable question because they both don't appreciate being insulted for no reason and recognize you're not going to listen to the answer anyway, you pretend you won the argument. It really is a clever little gambit. Bill Maher would be proud.

Anyway, you can feel free to google it if you're really interested in the research.

Oh, and thanks for the suggestion. I do enjoy cooking quite a bit. In fact, I've actually blogged about it a bit in this very space, but you're right, I should blog more about my cooking. Thanks for the helpful suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Just to recap:

You: "a significant amount of evidence ... points to such laws making it more dangerous on the person carrying the concealed weapon"

Me: "Please cite this significant amount of evidence."

You: "you can feel free to google it if you're really interested in the research."

I Googled and could find nothing that backs up the assertions you make. All I was able to find by way of evidence was statistics pointing to the rise in the number of concealed-carry laws in this country, but no academic papers describing a correlation between such laws and negative outcomes for gun owners. Honestly, please point me in the direction of this evidence that you want me to believe exists. This "you hurt my feelings so I'm not going to prove you wrong" just comes off as divertive, Mr. Wozniak.

Woz said...

Hold on, let me see if I can do this:

Ha, ha. Of course you can't find it. Your program sucks and you don't know how to do research. God I'm amazed at how easy it is to get a degree in whatever field you're in.

Did I do it right?

Anonymous said...

So you're saying... you don't have any evidence? Or just that you refuse to provide any when someone less well-versed in the subject asks you for proof?

WVU must be really hard up for adjuncts.

John Wozniak said...

The bad thing about most internet posts is that they can be done using a pseudonym or being anonymous. This allows anyone to post any position, no matter how ridiculous, without taking responsibility for it. I find it interesting that your opponent here' who obviously is fairly conservative, will not take responsibility for his opinion by putting his name by it.

Anonymous said...

You should find it more interesting that your son here, who somehow got a job as an academic, refuses to provide any evidence for the outlandish assertion that he makes. "Uhhh go find proof yourself!" isn't what real professors do, John.

Woz said...

Oh, Dima. Two quick things -- one, the research is readily available if you know how to operate a computer. I'll refer you to my previous insult for further info.

Two, would you maybe have any idea why asking someone a question and then insulting them for no reason would make them less likely to want to spend their time doing research for you?

Maybe you should get a research assistant. Like I have. Because I have a job. Unlike you. Because you're not smart or talented enough to get one.

Hey, I'm getting really good at these ridiculous insults. Thanks for the lessons!

Anonymous said...

Ignoring the fact that you keep mistaking me for someone else (wrong department, Mr. Wozniak), I can't help but notice that you continue to divert when asked to cite evidence for your claims. As I pointed out, I already did a search and found no evidence, so your continued refusal to prove me wrong just reflects the fact that you can't. Fine by me--you're not the first asshole to make stuff up on the internet.

While such antics might be acceptable at West Virginia University, surely a real university (or any actual academic field) would frown upon a professor writing a paper where every endnote says "Find it yourself." Luckily, like most assistant professors, you are unlikely to be given tenure, which is a shame because anyone who manages to publish in the esteemed journal "Feminist Criminology" must be a real scholar.

PS: As someone defending my thesis in the next month, I will admit to not having a research assistant. :( ... That said, I do already have a position lined up for after I graduate, and as your employer is a public institution, I've already been able confirm that I'll be making almost three times as much as you will be making next year. Better start forming that professor union ASAP!

Woz said...

Ok, last comment before I give up this thread.

"I already did a search and found no evidence"

Ha! I do indeed have you mistaken. I thought you were a graduate student, but you're clearly a first-year in undergrad. Because those are the only people I've ever run into who have mistaken their inability to find information with an insistence this means said information doesn't exist. You should probably speak to your advisor and ask them why your program doesn't teach you basic research skills.

Also, thanks for insulting feminism. I knew you were an ass and a racist, but I could only assume you were also sexist. Now I can go ahead and confirm it for my records.

Oh, and by your logic, I'm convinced you do not have a job. Since you have not given me extensive documentation proving you have a job, clearly it's something you made up. Or I could be as sad and pathetic as you and spend all of my time researching some person I barely know, but I actually have things to do with my life. Also, I don't know who you are because you're a coward who doesn't use his/her name. That's ok, though, cowards have always amused me greatly, and you are no exception.

Ok, well, I think that wraps it up. Please insult me one more time so you can feel like you've won some sort of debate we're apparently having, and then we can all move on with our lives.