Today in poorly timed PR...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Moments ago National Rifle Assoc. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (dickhead, liar, fucking wing-nut) held a press conference regarding the recent mass shootings. 

LaPierre made a couple suggestions for combating violence in our schools, including: improved mental health treatment (good idea) and putting a cop in every school (maybe an OK idea, but my estimated cost $9.88 billion annually). 

Shorter LaPierre:  Please protect American kids from my target membership.

He also proposed a great new slogan, soon to come to a pro-NRA bumper sticker near you: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”

Effective immediately, the new slogan will replace:  "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

LaPierre video here.

Making this the most poorly timed presser ever, another seemingly random shooting took place while LaPierre was speaking. 3 are dead. Details unknown.

News story link here.


steves 9:06 PM  

The NRA is by no means a perfect organization, but I am still a member and a credentialed instructor. In the spirit of meaningful discussion, can we have a moratorium

steves 9:06 PM  

On the name calling. Pretty please.

Monk-in-Training 9:19 PM  

Well, I have often noticed the 'enthusiastic' name calling on this site, an endearing trait that is part of all you guy's charm, however perhaps Steves has a good idea this once. Emotions are pretty high.

I have noticed that people who do not own or care for guns simply don't understand why on earth anyone would want one.

I have also noticed that those who do own and want them have been told for years that the "libruls" are out to take the guns (and other unspecified freedoms and good things, most likely Baby Jesus) away from them.

I hope and pray that both sides can open their minds and EARS to the other side and loose the demonization and realize the humanity of each position.

In the mean time, I have donated to my Trappist Brothers to make donated caskets for the children of Sandy Hook. I hope I never have to do that again, as long as I live.

† Receive dear Lord, we pray, into the arms of Your mercy all the victims of violence and begin the healing of these families.

steves 9:42 PM  

Conservatives are no strangers to name calling and I have chastised more than a few on the forum I help moderate. I am also not suggesting that the NRA is above criticism.

Jay 11:09 PM  

Not to be too contrary, but I have no difficulty whatsoever understanding why people would want to own a gun. I just don't find their reasoning to be sufficiently compelling that I can accept the premise that gun ownership should be protected as a fundamental civil right.

And I guess (getting more contrary now) I do fail to see the humanity in an argument that supports the widespread public availability of an object that, when used in public, is meant to kill another human being (or I guess intimidate them, on those occasions when it prevents a crime without a shot being fired). I accept that there are reasons why they are available, but I don't see how respect for the lives of fellow humans is involved in that reasoning. I am willing to listen, though, if someone can explain the humanity of it to me.

steves 8:05 AM  

It depends on your basic belief system. Do you believe that people have an inalienable right to defend themselves from an unlawful attack? Do you believe that violence is never acceptable?

Jay 2:23 PM  

Defend themselves with deadly force? No, I don't. I believe it is wrong to use a tool that is so readily capable of deadly force for personal protection.

Is my personal belief system realistic model for the real world? No, it isn't. But I believe our society would be a better place if we, as a society, leaned more toward my belief than that which seems to prevail here.

And I do believe violence is acceptable when threatened. I just don't think easy, universal access to deadly violence is the right answer.

Really, the perfect solution for me would be if weapons with a stun capability were readily available. Then gun enthusiasts could use guns in private settings and stun weapons would be available for personal or property protection.

steves 3:12 PM  

Thanks. We then have a fundamental difference in what we think is acceptable or legal. I think I have a better understanding where you are coming from.

Jay 4:48 PM  

My pleasure. And maybe "should be legal" rather that what "is legal" would be a better way of stating it, since guns are obviously legal at this time. But yes, I think we have identified the fundamental difference.

Bob 5:15 PM  

Mocking or name calling when it comes to ethnic groups, genders, peoples sexual orientation and those who comment here, post here or are generally innocent is unacceptable. Those in the public realm, especially politicians, spokespeople, lobbyists, and the like are fair game, especially on a post so full'o snark like this.

Smitty 6:30 PM  


No. Lobbyists are off-limits here. They are impeccable people of high moral standards, beyond reproach. They are hard-working, honest to a fault, and in fact are near as sainthood as a mortal can get.

We should be honoring lobbyists important role, not tearing them down.

steves 7:23 PM  

No problem with snark, puns, good natured ribbing, and orneriness. My only annoyance was with liar, fucker, and dick.

Bob 7:25 PM  

Lobbyists became fair game the moment I formally cancelled my registration as one.

Bob 7:50 PM  

if we added lawyers and bureaucrats to the list of people we are allowed to verbally abuse, I think every contributor at ATK would be covered.

Jay 9:12 PM  

If you add "scientists" and "monks", you will also get the occasionally vocal lurkers.

Bob 9:17 PM  

More than one of us are trying to get our kids to become scientists and we love our visiting Monk, who teaches us humility, so you two are off limits.

Jay 9:19 PM  

Sweet! I think it's time for an extended technical discussion on the statistics of rare events. That would really put some zing into the ongoing gun control conversation.

steves 8:01 AM  

I think if we can keep it reasonably polite, we can avoid chasing off any of our membership. Heck, if they are still here after all of this, I think we are ok.

Pete,  12:54 PM  

I would just like to comment and say that I really appreciate the commentary going on here. Leaps and bounds better than the troglodytes that are friends a family infesting my Facebook feed....

Bob 2:18 PM  

Jay - adding a statistical analysis to the dicussion , would awesome.

Pete - thanks, glad you are here. I am defreinding a few freaks after reading from them that their god killed 20 kids because we arent sufficiently serving his ego.

steves 3:01 PM  

That would be awesome. I'd first like to look at a 2003 CDC report that analyzed 51 other studies and concluded that none of them were able to show that gun control laws had any effect in reducing crime.

First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws, CDC, Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Oct 3, 2003

Jay 5:50 PM  

Heh, okay, if we want to go down this road, I can look at given studies and comment on whether I believe the statistics are sensible. Although I am not an expert in statistics, a reasonably broad general understanding of statistical techniques is an element of my field.

However, the real point of my comment above is that making a scientifically defensible cause-and-effect inference for rare events in a complex system with an unknown (and perhaps unknowable) number of inter-dependent variables is next to impossible. So I'm not sure it's reasonably to say anything scientifically meaningful about gun control, concealed carry, assault weapons, or any other facet of this discussion simply because all crimes are rare events.

What I mean by this is that if a person experiences a crime 10 times a year (which I think most of us would agree is a lot for an average, generally law-abiding member of the public in this country), there are 355 other days that year when the person's day is crime-free. And that is actually being generous because many crimes only last a few minutes. So if you only count the minutes that contributed in any meaningful way to whether or not the individual experienced a crime and compare them to the minutes when the person did not, the events become even more rare.

So I doubt there is any statement we could make for or against any given action on guns that would really pass scientific muster, if it is scrutinized closely. This has not stopped people from trying, of course, but if there's one thing scientists are really good at it's exposing weak points in arguments. And I have doubts that any study attempting to connect any type of gun behavior to any given outcome is going to have flaws that would either undermine its conclusions or require them to be stated in a less than emphatic manner.

So really, citing these studies as reasons to do or not do anything is, from the perspective of science, going to be pretty questionable. That is partly why I have tried to limit my statements on here to my personal beliefs/opinions and hypothetical (rather broad) changes. Because I am not certain the data actually exists to rigorously support or refute any given incremental action.

As always, I am willing to be proven wrong on this point. Social scientists do these sorts of studies all the time and attempt to formulate conclusions form them. But the best social scientists work very very hard NOT to overstate the connections suggested by their research. The scientific reality is that the vast majority of social science is not hard, verifiable, science, so it will very seldom give a "if you do X, Y will happen" sort of answer.

(ouch...a treatise...if you made it this far, more power to you)

Jay 6:24 PM  


"And I have doubts that any study attempting to connect any type of gun behavior to any given outcome is going to have flaws..."

should be

" going to be without flaws..."

steves 7:13 PM  

Two of my degrees are in the social sciences and I agree with you 100%, which is why I try and avoid making definitive statements about single variables being causal.

Jay 8:28 PM  

Steve: I'm glad you received it that way. I did not mean it to be a cheap shot at social science, which is very difficult to do well. But in my experience conclusions from studies with a social component are often difficult (if not impossible) to verify.

But, to bring this back around, it is for this reason that I have trouble with statements like "there is no evidence that restricting access to assault weapons reduces crime." While that may well be true, I believe the opposite statement might also be true ("there is no evidence that restrictions do not reduce crime") because crime is such a rare event and crime rates are dependent upon so many other variables. To me, neither of those statements are useful in a discussion about whether an assault weapons ban would reduce crime.

To make a broader point, if one holds a position based on the premise that we should do nothing to limit access to firearms without supporting data, then my sense is that most if not all of these studies would support that position, since they are seldom able to offer firm, verifiable conclusions.

Jay 8:30 PM  

Again with the editing...

"...would reduce crime." should be "...should be implemented."

Pete,  10:32 PM  

For what it's worth just had a posting with a "facts vs rhetoric" rundown. The final conclusion seemed to mainly be that there isn't enough evidence one way or another but there was at least a wide variety of sources.

So tonight I was going through the local paper inserts and looking at the Dunham's flyer (right here in Charlotte!).

I honestly haven't been hunting since high school and never had anything more than a pellet gun and some shotguns, so I'm out of the loop of what's out there these days. But I see they had a whole section of military style .22s, most were around $280. One of these was an "AK47-style" even. Theyhad a Bushmaster .223 listed for $800 and a few other "AR" and "M4" style models. Neat.

But it also got me thinking. I don't know about the feasibility of it, but could you just jack the taxes up on specific models or types? They do it with cigarettes...why not have a 500% tax on military style civilian guns? Charge 4 grand for the Bushmaster, those who want them still will get them, and use the extra money to fund your police officer in every school idea. Or put it toward mental health programs. Or education in general. Or all of the above. You wouldn't be banning things but maybe they wouldn't be as accessible? I mean, 300 bucks for a semi auto .22 with a 30rd clip? That's xbox or ipad territory, which these days is somewhat impulse buy for a lot of people.

who knows...

Jay 10:58 PM  

pete: I will try to answer your question in the context of how I understand the current legal situation, rather than how I think it should be.

What you propose would deny people what is currently considered "a recognized, fundamental civil liberty" based purely on their income level. It's not really the same thing as denying someone a Mercedes because they can't afford it. I don't think anyone would argue that everyone should have a right to a Mercedes. In that context, I don't think what you propose would be any more appropriate or desirable than denying poor people access to "free speech, search and seizure, due process, etc."

If something were to change that would eliminate the right to bear arms as one of these fundamental rights, then I would have a lot of time for a suggestion such as yours. But without that change, even I would have a hard time supporting it.

Rights are serious, and there should be a very good reason for them to be limited, and they that is done they should be limited for everyone equally. My personal belief is that there is a good reason to do so. But I am not convinced that my view is a majority view at this time.

steves 10:57 AM  

As much as I enjoy reading social science research, I do understand the limitations. I don't think the problems make it useless, but I tend to be skeptical of some claims. Overall, I do think it can be useful to show some broad trends and I would prefer that policy makers reference some of the research, as opposed to pulling it out of their asses.

Jay, I agree with your conclusion. John Lott has done research that suggests loosening the restrictions on concealed carry lowers the rates of some kinds of crime. I'd like to believe this is true, but I am not willing to say that it is conclusive. On the same note, I do think it also tends to show that loosening restrictions probably does not cause crime to go up.

You also have a good grasp of why a punitive tax would have a disproportionate effect on the poor. The wealthy would still have access to these guns, as would criminals, because they are obtaining these guns through theft and other illegal means.

Jay 4:43 PM  

(warning - snarky science rant to follow; nothing useful for the gun control debate here)

I just had a quick look at the CDC report Steve linked to above (yes, on Christmas afternoon...the kids are all deep in a lego-induced stupor, so I was rooting around for something to read while everyone else is occupied). I don't have any real comments on the results of the study at this point, but the science editor in me is already getting annoyed with this paper. While part of this might be a difference in culture between my field and that of the author(s), my initial response were I either a reviewer or editor of this document would be "your Background section needs serious work." For a start, as written it is not possible to understand the relevance of these statement without some foreknowledge about injury-mortality rates. Why should I care that firearms are the second leading cause when the leading cause is never stated nor are the number of firearm deaths referred to in a broader context? Are firearms 1%, 10%, 40%? We have no idea without looking up their source material. Why do I care that 79 firearm deaths occur a day when you already gave me the yearly statistic? If you are trying to shock or impress or scare me with a statistic, you are not doing good science. Just stick to the facts. The whole section is little more than a series of disconnected statistics and numbers with no context or connection between the point. Twenty different readers could read the Background section and come to twenty different conclusions about what the authors are trying to tell us. Science writing is supposed to be clear, concise, and as close to unequivocal as possible. Even allowing for differences in scientific culture, this strikes me as very poor science writing.

It evens out a bit as we head into the Intro and Methods, but argh!


Okay, feeling better now.

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