Chart Porn: Guns

In the wake of tragedy, we search for reason. It’s a very human thing to do. In a very Adamsian way, religion as a concept can be attributed to this search for explanations for the tragic, that which frightens us for our lack of control, in an attempt to make us feel less like we’re flailing about.

However, there are some explanations that are just ridiculous. They may be intuitive in many respects, but they are also wrong. Factually, empirically wrong. Let’s look at a few of those, with lots of charts.

The first, one that I’ve heard more than any other, is that “we can’t do anything about massacres.” That is absolute bullshit, as Lane Crothers pointed out on his blog. There have been a number of big problems that we have managed to significantly change because we spent time and energy (and money) changing attitudes, culture, and even regulating these things. Let’s look at some charts.

Cigarette consumption

Driving fatality rates per 100 million, 1921-2011

Driver Deaths vs Alcohol-related Driver Deaths, 2006-2010

These are all huge issues that we have taken on and changed. The very notion that we can’t change big problems is absurd (along with the idea that we would have as many deaths by other weapons). We may not be able to reduce the problem to zero, but then we’re flirting with the Perfectionist Fallacy.

Next, is the ridiculous idea that our increased gun ownership somehow makes us less violent. I’ve heard it so many times from people who think that they’re John Fucking McClane and, should somebody show up with a gun, they would simply draw and fire. While some people could possibly do this, most people cannot. I’ll get into that later, but let’s look at violence in the US, courtesy Ezra Klein.

Assault Deaths in a number of countries, with the US way up top.

US Deaths by Region. Notice the most violent, by far, is the region with the most significant gun culture.

Look at the rest of the charts Klein provides, including the one comparing states with gun control laws to gun-related assaults in that state.

That last point is one of the most annoying for two reasons. The first is the “citizen as action hero” idea. Let’s be honest: the majority of people, even while armed, will do nothing if attacked. It’s frightening and we’re creatures with highly developed senses of self-preservation. While we love to engage in fantasies about being heroic (Wolverines!!!!), especially the Baby Boomers who were the target of the golden era of action films during the 80s and now are the target for a new genre of “middle-aged basass” films (see: Taken, A Good Day to Die Hard, The Expendables, etc.)

The second is that it doesn’t take all factors into account. Miriam, for example, points out that people keep referring to Israel where teachers can carry firearms in the classroom. Of course, there are a number of other factors that make this somewhat effective. Here are two that I think particularly stand out.

1. Israel has an entirely different culture from the United States. It’s a collectivistic culture; there’s an expectation that everyone look out for each other and keep each other safe. I’d love to see some studies on the bystander effect in Israel, because my guess is that it’s less prevalent there.

I don’t see why I should trust the same people who resist all attempts at collective action and consider civic contribution to be immoral to give a damn about me in an emergency. I assume that they’ll shoot me if they think they can get the shooter too/better. Because they’re not looking to protect people, they’re looking to be thought of as heroes.

2. In Israel, every single person (except those who get exemptions) does at least two years of military service when they’re 18. Many Israelis have fought in wars. All those “ordinary” citizens suddenly whipping out guns and taking down shooters? Where do you think they learned how to do that?

This. Right here. This is what stands out to me most. Everybody in Israel is fucking trained to use an assault rifle! I have the news on in the background here, where Texas governor Rick Perry is talking about just this, so let’s look at the requirements to get an AR15 in Texas. Basically, for the permit, you simply apply to the state, which you can do at 18 years old. You have to be 21 to get a handgun, but 18 will cover the AR15. Since it’s a “shall issue” state, that means that if you apply and don’t have a felony conviction, you get the permit. Combine that with about $1,400, and any 18 year old asshole can get his hands on an incredibly deadly weapon. That is a whole lot different than people who have had at least two required years of military training.

Ultimately, “more guns” is just a manifestation of the paranoid fantasies of pathetic Boomers who missed out on fighting real evil, so they jump at shadows so they can feel like they did anything other than squander the advantages that their parents left them.

Just as a last little point, there have been at least a few people trying to blame violent video games. That really, really is a joke, and I think that most people recognize it now. I’m pretty sure more people are blaming gay marriage than video games for this one. But just in case, let’s look at a chart.

Gun related murders and video game consumption. Again, notice how much higher on the gun-related murders the US is.

We don’t just have a gun problem: we have a gun culture problem. We have people who insist that nothing can be done, and they are wrong. We have people who insist that the answer is to indulge their paranoia and sad need to feel heroic, and they are wrong. As with so many things, the solution seems to be less in trying to restrict behavior as to change attitudes to make behavior less acceptable, to educate rather than punish. But part of that education has to be restricting access to emphasize the import of the message.

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2 thoughts on “Chart Porn: Guns

  1. Civilian firearms in the US out number the Military and police 100 to 1. and the defense against tyranny is not worrying about the US Military, they can’t be deployed on US Soil, the state control the National Guard so whats left? ATF, FBI, CIA, under the DHS. Also at a more local threat. rogue small town sheriffs who get on a power trip. (this was common in the south from the 30’s to the early 60’s) they would ban firearms from Blacks and Jews to keep them in check so they could be controlled) Research the Posse Comitatus Act (was to limit the powers of Federal government in using federal military personnel to enforce the State laws) thus creating the National guard controlled by each state. Several States also have citizens defense leagues (similar to the draft but at the state level) To have a Concealed Weapons permit in Virginia you are consenting to serving if called to defend Virginia.

  2. it’s because of the second Amendment that the Government will not become tyrannical. it’s only when the Citizen is disarmed that Tyranny will prevail. I am from Havana Cuba and I can tell you first hand that when Fulgencio Batista became the Provisional President (10 March 1952 – 24 February 1955) through a military coup. Batista ordered the collection of all civilian firearms fearing an uprising. the rest is history.

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