Outliers, and Doing Something

Did fifteen inches of grading, crushed some dreams, and now there's time for some rambling,  motivated by the recent tragedy in Connecticut and BD's question "How do you regulate crazy".


A few points to start off with:

1. The difference between a country where mass shootings are rare,  and one where they are (relatively) common, boils down to whether 1 person in 10,000,000 snaps,  or 10 in 10,000,000 snaps.   Even in someplace supposedly ultraviolent - Juarez, for example - the newsworthy killings are carried out a tiny number of outliers,  perhaps 1 person in 100,000.

2. On the other hand, when measuring social, medical, or criminal events that are common,  like voting, heart attacks, or ordinary one-on-one murders,  it is extremely difficult to measure the effect of contributing factors to an accuracy of even 1%.     Simply taking larger and larger samples doesn't help, the problem is the the large number of uncontrollable factors involved. 

3. The fact that one can't measure the contributing factors very accurately doesn't mean they aren't there, and significant.  For example, take suicide rates versus time:

Those trends are not statistical noise.  Given the huge number of events,  and the huge population pool,  statistical noise should not even be visible on the scale of the graph.    Something was definitely happening,  and of course one can correlate it with the economy, war, etc.  But a social scientist would be very hard pressed to predict whether a given future change in the economy or a proposed war would cause a 5% versus a 6% change in the suicide rate.  There are just too many variables.


So, someone snaps, and happens to have at hand the right weapon and  the right target, and just as importantly, they happen to snap in just that rare, precise way that removes their inhibitions on violence but leaves intact their ability to formulate a plan and follow through on it. 
Naturally we want to do something to prevent the next one. And maybe we should, but my issue comes up when the proposed solution to an outlier problem is a general rule that will apply to everyone, or to some very large group that happens to include the outliers of interest.

I'll stay off guns for now because the issue has too much baggage attached.   Let's say, instead, that the proposed rule is something relatively mild:  on the standardized academic tests that every 8th grader takes, we'll mix in a dozen or so questions about feelings of anger, shame, etc.   No follow up, no mandatory treatment, no required intervention, no reassignment.  Just an "awareness" measure so the principal will know if any kids scored 9+ out of 12, and can be on the lookout for other warning signs.   The proposers are optimistic and think it might preempt one shooter out of 10.  Actually, it doesn't matter what the details of the plan are.  The plan could be to change the lunch trays from purple to pink.  If you do this - or anything really - to 20,000,000 school kids,  you can't be sure that it doesn't cause (for example) a 0.1% lifetime increase in some other relatively common, less newsworthy form of violence, e.g. suicide.   The mechanism could be that the test questions bring successfully suppressed emotions back to the surface, or lead to subtle changes in how the teacher treats the whole class, or that pink becomes associated with shooting in people's  minds.  Or it could equally well be that the test questions and the colored trays actually decrease the suicide rate. The point is, you don't know and an effect that size can't be measured. 

But a change of 0.1% in the suicide rate is 25 deaths a year, enough to completely swamp the 10% chance your test questions might stop a 20 victim shooting.    If your intent was to minimize violent deaths,  you don't know whether you helped or hurt.  And no amount of record keeping or stats will tell you.


Does this mean do nothing?  Not at all.   When the proposed action only applies to the outliers, or to a small group that includes them,  the unmeasurable effects scale down as well.  For example, if one changes the rules  on how police respond to an in-progress shooting ,  the rules only apply rarely, and even a 10% chance that the change might make the cops shoot the wrong person might be worth it if you judge these things solely by body count.

Does this mean never address problems through general laws?  Not that either.  If a  generally applicable gun law (for example) is likely to have an effect on regular murders,  of which we have 10's of thousands,  the expected benefit may be many times the size of any unmeasurable consequence,  again only judging by body count.

My point is that it almost never makes sense to address a problem affecting 20 or even 200 people by creating a new law or process for 300,000,000 people,  no matter how innocuous it seems.


And now for a bit of partisan ranting.  This habit of smacking outliers with a rule affecting everyone is not limited to crime,  and it seems to be a tendency particularly of the left.  School shooters are the issue of the week,  but blanket policy change seems to be the preferred solution to every problem.   Something on the order of 1% of the population freeloads at the emergency room,  and this justifies regulating the health care of every person in America.  Some tiny fraction of 1% makes meth out of cold medicine,  and everyone is limited to buying only a few days supply.

In general, the Precautionary Principle, applied to wrongdoing, is not compatible with a free society.  But even if one cares nothing for liberty, when the problem being addressed is tiny compared to the unmeasurable consequences of the solution,  it doesn't even make sense numerically.

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Department of Bad Timing:


While Wayne LaPierre gave a speech in which he blamed society for the tragedy in Newtown, there was another mass shooting in Pennsylvania. This time three state troopers were wounded as well.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

I watched this on CNN International.

mmghosh's picture

I was half-expecting him to suggest armed guards for state troopers.


Over here, people are suggesting the military save the paramilitary from militants.  Is insanity infectious?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

How about the Dept of can we


How about the Dept of can we please ignore the NRA and gun nuts now?  They are clearly unserious wankers who cannot be trusted to contribute in good faith.  America's vast individual freedoms (ha!) are often touted as the reason for our love of guns.  BS, I says.  Gun fetishism is fed by money from corporate interests and the far right wing.  The former to increase sales and the latter to scare up votes.  They have zero interest in the safety of Americans except insofar as it hurts their image.  Eff em.

This is rather wrong


You can bash on LaPierre at will, he looks like he needs it.  But LaPierre has the distinction of actually having less influence than Obama in successfully boosting gun distribution....in two countries now. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Which way were you taking that dark humor Darth?

brutusettu's picture

What has Obama done to boosting of gun distribution that isn't because Obama is considered by some teh Onc3 Kenyan Anti-Colonist Socialist Muslim Atheist Commie Hell Bent On Taking Guns Away In His First Term 2nd Term?


Arming Libyans and Syrians?




I'll believe the US isn't giving Syrians weapons when this latest winter solstice day ends up ending the world.



Anyway, you'd like. But you spelled Mexico wrong.


And one need not consider Obama to be anything but a man of his word when it comes to gun control. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Some attractive Mexican die from one of those or something?

brutusettu's picture

Did Obama actually play any actual role in the gun walking?

Does he have any actual ability to curtail gun distribution?  I know he's actively help give the go to deport large numbers of people and crack down on weed.  I've honestly missed it if he's actual done anything to help gun distribution other than not try to take LaPierre's stockpile of precious away.

Of course Obama had no role at all.


He was just the chief executive of an organization that decided to forego it's own laws, permit guns to be distributed across the border and subsequently lose a few....thousand, then shield the program from investigation, it's not like he has any responsibility there or anything.  Nothing to see here and anyone who says otherwise is just crazy.  Doubly so if anyone accuses the administration for setting this stuff up to enact tougher gun laws just to have the administration call for tougher gun laws in six months.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


brutusettu's picture

Nothing to see here and anyone who says otherwise is just crazy.  Doubly so if anyone accuses the administration for setting this stuff up to enact tougher gun laws just to have the administration call for tougher gun laws in six months.


Obama, been like 6 months away from talking about taking 'way guns since 2008TM?



I might have to a make a mental note of this.

Obama has responsibility

HankP's picture

but I seriously doubt he had a role. Holder is probably the highest level official who had summary level knowledge of the operation.


And no, I don't think Holder has done a good job at justice. I'd like to see him replaced.


I blame it all on the Internet

Works for me.


There's a good article on Slate on the same issue. This is the best description of the modern NRA as any:

Yet today, LaPierre got up and described the gun lobby's vision of our future: "A police officer in every single school." "Armed security ... building design ... access control ... information technology." "An active national database of the mentally ill."

This is the NRA’s idea of a free country. Kindergarteners on lockdown. Federal monitoring of everyone's mental-health status. Cops in every hallway.

The experts and counterexperts can and will keep arguing about the local and regional crime-rate effects under our ever-expanding concealed-carry and open-carry laws. One trend line, though, seems obvious: The Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment have been moving in opposite directions. The NRA has racked up legislative triumph after legislative triumph, extending gun rights into airports, bars, churches, and schools. Yet rather than deferring to the armed public, the police have grown ever more militarized, ever less concerned with warrants, ever more willing to respond to disorderliness with overwhelming force. The government is collecting your email and tracking your phone. Drones are flying police missions in American skies. More than 2 million people are incarcerated.

None of that came up in LaPierre's discussion today, though he had time to denounce video games and the media. An ugly, violent, oppressive world is the world he wants. It's the world that gun culture thrives in. The only liberty that matters to these people is the liberty to kill.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)



Boehner doesn't have the votes for plan B; House drinks and goes home. Dow futures down 200, Bloomberg says. Anyone have a plan A?

They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

Seriously, now what?


Republicans care about tax cuts for the wealthiest more than they care about deficit reduction or spending cuts, and Boehner doesn't have the support of his conservative caucus.


Didn't we already learn that in 2011? Yet there was almost nothing different about this round, save Boehner's Plan B strategy, which failed.


The Whitehouse needs to reorient and try a different strategy. I suggest it stop the deal-making-in-chief, centrist, crapola, capitulation, bipartisanship nonsense, put on a campaign style political operation after 1/1, and then work on peeling off enough Republicans to more or less kick the can down the road.


I didn't see much political pressure from the WH, just counter-offers that caved on previously announced deal-breakers like SS, the $250k income ceiling, and raising the debt ceiling. 

It would be hilarious if it


It would be hilarious if it wasn't so damn sad.  Boehner -- goodnight, sweet prince.  Poor bastard.  The hatred directed at you by your own party, I do not envy.


But.  My reptilian brain says eff-em.  Take the opportunity to twist the knife in the teabaggers.  They have wrought so much destruction and injected so much idiocy into the national "conversation" the past four years.  It is time they took a bow and let the sane conservatives step up.


Your way forward would be a huge victory for the Dems.  Is it even possible?  The WH will try, whether in good faith or not, to forge a compromise of some kind that can pass the House.  Problem is -- any Republican who votes for it knows they are handing Obama a feather the size of Florida to stick in his hat.  Tough sell.  We are, as usual, screwed.

Good points Eeyn, but you're only hitting half the issue


'This habit of smacking outliers with a rule affecting everyone...', the other half, and the one I suspect is a little more common is smacking everyone with the rule and justifying it by the outliers.  And you're completely right, it's not just crime.  Education is an example, and an example that happens to have been advanced by the right with NCLB.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Can't I get a single response simply titled


"Eeyn, you're right" ?


But actually, Darth, you're right.  Education is plagued by this kind of stuff, both at the national level but also within institutions, and the particular one you mention was pushed by the right.


Just to give you one example (out of many) from higher ed-  a few institutions in TX,  in order to maximize their own funding,  were in the habit of telling community college transfers that little or nothing they'd taken counted and they'd have to do essentially the whole four years from scratch.  So, the authorities stepped in with rules that basically say if the state paid for a course it's good and institutions receiving the transfers can't screen courses for quality.   Around the same time they passed rules that evaluate community colleges largely on retention and throughput.   You can guess what that's led to.



Eeyn, you're right.


But you're stepping on my thing and I suspect that'll attract videos from an apparently very bored ginger doctor.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

You're baiting me. I sense a trap




golf clap.

9/11 was an outlier,

Bird Dog's picture

and in the bigger picture, not many were killed. Yet that event fostered all kinds of responses. I can see how 20 murdered schoolchildren would spark an intense bout of "do something" syndrome.

And I do think we do need to do something. I'm not opposed to some additional regulations on firearms, but it can't be just that. There are too mentally ill people who are too easily getting access to lethal weaponry. 

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

The problem is...


that the weapons used in Newtown were legally purchased and kept by the shooter's mother. The damned fool woman obviously didn't properly secure them, and paid the ultimate price. If she'd survived or hadn't been targeted, I would have liked to have seen her prosecuted as an accessory to murder.


There's a good story on gun regulation over at The Great Orange Satan discussing the Constitutional limits of gun control. Heller was not carte blanche for the gun-fondlers to load up with everything short of tactical nukes. From Heller:Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues....


We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.”  We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”


It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment ’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

I'd start with banning assault-type weapons, high-capacity ammo clips, and fire rates greater than one round per second. I'd also limit bulk ammunition purchases, and put and end to sales of weapons and ammunition over the internet. I'd also like to see a buyback program of assault type weapons like Australia mounted. Finally, those that choose to keep such weapons should have to store and use them at a secured, safe shooting range.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)


M Scott Eiland's picture

Are we going to start limiting all other constitutional rights to the levels they were at in 1789--including the instrumentality of those rights?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).



We've left nothing of the Fourth Amendment post-9/11 but a few mummified remains. Funny how the only civil rights conservatives seem to care about are gun rights.

Let's see who's more sympathetic: the twenty butchered children of Sandy Hook Elementary and the teachers who died trying to protect them, or this defective's baby:

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

I'm sure you are aware that the civil libertarian


response to a curtailing of a civil liberty is not to use it to excuse further curtailment of civil liberties.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Yes, But This Isn't A Civil Libertarian Argument

M Scott Eiland's picture

It's a "EWW, GUNS ARE ICKY!" argument that allows for all sorts of Rosie O'Donnell level reasoning masquerading as legal precedent.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

No, it's not.


You should save the invective for someone impressed by it.


I do not find guns "icky", and, in fact, would be willing to bet that even as rusty as I am, I'm a better shot than you are. I know how to handle guns safely and have since I was about eight. This is not about finding guns "icky:" it's about public health and safety. I have nothing against hunting or hunting rifles or shotguns. I don't have anything against handguns, either, although I bet my father's .357 magnum revolver is a hell of a lot more reliable than any semi-automatic ever made. I've never been a hunter myself, but I enjoy target shooting.


You do not need a 30 round clip to go target shooting. It takes no skill to shred a target with an AR-15: any inbred fatboy in camouflage pajamas can do that. It does take some skill and practice to accurately sight in a rifle or handgun and group shots closely together.


Same goes for hunting. You get one shot, maybe two before your prey is spooked and gone. If you think you need a sustained burst of fire to get your deer, I don't want to be in the same time zone while you're out in the woods.


This talk of "civil rights" is crap. Those twenty kids in Newtown and their teachers had civil rights, too. Hell, my three kids have civil rights, too, including the right to learn and play in a school environment that doesn't resemble the Green Zone in Baghdad.


If gun-fondlers lose some of their privileges, it will because they've spent more time completely self-absorbed, worrying about the injustice of not being allowed to conceal carry at a day care instead of encouraging responsible gun ownership and safety, and policing their own.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Hold on, man. This isn't quite right.


Gun owners have advocated for responsible gun ownership and safety.  It's gun owners that run the training classes for permit holders. I'm sorry but it's the progressives who pushed shooting clubs and courses out of schools.  It's odd that progressives and fundamentalists take the exact same approach to gun safety training and rubbers respectively. 

I love the .357 cartridge and have been quite pleased with the majority of revolvers I've shot in that caliber,it also shoots 38 special if you want to plink on the cheap or shoot a lighter load.  My question would be why the police who work in the same environment we live, work and play in have dropped it as a service sidearm.  BTW, you previously posted that you'd make that .357 illegal when you said you'd ban any gun capable of firing more than one shot/second.

Shoot an AR15 sometime.  Seriously, give one a shot.  They are quite accurate with many coming off the shelf capable of 1-1.5 MOA.  With your normal off the shelf bullets they are good for a 3-400 yard shot.  With heavy match bullets  and a good barrel they can stretch out to 800 yards, they just don't have a lot of energy.  Now, I wouldn't recommend one for home defense but if it's what one decides to have then I would suggest a good quality high capacity magazine.  Again, why are the police carrying these things or a suitable substitute, often in the trunks of their cars that are parked in the places we live, work and play.

The talk of civil rights is not crap.  Look at your logic here.  If gun owners lose their privileges(?) it's because they didn't give up their rights.  Well, that's a logical approach I guess.  I guess it's in tune with the gun grabbers making a lot of noise right now just to see shelves cleaned out of rifles, bullets and magazines.  You guys have done more to get more guns in the public in the last six days than the NRA has in the last six years.  Congrats.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

My experience with the .357


is that many people can't handle the recoil. Presumably the police get more training so that might not be as much of an issue with them but smaller people are still going to have more problems with it and departments may want to standardize.


As for high capacity magazines I did some competitive target shooting when I was younger and yes high capacity magazines are handy when you're firing off lots of rounds in practice. But that's just an issue of convenience for gun owners and has no relevance for any realistic self defense scenario.

Yeah, the recoil on those is a bear.


I remember needing to take extra time bracing myself as a teenager when I did any target practice with that gun. I also heard tales from state troopers we knew about stray round traveling through engine blocks. I think (but am not sure) that one of the reasons the NY State Police went to 9mm was that the cartridge was less powerful.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Nice and all but I'm struck


Nice and all but I'm struck how pro-gun people talk about this like it is a religious argument.  It ain't.

Heet, you're right.


 It's not a religious argument.  Maybe a link or two where religious type arguments are being made would help me understand what you're getting at.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Except it is a religious argument Darth


defining religious as something based on faith and not reason and facts. As I've said here before I'm a former NRA member who owns or has owned many guns in my lifetime. I left the NRA because at some point the organization lost all contact with reality.

Floater, what argument is religious?


You guys have both now proposed that a religious argument is being made.  Then define the argument you're having with these sanctified types.  You guys are throwing some assessment out there and then telling each other you agree w/o defining what you agree on.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Religion by definition is based on faith


and for a religious person facts that contradict their beliefs are irrelevant. There are multiple ways that this applies to the gun debate. For example a commonly held belief is that a heavily armed populace protects us from government tyranny. There is no good evidence to support this and plenty of evidence against it but it's an article of faith amongst some (but certainly not all) who are against tighter regulation of firearms. Another is the belief that permissive firearms laws lead to lower rates of violent crimes. There is no evidence of this at all.

Floater, it isn't faith. You guys have been wrong


Ding! the perfect example.

'Another is the belief that permissive firearms laws lead to lower rates of violent crimes.'  Actually one making that statement can demonstrate a strong correlation to support that statement.  It's your side in this debate that has repeatedly predicted liberal firearms laws leading to higher crime rates.  Your side was wrong, like out to freaking lunch wrong, our murder and violent crime stats are approaching the lowest they've been in 50 years.

There's not so much as a nod that the Washington DC murder rate dropped like a rock after the Heller decision.  You remember DC right?  The place that had a retarded murder rate and strict gun laws and the reason the murder rate was so high was because the guns were coming from places that had more liberal gun laws.  Places BTW, that didn't have anywhere near as a high a murder rate.  You guys were wrong.

Then there are these BS statistics and word games, always a tool of charlatans.  'Gun related deaths' metrics when the people pushing these stats know full good and well that nearly two thirds of these deaths are suicides.  So where do we stand on suicide rates since guns are such a problem.  Well France, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and a few other countries are a bit worse off than us.  Canada, Ireland, Iceland and Switzerland do better but just barely.  And one shouldn't forget those gun soaked countries like Japan and S.Korea that approach double our suicide rates.  You guys were and continue to be wrong.



In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I posted some evidence


re: Australia and its law removing semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession, as a key component of gun law reforms. Here


Results: In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed.


This seems esp. germane b/c it's the type of reforms being discussed by liberals in the US. 

And the Cultures Are Very Similar, Individualistic, Masculine



...outdoors, so it is heartening to me to see "Gun Grabbing," on a massive scale having such a positive and profound effect.


This is to be remembered and pointed out at every opportunity.


Best Wishes, Traveller

I was out drinking once

HankP's picture

with a friend of a friend who's Australian. He told me that Australian women absolutely love American men. I asked him why, he said "Because Americans don't beat the sh!t out of them."


I blame it all on the Internet

Is that right? I'd have never thought that about Australians


I've never seen that in a Fosters or Outback Steak House commercial or Crocodile Dundee.  Are you sure? 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

It kind of surprised me too

HankP's picture

since most Australians I've met are pretty good natured. Crazy, but good natured. But since I haven't visited there (yet) it appears that I've only seen a small, relatively affluent subset of Australians.


Now that I think of it, I think this happened at my bachelor party. Sometime between the first drink and when the twins showed up.


I blame it all on the Internet

When I was young I had the


When I was young I had the good idea and luck to go backpacking around Europe and SE Asia a few times.  Wonderful time.  But the hostels were absolutely filthy with Aussies.  Nice, fun loving folks who loved to one-up each other with stories of how cheap they went here or stayed there.  The word was the Australian women in the groups were often more available than they appeared because their male traveling companions were more interested in drinking than being decent boyfriends.  Never heard anything about violence, though.

Thanks for proving my point Darth


And for cherry picking statistics to support your faith. What is the region of the US with the lowest rates of violent crime? Why the Northeast. Which also happens to have the strictest gun laws in the country. What is the region of the US with the highest rates of violent crime? It's the south which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. That data is extremely well documented and it sure doesn't agree with your faith. Now unlike faith based folks I'll be the first to admit that there are other things affect violent crime rates besides gun laws. Which is why saying that a change in one particular law in one particular jurisdiction is entirely responsible for a decline in the crime rate is a perfect example of BS statistics and word games. The overall murder rate in the US has dropped like a rock everywhere. Claiming that the Heller decision is responsible for this in Washington is nonsense but that's the thing about faith. You ignore data that doesn't fit and only look at that which supports your faith.




Floater, while the overall murder rate has dropped


in the US, and yes dropped like a rock, it hasn't halved in 4 years like it has in DC.  No state and no major city has had the same decline.  It's not cherry picking either.  All eyes should be on DC, it's had the most restrictive gun laws in the nation with the one of the highest murder rates and has been a leading subject in the gun debate for years.  It's bordered by a gun rights state and a gun regulating state, but no state authority over it to add a layer of law.  It's as close to a pristine application of principle as we can get with the Heller decision.  Discounting it is cherry picking itself.

You say the data is well documented that tighter gun controls equal less crime.  The presentation by state is as valid as by region in fact better because regions don't pass laws but states do.  Of the states in the top 10 for murder rates 8 are rated as least restrictive by the Brady campaign.  Of the states on the bottom 10 for murder rates, 8 are rated as the least restrictive by the Brady campaign.  The states with the most restrictions are in the middle 20 except Hawaii at the bottom and Maryland tied for 4th.  OK, so we have 2 law making bodies to consider, the national level which has loosened restrictions and enjoyed a continuing drop in the national murder rate.  You have states with their mix of laws and end up being a mixed bag.  You have the seminal example in Washington DC but because I didn't use the 'regional' approach where there is no regional authority I'm cherry picking.  Maybe not so much.


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Sorry the data does not support your stance



Take a look a the crime rates in DC over the last 50 years.




The Heller case was decided in 2008. The number of murders dropped from 186 to 108 over that 4 year span. But if you look at the data you had a drop from 397 to 241 over the 4 year span from 1996 to 1999. A roughly equal percentage drop and a much bigger absolute drop during a time frame when the Heller decision was not relevant. That indicates that there are factors driving murder rates that are much larger than any possible impact from various gun control laws (and that is true no matter what side of that debate you come down on). Rather than me cherry picking Darth it's you who are doing it because you are ignoring data from Washington DC itself if it does not support your position.


Your insistence on looking at States and your quoted data is another example of cherry picking. The states with the lowest murder rates in the country tend to be either in the Northeast or rural states with small populations. In fact the 10 states with the lowest murder rate in the country also correlates well with the states with the smallest populations. Here are the 10 states with the lowest murder rates.


42. South Dakota 2.1
43. North Dakota 1.9
44. Vermont 1.9
44. Oregon 1.9
46. Rhode Island 1.8
47. Hawaii 1.7
48. Maine 1.6
49. Montana 1.5
50. Iowa 1.2
51. New Hampshire 1.1


8 of those states are also included in the bottom 10 for population as well. Montana has very weak gun laws but trying to draw conclusions by comparing it and New York given the vast difference's between the two is more than an abuse of statistics.


Heller was decided mid year 2008.


DC's murder rate will have to triple in the next 8 days or so for it to fail to halve the rate of homicides since 2008.  It has not halved in any other four year period.  I'm pretty sure had the murder rate not dropped faster than the national murder rate you'd be pointing to DC as an example of how liberalizing gun laws is a failure.

'That indicates that there are factors driving murder rates that are much larger than any possible impact from various gun control laws'

And I thank you very much for making the argument to respect gun owner's rights.  I'm arguing to maintain the status quo you're the one with the burden to show how change, particularly controversial change will have not just an impact but a positive one.  You can't do it.  You guys have nothing but speculation and some odd notion that the founders really wanted to go hunting so desperately that they devoted an amendment to the cause.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Really this is getting tiresome Darth


You keep ignoring anything that doesn't fit your faith. No comment on the huge decrease from 1996 to 1999 which in absolute terms dwarfs the decrease after Heller? No consideration given to other factors that may have impacted the murder rate in DC? If you don't know what caused the decline from 1996 to 1999 there is no way to attribute the decline from 2008 onwards to any specific cause.

As for this claim of yours

I'm pretty sure had the murder rate not dropped faster than the national murder rate you'd be pointing to DC as an example of how liberalizing gun laws is a failure.


It's not only nonsense it's insulting. Try to base your assertions on what I've actually said and not on some fantasy about what you think I might say. I've been pretty clear that I support the right of private citizens to own firearms but that doesn't mean I think the status quo is satisfactory. Figuring out the best solution is not necessarily easy but the the current status quo makes it very easy for mentally ill people to get ahold of assault weapons and that is not acceptable to me.

Sorry you're tired. But....


I'm not claiming what is or isn't the cause for drops in crime rates.  I'm claiming that attributing the rates to gun ownership can't be right.  You can't have homicide trends adjusting independent of gun rights/controls and claim guns are the problem, which is all one need do to recommend the status quo regarding gun rights.  I believe I have made my case, anyone linking gun rights to increased violence has yet to do so. 

Nobody wants disturbed individuals to get guns.  This brings back around to eeyn's point, tailor the response to the problem. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

There's a problem with your analysis

HankP's picture

most of the illegal guns in New York come from states with much laxer gun laws.


We don't have internal borders in this country, individual states can't control what happens a days drive away.


I blame it all on the Internet

No, my analysis is just another way of


laying out the stats.  A better way IMHO.  What your presenting is something different.  Why does NYC with restrictive gun laws have such a low murder rate (6/100k) while Newark also with strict gun laws have a high murder rate (32/100k).  Baltimore and Boston both similar sized cities with restrictive gun laws but Baltimore having a murder rate 3x as high.  The Texas cities of comparable size all have lower murder rates.  Why is New Orleans such a friggin basket case? There's just no common factor between these cities and states regarding gun control and homicide rates. 


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

The point is

HankP's picture

that because there are no internal borders, gun laws in individual states don't have nearly the effect that they would compared to national laws.Sure, different areas have different issues that will impact the violence that they experience. But guns cross the state lines with ease.


I blame it all on the Internet



free transport of guns across state lines would invalidate both Floater's and Darth's arguments? 

Hard to say

HankP's picture

Floater was talking about overall crime rates, Darth was talking about more about gun laws. But the fact that it's trivially easy to move guns across state lines certainly hurts the gun law argument. I don't think guns make people more violent, but if people are more violent (for whatever reason) guns tend to make the results more lethal.


I blame it all on the Internet

No, what I was doing was


taking a dump all over Eeyn's diary after he said he didn't want to drag the issue of guns into it.  I live for dumping on Eeyn's diaries.  He should post more.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

There's a fresh unspoilt one


waiting for you.

Case in point,



"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

"Gun Grabbers," Say it Loud, Say it Proud...Only Sane People...





Gun Grabbers? It is a badge of sanity and term of honor.


Thanks, Scott, for the opportunity to remind people of this compelling fact.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Trav I'm not a gun grabber


I've owned a lot of guns in my lifetime and I've fired many thousands of rounds. I support the right of private citizens to own firearms. But that right carries responsibilities with it and the problem with the gun lobby today is that they don't want any part of the responsibility.

I Do Take You At Your Word, Floater, You Are Not A Gun Grabber



...I am....lol


But your position does seem responsible and certainly more likely to prevail than mine.


Which is not to say I am not going to give up persisting in my efforts.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Don't Bother Liberals With Facts On This

M Scott Eiland's picture

One of the most notorious cases of gland-centered liberal "thinking" is of Rosie O'Dimwit stating flatly that she wouldn't care if evidence showed that concealed carry laws saved lives, because she didn't want to see the Wild West. In other words: "GUNS ARE ICKY!" (except when the hypocritical d****it is retaining armed bodyguards, of course). Sadly, there are no shortage of liberals who aren't living examples of why chewing on lead based paint chips as a child is a bad idea who have no problem with adopting her arguments.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

It really is time to update your conservatism


Nobody but you has ever brought her up on this site in its entire history. And yet you bring her up repeatedly.


I personally haven't seen her in the news in I don't know how long. Years?


Reading you arguing with Rosie O'Donnell is like reading some grandpa who's still bringing up Hanoi Jane from 40 years ago.


It really is time to update your conservatism.

And Yet Her Arguments Pop Up Here And Elsewhere

M Scott Eiland's picture

"Wild West!" phrasing and all. You certainly can't argue that no one here has argued for confiscating most or all firearms, "Second Amendment be damned."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I heard Hitler was a vegetarian


Same thing, different pile. 


I wonder what Hanoi Jane would say about all this.

It Wasn't Central To His Politics

M Scott Eiland's picture

"Guns are icky WILD WEST WILD WEST!" is pretty much Rosie The Idiot core philosophy, and it pops up constantly with little else to redeem it.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

To my knowledge, there is not a single poster here


who has said "guns are icky." Feel free to prove me wrong.


And while it may not be your intent, invoking Rosie O'Donnell comes across as "I can't think of a rational answer, so I think I'll just fling some poop around the room."

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

I don't think you get it

HankP's picture

Scott's implying that some people here actually follow Rosie O'Donnell and pay attention to what she says. PRV or not? You decide.


I blame it all on the Internet



Such an insinuation is insulting to the poster, and his ancestors going back at least ten generations.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Rosie O'Donnell is to liberals


what Glenn Beck is to conservatives.  She's a conspiracy-mongering nitwit.


In any event, we're dealing with hypotheticals. DO concealed-carry laws save lives? How exactly to you measure that without controlling for a ton of other factors?

That's Definitely Worth Looking At

M Scott Eiland's picture

Although the flip side of your point is that there is certainly no proof that relaxing gun laws has increased the overall violence rate--which is why incidents like the ones in CN, OR, & PA get jumped on with both feet by gun grabbers, small sample size and myriad confounding factors be damned. The question is--if conclusive evidence ever does emerge to support the proposition that concealed carry saves lives, are we just going to see the usual suspects whining "WILD WEST!" to fend off the conclusion?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

These are hard studies to do


These are hard studies to do b/c of confounding factors, many of which there is disagreement over.  It would be easier to carry out if Congress hadn't made it impossible for the CDC or NIH to study the problem.


Our government at work, ya'll!

There's at least one study


on the subject here:


This is the abstract-

Long guns are used primarily for hunting, a reasonably well-regulated sport, but a handgun is intended primarily for the shooting of another human at close range. The manufacture, importation, and purchase of handguns far surpasses that of long guns. Data indicate that handguns rarely protect their owners from criminals, and most are involved in accidental deaths and in suicides. Many are stolen from the homes of law-abiding citizens and used in other crimes. The best self-defense is a good alarm system, thorough police patrolling, and a neighborhood watch program. The myth that gun ownership deters crime is exposed when data show that violent crime is less in the Northeast, where gun ownership is lowest and gun laws stricter, and violent crime rates are highest in the South, which leads the Nation in gun ownership and in the laxity of gun laws. A comparison of the rate of handgun killings in the United States with the rates in other countries with stricter gun control laws shows the effectiveness of gun control legislation, but it must be a nationwide regulation if it is to be maximally effective.

I need to read the whole study, but it tracks with other science I've seen on the subject.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

I'll assume it's poor writing


"Data indicate that handguns rarely protect their owners from criminals, and most are involved in accidental deaths and in suicides."


Even taking "most" to mean a bare majority,  that would mean 135,000,000 gunshot deaths.  I'll assume it was just very poor editing.


"accidental deaths" are a proper subset of all deaths



Well, LePierre lashed out at


Well, LePierre lashed out at the unwashed, non-gun-owning heathens and blamed gun violence on everything except guns.  He even went to so far as to claim we needed more Jesus, er guns, in schools fix all that evil gun violence.  As an aside, this is about the dumbest and most unserious argument he could have put forth so, he has that going for him.  As I said elsewhere, can we start ignoring those idiots yet?


Equating gun ownership to freedom and America is a tiresome and predictable argument I hear daily.  Something you hear from Evangelicals about Jesus with similar regularity.  No links needed.

And Darth, you're also right:


The characteristics of the AR-15 that make it suitable for police work make it a terrible choice, IMHO, for home defense. I live in an area where there are other houses nearby. I don't need or want a weapon that can send a bullet 400 - 800 yards away. There's too much of a chance that I could hit an unintended target with tragic consequences. Your mileage may vary, but if I need a long gun to stop someone, give me a 12 guage shotgun.


If the NRA was truly concerned with gun safety (like they used to be when I was a kid), they'd encourage shotguns for home defense. They're more apt to hit the intended target, and less apt to send a stray round into a neighborhood kid's playroom.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)



In some areas of the country deer hunting with high powered rifles is illegal. Shotguns only for the simple reason that rifle bullets can go a long way.



Deer hunting with shotguns?  Really?

Yeah, shotguns. But there's a tradition here.


In PA you just have the slugs in case you run into a bear.  For a deer one is expected to use the shotgun as a club.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

That's the only way I've ever done it

HankP's picture

in Pennsylvania and Vermont.


I blame it all on the Internet

Slugs, Presumably

M Scott Eiland's picture

Otherwise you'd probably have to get a tad close.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

But wouldn't a slug


give you the range/danger one was trying to eliminate, without the accuracy?


It's a real question,  I don't know much about hunting.

Buckshot or slugs


In heavy cover buckshot is not a bad choice. You can't see very far anyway so the 35 to 40 yard effective range for 00 buck is not much of a limitation. Slugs go further than buckshot but nowhere near as far as a rifle bullet.

Shotgun barrels aren't


Shotgun barrels aren't rifled.  Wouldn't the slugs start to tumble pretty quick?  That makes for bad penetration and accuracy.

The shape and weight distribution


of a slug provides some stabilization and they have plenty of stopping power for deer.

For work with a standard shotgun,

aireachail's picture

the slugs themselves are rifled.


But there are indeed shotguns with rifled barrels, designed exclusively for use with slugs or sabots.

I disagree, I mean I agree on being right:)


I agree on the AR-15, really any rifle, not being a good choice for home defense for the reasons you gave.  I'd also use a 12 ga.  I don't follow the logic of a suitability for police work making a firearm unsuitable for home defense.  In rural areas maybe, but then so too goes the home defense argument. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

How are people supposed to spray n' pray

brutusettu's picture

an entire clip through 2 walls if they don't use high powered assault rifles with munition packed with a full amount of gun powder?

Darth, you're right:


The .357 will shoot 38 special ammunition. My father, who has a somewhat warped sense of humor, used to take friends out to target shoot, and would load the first five chambers of the gun with 38 special ammo, and the last with a .357 round. It was always fun to watch the surprise when they fired that last shot...


I don't know exactly why police agencies dropped the .357, but if I recall, it was the relatively limited capacity of the weapon, and the fact that an automatic can be reloaded much more quickly. The police may operate in the same space I live in, but they use their weapons differently than I would. I can foresee pointing a revolver at an intruder. I can't see getting into a firefight. If that were to happen, I'd likely lose- I don't have the training.


As for the AR-15, I'll have to take you're word for it. I don't know anyone who has one, or where I'd go to try one out. My experience with military weapons consists of an episode in a production company in Salt Lake City: one of the employees brought in his Uzi to show off. I remember him passing the gun around, and his surprise when my first step when getting the weapon in my hands was making sure the chamber was empty and the safety on.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

What are you up to?


Here's the deal.  There's common ground.  Nobody wants the Lanzas of the world to get sharp objects let alone guns.  Politically, this issue has been a bear trap for Democrats and Republicans hold the house.  So I can't see any sweeping changes to gun laws.  The more gun control advocates advocate gun control then gun sales will be up, quite the opposite of their intent. 

So what's doable? 

We can close the gun show loophole but I doubt it'll survive judicial review if done at the federal level.  Get after the states.  It won't be fast but it'll stick.  The world won't change mainly because the loophole has been propagandized into being the ultimate evil that it isn't, but it's low enough hanging fruit and will now force background checks on all legal purchases.

Reintroduce gun training into schools.  Again, use the same approach we do with rubbers.  Target safe handling and prevent a few accidents, demystify the guns, which is why kids fool with them.

Figure out what's broke in our society.  MA gets that there is something broke.  Comparative murder rates, are astounding.  Discount guns, we're still murdering muldoons, though thankfully the rate is dropping across the board.  Your earlier 'gun deaths' comment is consistent with that statement as the majority of gun deaths are suicides.

We should rethink some things maybe.  I don't know that having an armed adult in schools is the right choice but I think that's a decision that can be made at school district levels.  I'm struck by the notion that none of us would find it odd to see several armed guards over money but the prospect is unthinkable for something most of us value more dearly.  Not just that but we go whole hog in the other direction and advertise that there is no protection in these places.  BTW, I don't think it's because an armed adult will swing in on a vine and save the day, the school might not even need an armed adult, we just shouldn't piss away any possible deterrent effect achieved by having someone believe there may be an armed adult present.



In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

The problem with armed guards.


If you have armed guards eventually one of them will go Lanza on the kids he's supposed to protect.


It's not hard to understand. Guards would not be cops. It would be too inefficient to have trained cops just sitting all day waiting for something to happen. So guards will be low paid contractors, armed, in schools. About 135,000 of them at any given time. The probability that these individuals will all be mentally stable is quite low. So one would expect "incidents", not necessarily mass murder, and thus dead kids.


The first such incident would throw a monkey wrench into the scheme, and the second would pretty much end the experiment. Another thing that would end it is if a school shooter took the simple step of starting with the guard.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

If You Allow People To Raise Their Own Kids. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .eventually one of them will molest or kill one or more of the kids. Time to raise everyone in a sealed environment with robots in charge, I suppose. Until one of those goes amok.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Armed rent-a-cops by teenagers, not a serious enough bad idea?

brutusettu's picture

funny gifs


1: Wouldn't there be an extremely low probability the rent-a-cop would ever be used?

  • Wouldn't they be the 1st target or made sure the rent-a-cop is no where near where a shooter started out?

2: Increased chance of Friendly Fire (especially if a rent-a-cop thinks saving teh day is their wet dream)

  • The rent-a-cop has a hammer, some things might start to look like nails when they're not.

3: Firearms on school grounds for a pissed off teenager to access 

4: Baldie Rent-a-cop doesn't want to go on up,  uses 9mm instead of 2 brown she bears



I'm not sold that armed rent-a-cop Bear Patrol wouldn't be a net negative.




I wasn't limiting the possibility to guards


Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of an armed teacher or other faculty.  I think in most schools you could find a teacher willing to go through the permitting and training process to carry a concealed firearm, hell I'd bet a lot of schools already have teachers who are qualified and permitted.  We could make the process more demanding, in fact I'd suggest we do so, to avoid the issues you raise and train for the unexpected dumba$$ who will try to get a teacher to pull a gun (think back to your HS days, that a$$hat was there).

From a policy standpoint it's a matter of leaving it up to local districts.  Maybe they actually arm a teacher maybe they don't but they can all ditch the 'gun free' advertisement.  The benefit is not so much as having the armed teacher as the belief that one might successfully resist an armed assailant.  That's the most important point.  For Christ's sake, if we have a problem with nuts getting guns can we at least stop hanging up signs saying 'sitting ducks here'.

Hank said the common factors are availability of guns and mental issues.  He's wrong, the common factors are 1 availability of guns to the loon, 2 the loon being a loon and 3 the targeted area advertises being defenseless.  1 is a protected right and even were the 2A repealed there's hundreds of millions of guns out there already.  2 I don't know how to fix that.  3 this can be fixed without stepping on a single right, at a lower cost than fixing 1 or 2, and IMHO has a better probability of success than any likely plan addressing 1 or 2. 


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Automatic shoot bots. n/t

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I see the slight flaw in your cunning plan

HankP's picture

which is that most of these attackers wind up killing themselves either directly or via suicide by cop. So I don't think that the possibility of someone being armed somewhere in the vicinity is going to be a disincentive. Even if there's no one armed on the premises, cops will be arriving within a few minutes. So I don't think that's going to be a deterrent.


I blame it all on the Internet

Hank, I disagree


Your response is rational but we're dealing with people that quite obviously don't think rationally.  The fact that they pick defenseless targets is something I suggest we don't ignore.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

But they don't

HankP's picture

there are plenty of shootings in workplaces and public places where there are no guarantees that everyone is unarmed.


Here's the thing - if you're facing someone who has no regard for their own life, even if you're armed you're at a disadvantage.


I blame it all on the Internet

By the way...


Biden's answer is why I'm heartened that the President is having him spearhead this long-overdue gun control initiative.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Only if you're an originalist nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

"1% of the population freeloads at the emergency room"

mmghosh's picture

Its likely to be more than that as 20% of your population is not covered by insurance, IIRC.  Its certainly more here, with the majority of our population not covered.


And even if it is correct, 1% of your pop is 3 million.  Isn't that roughly the size of your Armed Forces (who are mostly fit people?)  That many sick people, if you average $1000 a pop, can rack up a significant cost (tens, if not hundreds of billions) pretty quickly.


What is your problem with publicly managed healthcare, as laid out?  Lower cost, better outcomes, more research and innovation, more transparent etc.  And you can always take out a private option if you are smart and rich.


You really need to come to somewhere like here, if you want to see laissez faire in all its glory, with near-zero regulation and no Precautionary Principle.  I was revisiting some of Traveller's images about your early 20th century days.  It really does seem remarkably like the view outside my window right now.  Why do you think our wannabe elites emigrate as soon as they can?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Interesting points, thanks


Interesting points, thanks for the perspective.  Unintended consequences are an unfortunate part of trying to influence behavior.  The social scientists and economists are getting better at it, at least to hear them tell it.  I'm not sure.  The bottom line is -- the data is pretty clear that, at least in the US, in general less guns = less gun violence.  Correlation does not equal causation, however.


I'd also like to nitpick.  It isn't just liberals who like to influence behavior with laws.  You might have meant non-libertarians.

There are already ten states


in which the incidence of death from guns exceeds the number of deaths from car crashes.


Something to think about.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

That's a narrow comparison


A couple nitpicks.


People are killed in car crashes.  Cars also kill people through (a) environmental damage, (b) creating a need to fight wars to preserve energy supplies, (c) causing people to walk and exercise less,  and while we're at it (d) providing transportation for mass shooters.

Of course you'd point out that cars also provide some necessary functions.  Very true,  but that just goes to show that looking at body counts isn't very important.  Also, since I'm not in favor of banning cars or guns,  the relative death rate of the two isn't particularly relevant.


Also, your phrasing ("already") and the article's ("outpace") are misleading,  the implication being that the gun death rate is increasing even faster than the rate from those deadly cars.  In reality what's happening (see the graph in your link) is that gun deaths are more or less constant and cars are rapidly getting safer. 


But anyway....I don't dispute that overall gun deaths are a serious issue and that (constitutional issues aside) "doing something" about guns is at least a rational thing to consider. 


My point is that mass school shootings and similar events are a statistically negligible cause of death, and any policy driven by mass shootings will have unintended and unmeasurable consequences (good or bad) that are far larger in terms of body count.

You're partially right...


The biggest factor in the decreased number of auto deaths are the myriad technological advances in the past few years such as airbags, stability control, ABS brakes and toughened rollover standards.


It would be nice to see similar safety regulations applied to firearms and gun owners.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

The Question Never Has Been Outliers for Me or For Our Society



...I am afraid again that the the question posed is too meager for the horror that guns exact from our Society. From the suicide rate you note to the homicide rate to the intentional and unintentional injuries and maimings that guns Facilitate and make vastly easier to be done, to be inflicted, to be accomplished, to give vent to and make real and concrete vague and usually transitory madnesses to our vast and giggling populations...the numbers are crazy high compared to any other developed country....as to give lie to any claim that we are civilized...we are murderous as a country, in ethic and ethos, and happy to be where were are who we kill with such abandon.


I just resent all this puffing up that we are a good and just country when we are cheap with mental health funding, when we revel in the fact that the less fortunate have an economic boot across their neck...where greed and lobbyist rule the corridors of power...


I just want us to be honest about who we are as a people, cruel and largely indifferent to suffering, dedicated to each person getting what they can materially get in zero sum game, a society not dedicated to Justice or Fairness or Equality...these are given only in niggardly measure.


I am good with who we are as a country. I am not good with our self-deceit.



Justice or Fairness or Equality


And then there are Freedom and Liberty and Diversity.   If one is honest about it,  it has to be admitted that my three are to some extent incompatible with your three.  But I believe you and I could agree we aren't living up to our claimed standards on any of the six.


You remember the old saying about Southern hospitality and Southern violence being two sides of the same thing.  It's not clear to me that the aspects of US culture that make us more violent, greedy, and cruel than (say) Europeans can be separated form the aspects that make us successful in science and arts,  and more open to cultural and racial diversity*.  You make us into Swedes, we'll have less killing, but maybe we'll also have less music, fewer Nobel prizes, etc.


*Yes, we are more culturally open.  Europeans don't fight as much over such stuff because they largely devoted the 20th century to segregating themselves into different countries.  They don't have racism mostly because they don't have minorities.

Evidence that video games don't increase gun violence

HankP's picture



But to contest one of your points, far more than 1% of Americans use the emergency room as primary care. I don't know what your definition of "freeloader" is, but it massively increases costs for everyone. Far more than the tax increases that conservatives rail about.


I blame it all on the Internet

And, by the way...


Since you mention other countries:

Anders Behring Breivik knew it would take practice to be able to slaughter dozens of people before being shot by police.

In a chilling summary, the far-right fanatic claimed on  Thursday that he sharpened his aim by playing computer games for more than a year before Norway's worst peacetime massacre.

Breivik said he played the computer game Modern Warfare for 16 months starting in January 2010, primarily to get a feel for how to use rifle sights. In 2006 he devoted a full year to playing World of Warcraft, for 16 hours a day, he said.


This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I'm sorry,

aireachail's picture

but that's silly.


You cannot "sharpen your aim" by playing a video game.


Breivik no doubt thought he was sharpening his aim, but he's a loon after all.

He what?


He thought?


The victims didn't get the memo, did they? He killed 69 and injured 33 in nine sites on the island, with people running away out in the open.


You can sharpen your skills with computer simulation. I can tell you that as a pilot. Simulators are not the same as real life, but they help a lot. They are especially useful to rehearse procedures and sequences of events. The physical feeling is obviously not like reality, but it certainly is an effective tool to condition perception, response, and behavior.


This is why Breivik and Lanza could be so calm, lethal, and methodical. That's what the simulation gives you.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Me too.

aireachail's picture

I'm a pilot (lapsed now), and I also put in considerable time as a competitive shooter and team OIC while I was on active duty.


When I flew, I didn't do so by flapping my arms. The I/O between me and the control surfaces could be simulated pretty accurately. And I know of instances where novice Marine aviators panicked and actually tried to bail out of simulators because their senses had been so utterly fooled.


But computer simulation just can't duplicate the myriad physical inputs that are the crucial factors when employing a small arm. The contact between the shooter and the weapon is direct. It's why, even in 2012 and despite the expense, small arms marksmanship training is accomplished with real weapons and with real ammunition.


That game didn't induce him to murder. It didn't teach him how to operate that weapon. It didn't teach him how those kids were going to react on that particular island when he opened fire.


I don't think there's a single perfect answer for these mass shootings. Yet I wonder; why does anyone suppose there haven't been any mass shootings with class 3 select fire weapons? After all, it's legal to buy and own a Thompson 1921 A1, for example.


I think there's a clue in the answer...



I've shot at firing ranges


While I understand the difference, I think the state of mind the shooter is in when he is doing a Breivik/Lanza type walkthrough is too close an analog to a first person shooter scenario to simply ignore it.


You don't know that the game did not induce him to murder, or did not materially determine his approach to murder. Don't say that you know that. You don't. And there is reason to believe that it did.


I'll bet anyone that the next one will also be a first person shooter player.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I'm going by his own testimony,

aireachail's picture

which is that he began a program to fund his attack plans in 2002. That's 7 years before Modern Warfare was released and 4 years before he says he was spending so much time playing World of Warcraft.





He didn't say he hadn't used first person shooters before, he simply talked about his choice of training software.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Oh. OK.

aireachail's picture

I was pulling from the record. I didn't realize that you were using intuition.


My mistake.



I'm sympathetic to your idea here, it's simply not practical though.


Like I said, I detest the modern warfare type, 21st century style "realistic" shooters. I find them disrespectful of the real human beings, military and civilians, who go through that horror. Disgusting. But you can't ban it. It will never go away. Even now, you can (illegally) torrent downloads of Xbox games, and burn them to disk, and banning it will only make it a bigger thrill to a teenager.


I get your point, that the study of these games could possibly inspire a psycho to go on a mass murder spree, at least instill the kind of mindset. Can't unsh!t the bed as they say. Same thing with the guns, it's way too late for any kind of new regulation to have any meaningful impact. 20 dead little children won't even make a difference, let alone the thousands of other gun deaths every year.


Gun sales spiked after news broke out that 20 little kids were slaughtered in front of each other. And six women working in a school. and the shooter and his gun-nut mom.


USA! We're #1.

I'm guessing that...


...the various flight  simulators, driving simulators and surgery simulators are also silly contraptions used by misinformed loons. (/sarc.)

I agree that  there is no substitute for actual practice in carrying, aiming and firing a weapon, but if your intent is to acquire and kill as many targets as possible in rapid order,  a computer simulation can sharpen skills. I think the "loon" is correct here. His mission was a success.  

Air, some of these games are pretty amazing


I went through 14 monitors trying a game that would improve my play of horseshoes but I succeeded in the end.

In all seriousness, I'm not necessarily buying MA's argument but we've been using video 'games' in the Army to improve shooting techniques for 20 years or so.  Not sure if you ever worked with a Weaponeer, but there was a Nintendo based program that worked pretty well from any TV.  That's giving MA's theory very wide latitude to incorporate Breivik's statement but there's no harm in laying it all out there.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


aireachail's picture

well, there is software that's employed in basic (very basic) marksmanship training, but it requires the weapon and a range of some fashion. That's a far cry from any consumer-level video game.


Small arms by definition don't employ an "interface" between the shooter and the weapon, as opposed to say a tank, vessel, or aircraft. In those, it's fairly common to train with simulators and approach some semblance of realistic operation and results (and save $$ of course).


It's a maxim that becoming proficient with small arms is a mental exercise, but that really only means that it takes one's mind to factor in all of the critical and highly variable physical inputs happening as the weapon is aimed and fired. That can't be duplicated (heck, it can't even be approached) on a monitor. Consequently, they still line 'em up on the firing line.



Air, no what I'm talking about needs a TV


a Nintendo and a controller in the form of a simulated weapon (read rifle-like) that interfaces with the Nintendo box.  This was 15 years ago and no sh*t it was a nintendo.  The firer or trainer can adjust settings but the most common was to engage a target on the screen and at the point the trigger is pulled the 'game' records everything the muzzle did 3 seconds before and one second after the shot.  You know in seconds what the firer is screwing up, if anything.  It is indeed only basic marksmanship.

I'm not suggesting causality.  I'm just saying that the 'loon' claimed he used video games to sharpen his marksmanship and such things do exist and have for 15 years at least.  I think the ranges Breivik was shooting at hardly required much skill and so whatever skill he supposedly gained was likely irrelevant.  That being said, I'm interested in MA's idea.  He hasn't convinced me he's right but nobody has convinced me he's wrong either.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

15 years ago, on a Nintendo?

brutusettu's picture

I was 2 when Duck Hunt was released in the states, not a teenager.  That game is 28 years old in the Japan market.



I don't see video games helping more than barely just nominally. Not much from CoD will be helpful (Modern Warfare is in that series) Running around hip-firing won't be accurate.  Aim down sights for longer range, run out of ammo, switch to side arm, knife if that fails.  But remember, you won't run around like a vampire Usain Bolt if you put a LMG on your back and run around with a ballistics knife.

Yes, it was called M.A.C.S.


There's nothing flashy or sexy about it.  You have a controller that is a simulated M16.  Targets 'pop up' on the screen and you shoot at them.  One of the things you could do is just shoot a single target.  In that mode the controller was tracked before, during and after the shot.  A white 'trace' would appear on the target that showed how your muzzle moved.  A lot of vertical motion meant breathing was an issue, rapid horizontal meant trigger squeeze.  After a few repetitions the white trace would overlay with previous traces.  If they didn't roughly begin at the same place and register the shot at the same place then you knew the issue was sight picture or alignment.  Great tool for identifying problem firers and retraining them before you got to the range, and also a good tool for anyone wishing to hone some basic marksmanship skills.


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


aireachail's picture

Well...that's new one on me. It starts to sound like Duck Hunt, I'm afraid.


I can't tell from MA's linked article whether Breivik was being quoted when he said "sharpen his aim". If he was, I still say that it's impossible to actually do so with anything other than the actual weapon you're going to shoot. Did he learn the basics of how to aim via the game? Maybe.


I've read that he had a holographic sight on the mini-14 he used. If so, and if he was introduced the the idea of the holographic via one of the games, it makes a little more sense. Nevertheless, there's minimal skill involved with shooting with one (no eye relief concerns, both eyes open, etc.) and what there is won't translate from a PC to the actual rifle (which would still need to be sighted in as with any type of sight/scope/red dot, etc.).


Color me "skeptical".


Now...if anyone wants to show me how moving this mouse (or joystick or plastic rifle) back and forth in any FPS video game will make me more accurate with my 03A3, I'm willing to learn!

Yeah, one hears 'Nintendo' and logic follows


that they think of Duck Hunt.  The simulator (whatever it's properly called) does do what it's supposed to do, which is identify flaws in shooting.  It does not get one past the very basics and is not a substitute for real range time once the basics are taught.  Don't let 'Nintendo' fool you either.  The sensitivity was outstanding.  I'd flub shots on purpose and it showed the error down to gnat a$$ (new metric system) detail.  I'd imagine if you're ranging with a .30-06, and IRCC you used to shoot 1k yards with a 45-70 (right?) you don't need to use something like this. 

Also, don't get me wrong.  I am skeptical as well, though it's more of a pattern, perhaps a plaid, than colored.  But points in MA's favor.  The military in general has gone to silhouettes and 'Ivan' targets to desensitize firers when engaging a person in combat. It's possible video games may have a similar effect.  I dunno, again MA hasn't really made his case but I think there's enough there there that it's worth a look.   

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I was talking to a colleague

aireachail's picture

about that trapdoor rifle just a couple of weeks ago. I no longer have the time nor the eyesight for matches like that, and I don't know which I miss more. The time, probably.


That's a different approach to training than I was ever exposed to, but it doesn't mean it isn't a valid one. It's a lot of folks to bring up to speed in a short amount of time, and if it works that's all that really matters. Dinosaurs like me can pound sand.


I'll not comment on your use the word plaid instead of tartan.

My family has a tartan


It's called 'Kitchen Curtain Ancient'. My kilt needs lengthening though. If I stand with my feet a little more than shoulder width apart my kilt looks like a bell with a clapper.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Funny You Should Mention "Duck Hunt"

M Scott Eiland's picture

If MA's theory was correct, I'd have expected that there would have been a rash of massacres of floppy eared hounds by crazed men with shotguns about twenty years ago:

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Who knows?


I googled "dog shot by shotgun", got 38 million results. I am not about to check them...

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

No Doubt. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .the WoW time was part of his master plan to sweep through Orc City Mall with a katana while wearing plate mail.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The plural of anecdote is not data

HankP's picture

you need to look at a bunch of events to see a pattern appear. And I'm not seeing one in this regard.


I'm surprised that you're not for banning shooting ranges, since that's actually hands on experience with a gun rather than a simulated experience with a mouse or controller.


I blame it all on the Internet

You don't kill people in shooting ranges.


Blood doesn't pour out of the targets. Heads don't explode.


But, for the record, I think you should have some kind of mental health certification in order to enter a shooting range.


Columbine, Newtown, and Norway aren't enough for you? You sound like the NRA.


We would need weekly slaughters in order to shift from anecdote to data. Is that what you want? In fact the arguments you make are exactly like those the NRA makes to justify the sale of assault weapons, large clips, and ammunition by the bucket load.


The relationship is so evident that I will bet you that the next mass shooter will also be a heavy gamer, and specifically of a first person shooter gamer.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Sorry MA

HankP's picture

I'm not seeing any kind of actual statistical study anywhere that shows FPS are any more dangerous than a bunch of other factors. You have your hypothesis and anecdotes, I don't think that's enough to ban a form of entertainment that millions of people indulge in.


Actions like requiring safe storage of guns, or trigger locks, or personal interviews with gun permit applicants, or closing the gun show loophole, or requiring that the gun registration database include evidence of mental health issues are all much more targeted at the people who are the actual source of the problem.


Also, this plays into the conservatives claim that the first thing liberals want to do is ban stuff.


I blame it all on the Internet

None of those actions...


...would have prevented Newtown. Lanza did not have own the guns, his mom did, so there would have been no mental health checks. A trigger lock would have been a joke to him.


I am not looking at the political angle. This is not a political game. Either you want to solve this problem, or you don't.


Mass shootings by young people walking through a building or area and gunning down everybody they see are a new form of crime that did not exist before first person shooters became common. If you want to bury your head in the sand and play statistical games, go ahead.



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I mentioned earlier

HankP's picture

that I would recommend a personal interview with every person who could have access to a gun in the house. Or the registration database could have information about family members included.


Of course politics has something to do with it. You'll never get a proposal like yours passed if you can't finesse the politics of it. How do you think we got where we are now?


And once again, shooting sprees didn't come into being with Doom.


I blame it all on the Internet

Shooting sprees by children did, though.


In any case, if you want to go political, your proposal to interview everybody in the house is more intrusive, and even less politically likely to pass, than mine.


Listen, we had Hollywood "voluntary" censorship for decades. A similar system is needed for games. The industry can be pressured to comply with a little leadership. Parents hold the purse strings to the gaming industry and can use that power if they are truly concerned.


This does not even require a law by Congress, and the NRA wouldn't be  involved either. It requires leadership by establishment Democrats though, starting with Obama.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

It's really simple

HankP's picture

the problems are guns and mental health. All the other stuff, like video games and prayer in school, are side issues that detract from what the real problem is. You can go on a crusade against video games, but it will not make one bit of difference and will actually detract from effective acts that could make a difference. Mental health screening and serious penalties for irresponsible gun sales, use and storage are the only things that matter.


Mark my words, the pro-gun people will jump on the video game angle because they know it's a phony issue that will take heat off them.


I blame it all on the Internet

But it's not a phony issue though.


You simply claim it is with no basis whatsoever.


Serious penalties, whatever that means, are a joke and unenforceable. Do you think there is a more serious penalty than that paid by Nancy Lanza? She was shot in the head multiple times. Pretty serious penalty right there.


What good is it doing? The nuts emptied Walmart's shelves these past few days of AR-15's and large magazines.


And then there is enforcement. How do you plan to check up on use and storage? Government house inspections? Might as well talk about death panels.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

The burden of proof is on you

HankP's picture

your idea is interesting, but there's no proof. Every study shows either no correlation or even slightly negative correlations between video game use and violence. So any proposal to ban an entire category of games requires more than a personal opinion on their danger.


My approaches, and the ones that can be justified, concentrate on the two things we know were involved - guns and mental health issues.


I blame it all on the Internet

Every Study My Foot


Any statistical study with standard 95% correlation confidence would be useless for rare events. They would also show no correlation between gun use at firing ranges, or even gun ownership, and mass murders.


Your approach of having the government do a periodic mental health check for everybody in a household is a non-starter on a good day, even with a 50 vote democratic advantage in both houses, which we lack in any case.


Maybe I don't have a solution, but pretty please, with sugar on top, stop pretending you do.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

And of course


we'll pay for all these mental health evaluations and treatments by cutting taxes and slashing spending.



Of the tens of millions of FPS players, games and FPS variants over the last 25 years, it so happens that some psychos happened to play them? They likely all drove cars, or were into some genre of music, etc.


By the way, I'm not a big fan of FPS. And the genuine war simulators that strive for ultra "realism" are very, very distasteful to me. I find other stuff distasteful too, but no reason to ban it for adults.

Of all the millions of gun buyers...


...etc., etc.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

No, it's not.


First, the rest of those countries have gun control. We don't know what would happen if they didn't.


Second, rare events (and statistically, the being killed in a Newton type event is rare), are not subject to this kind of statistical chart, since the body count from mass murders would be lost in the noise of regular murders.


So this is a meaningless defense of the gaming industry, as usual.


Lanza patterned his crime on a first person shooter scenario.  eeyn isn't denying that or even dealing with that, but is basically saying that we should not reduce the freedom on 300 million people because of rare events, since the results are not measurable. In other words, the position is that there is nothing we can do.


I say that crimes such as Newton are simply intolerable. As a society we did not have regular mass school shootings for over 200 years.


I simply do not see murder simulation software as a social good worth protecting on the corpses of a 20 first graders and their teachers. And I question the values of any society that is willing to make that trade.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.