Getting burned by packing heat
October 20, 2009 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Does carrying a gun protect you from physical harm? Research by epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that carrying a gun makes one 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault, than someone not possessing a gun. Resisting increases one's odds of suffering harm even greater.

"On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses are possible and do occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas."
posted by Blazecock Pileon (290 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
If this is the same study as showed up in New Scientist the other week (which Ibelieve it may be, as that was speaking of Philadelphia) then the sample was of people in Phildaelphia who owned guns.

It's like saying if you own a phone you're twenty times more likely to be carjacked, because of a study carried out on car owners in Jo'burg...
posted by opsin at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, what? Shooty people are more likely to get shot? That's crazy talk!
posted by dersins at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2009 [19 favorites]


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...
posted by tkchrist at 5:16 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Gun violence more likely in the vicinity of guns? Wow. Heavy.
posted by pompomtom at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2009


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...

City? As opposed to suburban?
posted by inigo2 at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


Nonsense. I can shoot the baddies' bullets out of the air as they approach me.

(Or, you know, I could, if I had a gun, which I don't, because I think it's silly to have a gun.)
posted by The World Famous at 5:21 PM on October 20, 2009


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...

I think I know.
posted by found missing at 5:23 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oooh, I love these threads. This is the part where people who haven't ready the study and don't have training in statistics or epidemiology question the study's methodology because they don't like the researchers' conclusion!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [82 favorites]


grrr, s/ready/read
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2009


Pubmed link to the abstract to the 4.5 times more likely link. Someone's posting from an campus or work computer... :D
posted by Decimask at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2009


Epidemiologists, of course! Certainly the first dicipline I think of when i'm looking for an expert on gun violence.
posted by freq at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...

Cities?
posted by Artw at 5:27 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


And now that I read the 4.5 link a little closer, I see there's a link to a free abstract on the AJPH site. Chucklesnarkery retracted, with apologies.
posted by Decimask at 5:28 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't carry a gun and I haven't been shot. Mind you, aside from the guns on the hips of police officer, I've never even SEEN a gun.
posted by awfurby at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2009


There is a huge literature on this. In the anti-gun camp, you may want to check out John Donohue's work with co-authors. John Lott
is a proponent of the pro-gun camp, though there is considerable contraversy about the legitimacy of his work. Among serious social science researchers, I believe the overwhelming consensus is that gun ownership increases risk of harm and death.
posted by shshore at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


If this is the same study as showed up in New Scientist the other week (which Ibelieve it may be, as that was speaking of Philadelphia) then the sample was of people in Phildaelphia who owned guns.
It's like saying if you own a phone you're twenty times more likely to be carjacked, because of a study carried out on car owners in Jo'burg...


Yes, that's probably how they got the "4.5 times more likely" figure. They compared their sample of people who own guns to ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Stupid scientists.
posted by uosuaq at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


I downloaded the whole article from here.
posted by demiurge at 5:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


As they say though, this doesn't mean guns are useless for defense. Just that it statistically increases the danger in some circumstances. In other words, this is good information for gun owners, but it shouldn't have much affect on policy since this is about the risk to the gun owner, who should be able to make their own decision.

(I am a gun owner but carrying a gun isn't an issue for me since I live in California where it's basically impossible to get a carry permit most places, and I'm not going to carry one illegally)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:36 PM on October 20, 2009


Gun-toting soccer mom, husband shot dead
posted by Artw at 5:36 PM on October 20, 2009


You know if you own a car your way more likely to get in a car wreck.
posted by tkchrist at 5:37 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Epidemiologists, of course! Certainly the first dicipline I think of when i'm looking for an expert on gun violence.

An expert on gun violence, no. An expert on designing studies to determine cause and effect within a population, and interpreting the results, certainly.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 5:39 PM on October 20, 2009 [36 favorites]


People who care about gun ownership laws are not really the people with guns you need to worry about.

Posted as someone who has never fired or owned a gun.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Gun-toting soccer mom, husband shot dead

Seems irrelevant. This study was about armed vs unarmed victims of an assault, that story is about a murder-suicide (if anything, I guess it's about the unarmed victim and the armed killer/suicide). The actual study is locked away but given the abstract not sure I see the connection.

(on a side note, unless I'm missing some free way to read the paper, kind of annoying to have this post without being able to read the study. I trust news reports of studies like this as much as I trust any science journalism --- not at all)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:44 PM on October 20, 2009


People who care about gun ownership laws are not really the people with guns you need to worry about.

Cite?
posted by callmejay at 5:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... actually, I'm curious. The Penn Medicine link says they compared victims of assault with guns vs victims of assault w/o guns. But if there's a demographic bias in gun owners, wouldn't that invalidate the idea that guns themselves are the cause?

(obvious example --- if 50% of the gun carriers were criminals, that would probably bias towards more violent encounters)

Not clear how they would control for this, and of course the paper seems inaccessible.

(In California, for example, anyone carrying a concealed weapon in, say, the SF Bay area is either a police officer or a criminal since there are virtually 0 CCWs. Thus I would expect a heavy bias towards violent outcomes in an assault, since I would expect those comfortable with initiating violence to be more likely to trigger violent behavior through their reactions)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Without reading the article, is it safe to assume that they handed a bunch of scientists handguns, dropped them off in 'the bad part of town', and then counted how many made it back to the lab?
posted by mannequito at 5:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [28 favorites]


If you're a person willing to use a gun against someone, you are far more likely to use it if you even think they have one too, regardless which side of the victim/victimizer pair you are. I suppose this is bordering sappy "the more you know star streaming across screen" rhetoric, but there's some kind of significance to pointing out that more guns in a conflict leads to more people getting shot. Wonder what could possibly change that.

That said, the stats I'm always interested in seeing are the ones that break down the specific crimes and/or actions related to gun use. I think that would be essential here, in that it seems obvious that having your own gun is (if not totally useless) possibly more life-threatening if, say, someone has pulled a gun on you rather than if someone with a gun has broken into your house downstairs and you have a gun in your bedside table drawer. A criminal noticing your gun and getting trigger happy seems far more dangerous in the former situation.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:52 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...

Black. Thus, suburban, "Lower than black."
posted by eriko at 5:54 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Your favorite sociological research sucks.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:54 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


freq: "Epidemiologists, of course! Certainly the first dicipline [sic] I think of when i'm looking for an expert on gun violence."

Flippant. Epidemiology can be used to study any factor with an effect on health. Gary Slutkin has been using epi techniques to map violence since 2003, and has done a pretty damn good (pdf) job of it. The lead author of this paper, CC Branas, has been studying gun violence since 1997. I'll get to the intricacies of the current study once I read it, but ignorance is a bad defense and a worse argument.
posted by The White Hat at 5:54 PM on October 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


Naaaaw! You mean people should actually train before they attempt to employ a dangerous technology? Radical!
posted by tkchrist at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


The study is flawed as it doesn't discuss how many potential crimes were stopped because the intended victim had or displayed a firearm.

There is a reason they are called "the Great Equalizer". For a woman, it's a good choice in many cases.
--

The American Rifleman magazine, put out by the NRA, had a page dedicated to articles wherein a person prevented a crime without having to fire the gun in most cases. Merely showing or cocking the firearm was sufficient to send the criminals elsewhere.

Most firearms safety classes discuss teh best way to win a fight is to not be in one. For most law abiding citizens, this means carrying one's self in a calm manner, avoiding areas where trouble lurks, and de-escalating rather than immediately going for the piece. And to understand the ramifications of firing that gun into another human being.

I've never HAD to shoot anyone, but I lived in fear of my ex before I owned a firearm. I took many many courses, both in and out of the military, on proper handling of firearms.

I still feel that having a gun is a "fall back" position of strength inside my house. Don't need it, but will gladly "bring it" when I do!
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 5:58 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Naaaaw! You mean people should actually train before they attempt to employ a dangerous technology? Radical!

When you consider the number of people walking around with guns who don't have a clue about responsible gun ownership or don't give a rat's ass, I'd say that's not radical at all.
posted by blucevalo at 6:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


The American Rifleman magazine, put out by the NRA, had a page dedicated to articles wherein a person prevented a crime without having to fire the gun in most cases. Merely showing or cocking the firearm was sufficient to send the criminals elsewhere.

Which, no offense, offers about as much statistical insight into gun ownership and crime prevention as the Penthouse letters page does for the correlation between unsolicited sex and pizza delivery.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:01 PM on October 20, 2009 [71 favorites]


Gun-toting soccer mom, husband shot dead
posted by Artw at 8:36 PM on October 20


What's kind of funny about this is that pro-gun folk are like "we never said guns make you bulletproof" in response to this story's irony; still, maybe not making ready access to guns a big part of your marriage might help with the whole murder-suicide thing.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2009


> Gun-toting soccer mom, husband shot dead

Fucking soccer...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hmmm... actually, I'm curious. The Penn Medicine link says they compared victims of assault with guns vs victims of assault w/o guns. But if there's a demographic bias in gun owners, wouldn't that invalidate the idea that guns themselves are the cause?

wildcrdj: This is a completely legitimate concern. This issue has received considerable interest in the literature. You might be interested in checking out the work of Mark Duggan, particularly his paper in the Journal of Political Economy. My read is that these demographic issues do not explain the correlation between gun ownership and crime.
posted by shshore at 6:05 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who care about gun ownership laws are not really the people with guns you need to worry about.

Nonsense. They're the ones likely to be armed and are assumed stupid and incompetent until otherwise proven. So, of course, is everyone else in a stress situation, but the idiots with knives that are 30 feet away from me are just a worry. The idiots about to emit lead 30 feet away from me are active threats.

And the idiot *behind me* emitting lead at the "bad guy" is far more of a threat to me than the bad guy himself.

You know who gets shot the most by J. Random Gunowner? Someone that J. Random Gunowner knows the name of. Often, this is J. Random Gunowner. I've see far too many guys on the range to assume that someone holding a gun has the slightest clue as to what they're doing.

This is why I hate concealed carry. You have the right to bear arms, fine, whatever, but I want to know that you're a potential idiot that can shoot me, so that if something stupid does happen, I know to watch you as well as the stupid that's happening.
posted by eriko at 6:06 PM on October 20, 2009 [21 favorites]


The American Rifleman magazine, put out by the NRA, had a page dedicated to articles wherein a person prevented a crime without having to fire the gun in most cases. Merely showing or cocking the firearm was sufficient to send the criminals elsewhere.

If the goal is to deter violence, the analysis on hand does not agree with this assertion that "showing or cocking the firearm" is, on average, a smart decision to make:

"On average, guns did not seem to protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses can and do occur, the [statistically relevant portions of] findings of this study do not support the perception that such successes are likely."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The American Rifleman magazine, put out by the NRA, had a page dedicated to articles wherein a person prevented a crime without having to fire the gun in most cases. Merely showing or cocking the firearm was sufficient to send the criminals elsewhere.

"i scared the shit out of some guy i thought was a mugger but who was actually just a black dude walking down the street because i am a fucking mental patient"
posted by zoomorphic at 6:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [27 favorites]


Oooh, I love these threads. This is the part where people who haven't ready the study and don't have training in statistics or epidemiology question the study's methodology because they don't like the researchers' conclusion!

Possibly a valid point if the study were actually available.
posted by electroboy at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


For further analysis, I would like to suggest Prof. Volokh
So it’s possible that gun possession was “perilous,” in the sense of increasing the risk of the possessor’s being injured. It’s possible that it “did not protect those who possessed guns,” in the sense that it didn’t reduce the risk of the possessor’s being injured. But it’s also possible that it was “protective,” in that it reduced the risk of the possessor’s being injured, but this result is swamped by the other phenomena I point to. The study doesn’t give us much extra information about which theory is correct. And yet it is publicized, and it’s reported, as if it did robustly show the causal relationship.
Eugene Volokh has a math degree from UCLA, and his legal research interests include gun control. I hope, TheNewWazoo, that meets your undisclosed criteria for knowing what he's talking about.
posted by jock@law at 6:11 PM on October 20, 2009


jock@law: "I hope, TheNewWazoo, that meets your undisclosed criteria for knowing what he's talking about."

I believe NewWazoo was alluding to MetaFilter's penchant for having semi-incoherent disagreements about guns, rather than any expert analysis.
posted by boo_radley at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


callmejay: "Cite?"

Just the opinion of some shmuck posting on the Internet, Professor.

Perhaps you're aware of some article demolishing that belief published in the Spring 2006 issue of the Bulletin of Esteemed Scholars Who Know What They're Talking About? If you can link to it, I'll read it with an open mind. If I changed my opinion about the death penalty, I'm sure I could change it about this given a persuasive argument.

Or if your implied disagreement with what I said is just based on... well, what everybody knows, I'm afraid that's not convincing enough.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2009


Probably higher if you saw a clown on a unicycle though.

I understand playing basketball will make you taller. Democracies never go to war with each other. Etc.
“….understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures.”
Duh.
Gosh, firearms aren’t magic problem solving wands and there’s some sort of considerations to take in their use? You mean I can’t just waltz past that crackhouse if I’m packing heat?

The element of the false sense of empowerment aside -
Y’know who else used to carry firearms and get shot a lot?

The FBI.
They were trained to focus on shooting their target rather than taking cover, optimizing their chances to fire over lowering their defensive profile, etc.
A lot of civilian courses focus on how to fire, not when or where and when to take cover, etc. Although the safe handling stuff is good.

On top of that, the ‘urban’ thing does concern me as well. Given it’s Philly – were these folks carrying guns legally? The city had a bunch of struggle over this issue recently - five new gun laws in ’08, those laws being ruled invalid in ’09 – other stuff like all kinds of gun violence, gang war, new drug outfits (especially with Kaboni Savage getting popped), etc.

I don’t doubt the veracity of it per se. But if it were more broad, not just Philly which is not just a shooting gallery just now, but is in flux in terms of gun laws, so – do we know the legal status of the owners firearms, etc?

LOTS of irresponsible gun owners out there, yes. I don’t agree with the implicit assumption by pro-gun control folks that all firearms should be banned, but sure, irresponsibility, I’d like to see addressed. There are gun control laws that make complete sense to me.

“ ‘People who care about gun ownership laws are not really the people with guns you need to worry about.’
‘Cite?’ “
Seriously? Hey, I just sneezed. ‘Cite?’
Kaboni Savage is anywhere on the same planet of caring about gun laws?
Hey, he set fire to a row house that killed an informant’s mother, niece, his three kids and his infant son.
Do we need to worry about people who do care about arson laws? Or you someone’s going to light a match and want to burn some children to death?

All this said – yeah, I think the argument has always been what one considers to be the cost/benefit trade off. Worth getting ripped off? Beaten? Raped? Threatened by someone with a gun yourself?
We’re talking ‘urban’ Philly, we’re talking folks who have been somewhat beached by the social system as it is. I can’t help but thinking, in reading the summation here – while the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas, uh, where were the cops?*

That and what’s the alternative then? Just not having a firearm?
You can’t care that people are getting shot because they want to have firearms but not address the root causes as to why the hell someone in these circumstances wants a firearm in the first place.
While I fully agree that pouring more firearms into a dangerous situation is not the answer - taking firearms away from folks looking to use it to protect themselves rather than their illicit narcotics operation, probably a better use of police time and resources.

*Not that Philly has had a problem with police corruption *coughhack*
posted by Smedleyman at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Want a handgun in Philly? You have to navigate through this. I bet few normal people bother. The ones that do go to all the trouble are probably a target. So it would stand to reason they are more likely to get shot than some random non-carry permit person.

To wit, the researchers argue that even if you don't have "some chance to resist," which implies that the shooter would not even know you have a gun, somehow having that gun makes you a bullet magnet. Even if the victim is "an otherwise uninvolved victim shot in his living room from a gun fired during a fight down the street" (direct quote from the paper- the argument made is that even in this case having a gun matters).

It makes sense to me that in these "urban areas" owning a gun says a lot about how likely a particular person is to get shot at or even be close to a shooting (whether they actually had the gun or not).

I won't even mention that they ignored reverse causality bias, as that is not easy to explain (but it's easy enough to Google). Suffice to say that they basically pretended it didn't exist even though it could account for a substantial part of what they documented.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:20 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]



Without reading the article, is it safe to assume that they handed a bunch of scientists handguns, dropped them off in 'the bad part of town', and then counted how many made it back to the lab?


I believe the preferred method is to give them crowbars and let them acquire their own handguns.
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:21 PM on October 20, 2009 [42 favorites]


I'd say that's not radical at all.

THE SARCASM TAG IS IN FULL EFFECT.

They're the ones likely to be armed and are assumed stupid and incompetent until otherwise proven.

And you think this is mature assumption? Look I often assume everybody is an idiot. But eventually your just gonna burn out with cynicism with that kind of assumption and bias.

There over 200 million gun owners in the US. Most are law abiding and care about obedience to gun laws. Very few conceal carry. They may not train adequately. But for fuck sake people don't know how to drive, either. People are lazy as hell. However tempting it might be counter productive to assume 200 million people are stupid and hell bent on shooting up the place.

I've see far too many guys on the range to assume that someone holding a gun has the slightest clue as to what they're doing.

So. Wait. Are you a gun owner? Or a gun user? Should I assume something here?
posted by tkchrist at 6:22 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I won't even mention that they ignored reverse causality bias, as that is not easy to explain (but it's easy enough to Google). Suffice to say that they basically pretended it didn't exist even though it could account for a substantial part of what they documented.
"We also did not account for the potential of reverse causation between gun possession and gun assault. Although our long list of confounders may have served to reduce some of the problems posed by reverse causation65, future case–control studies of guns and assault should consider instrumental variables techniques to explore the effects of reverse causation. It is worth noting, however, that the probability of success with these techniques is low.66"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


My 9mm has a first name, it's A-S-S-A-U-L-T
My 9mm has a second name, it's F-E-L-O-N-Y
posted by ...possums at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2009


electroboy: "Possibly a valid point if the study were actually available."

THE STUDY IS AVAILABLE HERE (found by the inimitable demiurge)
posted by The White Hat at 6:26 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Re: "Urban" is code for "black" in the study.

Wrong. The authors got their study population by tracking all of the assaults that happened in Philadelphia over a three year period. They kept all victims who were either white or black within the study (they threw out all racial identifications for statistical reasons - e.g., the sample sizes were to small). The majority of the study participants were black, but that is likely because the majority of the assault victims in Philadelphia during this time period were black.
posted by googly at 6:30 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


THE STUDY IS AVAILABLE HERE

Novel. Someone should've included that in the actual post.
posted by electroboy at 6:31 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cite?

Well, one place to look would be gun crime statistics in Washington, DC during the existence of what was essentially a blanket gun ban (by which I mean that the limited exceptions to possession bans would not have actually enabled any crimes outside the home with "legal" guns).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:31 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Epidemiologists, of course! Certainly the first dicipline I think of when i'm looking for an expert on gun violence."

"So it would stand to reason they are more likely to get shot than some random non-carry permit person."

"But if there's a demographic bias in gun owners, wouldn't that invalidate the idea that guns themselves are the cause?"

"The study is flawed as it doesn't discuss how many potential crimes were stopped because the intended victim had or displayed a firearm."

Oh Metafilter, you sure don't disappoint!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nobody snark of the bunny gets it!
posted by nola at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


lack of guns leads to chavs. we don't want that do we?
posted by thoughtslut at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Read the study, read the data, and I STILL don't buy this as being plausible any more than I buy the whole Halloween mask sales predicting elections. Any study of this nature needs a MUCH larger sample size to even begin to assert this claim, without falling squarely into the "interesting data point, what does the larger sample tell us" blip range on my radar.

But, I've already outed myself as a gun carrying loony here on Metafilter, so what do I know.
posted by strixus at 6:40 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I believe the preferred method is to give them crowbars and let them acquire their own handguns.

Oh yeah? Well say hello to my little tau cannon freind!

/www-www-wwwhhhrrr-RRRRR-RRRR-**KABLAM** *bzzt*

Arrgh. Gurgle.
posted by Artw at 6:41 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, I've already outed myself as a gun carrying loony here on Metafilter, so what do I know.
posted by strixus at 9:40 PM on October 20 [+] [!]

Yeah, and what do experts know, amirite? Damn reality and its anti-gun bias!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:41 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... actually, I'm curious. The Penn Medicine link says they compared victims of assault with guns vs victims of assault w/o guns. But if there's a demographic bias in gun owners, wouldn't that invalidate the idea that guns themselves are the cause?
...
Not clear how they would control for this, and of course the paper seems inaccessible.


Controlling for things like this is, in most regression-style methods like logit, dead easy. All you need to do is gather the demographic information and include it as additional variables in the regression.

Then, simplifying away some inevitable possible complications, the coefficients that your software reports are the effect of each variable holding all the other included variables constant, or controlling for all the other included variables.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:43 PM on October 20, 2009


Yeah, and what do experts know, amirite? Damn reality and its anti-gun bias!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:41 PM on October 20

-chuckles- That actually took longer than I expected. Two refreshes. Good to see the blue never disappointing me.
posted by strixus at 6:44 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I carry about twenty guns on my person at all times - they deflect knife attacks.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


TheNewWazoo would it be safe to assume you don't like guns? Maybe you should be less subtle with your opinions.
posted by tkchrist at 6:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apparently you now need a degree in statistics before you're allowed to think critically about what you read on the news. We certainly wouldn't want a populace that thinks for themselves.

HAMBURGER DRIPPING
posted by jock@law at 6:45 PM on October 20, 2009


jock@law, apparently. Even someone with a decent level of statistical understanding isn't allowed to question the experts here any more.
posted by strixus at 6:46 PM on October 20, 2009


There over 200 million gun owners in the US

Wolfram Alpha says the adult population of the United States is 204 million. 98% of the adult population of the United States owns guns?
posted by hwyengr at 6:47 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


The White Hat: "THE STUDY IS AVAILABLE HERE (found by the inimitable demiurge)"

peers over bifocals quizzically...

We adjusted odds ratios for confounding variables.

Can someone explain this in layman's terms? Because what it sounds like is "We changed the numbers when we didn't like them".
posted by Joe Beese at 6:49 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


TheNewWazoo would it be safe to assume you don't like guns? Maybe you should be less subtle with your opinions.
posted by tkchrist at 9:45 PM on October 20 [1 favorite +] [!]

Why? I'm not afraid of them or who knows that I hold them. If a civil engineer does an FEA and tells me that balsa is not the best material to build that highway overpass, should someone really give credence to me standing around and saying, "yeah, but what if it's really strong balsa?" without having the slightest clue what the numbers in the simulation mean?

Or, put much more elegantly, what ROU_Xenophobe said.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


98% of the adult population of the United States owns guns?

Wiki Answers:

Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun(thats about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million. Removed those that skew the stats for thier own purposes the best estimates are about 45% or 52 million of american households owning 260 million guns).

So I got my stats backwards. There are over 200 million guns owned in the US. 52 million "households" not sure how many total individual owners that is. But it sure is a whole lot of people to be assuming the worst of, right?
posted by tkchrist at 6:52 PM on October 20, 2009


jock@law: "HAMBURGER DRIPPING"

I was literally eating a hamburger when I read that just now.

That's embarrassing.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:52 PM on October 20, 2009


Joe Beese, a confounding variable is one which correlates (either positively or negatively) with both the dependent and independent variable. It is one of the many steps you have to take to avoid type I errors in a statistical study.
posted by strixus at 6:52 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't slander my balsa overpass!
posted by nola at 6:55 PM on October 20, 2009


That word "urban" keep coming up. Hmmmmm. Geee, what is that usually code for...

I know!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:56 PM on October 20, 2009


Why? I'm not afraid of them or who knows that I hold them.

Obviously. Maybe turn the knob down on the preemptive ATTACKATTACKATTACK! setting. Take it from me, i know. There are certain topics is doesn't do well. Guns is one of those topics. And this thread is already kinda axe-grindy as it is.
posted by tkchrist at 6:57 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without seeing everything they have done step by step, the initial sample vs control group comparison sets off major flags in my mind (See table 1 in the study) due 1) some distinct problems in the groups they are comparing not being similar in some obvious ways, and 2) due to a few of their methodological choices in data breakdown as listed there. Again, I'm only questioning THIS study, on its own merits, and saying that I think a claim such as this needs MUCH more data to support it, to be made in such broad tones as the headlines are going to make from it.

I also always question the investigation bias that inevitably results from theory-ladenness in statistics. It is very easy to blind yourself to patterns that exist in data, and to see patterns as more than they are. I know this. I've fallen victim to it, everyone who has ever worked in stats for any length of time has.
posted by strixus at 6:58 PM on October 20, 2009


freq: Epidemiologists, of course! Certainly the first dicipline I think of when i'm looking for an expert on gun violence.

Pantengliopoli: An expert on gun violence, no. An expert on designing studies to determine cause and effect within a population, and interpreting the results, certainly.

Actually, no. You cannot determine cause and effect by studying a population. As the old saying goes "correlation does not imply causation". In order to infer causation, you must manipulate the independent variable (gun ownership) and then measure the dependent variable (harm in assault) in addition to providing for additional factors such as randomization, etc. This Wikipedia article covers the first part quite well, and mentions epidemiological studies specifically.
posted by sophist at 7:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


The study is flawed as it doesn't discuss how many potential tiger attacks were stopped because the intended victim had or displayed a tiger-repelling stone.
posted by yhbc at 7:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


And this thread is already kinda axe-grindy as it is.

You know, of course, that a gun is your best protection against someone with an axe.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


There over 200 million gun owners in the US

There are just over 300 million people in the US, of which I believe ~20% are under 10 years of age. I don't believe your numbers.
posted by aspo at 7:01 PM on October 20, 2009


opsin: It's like saying if you own a phone you're twenty times more likely to be carjacked, because of a study carried out on car owners in Jo'burg...

So, uh... you're saying that Philadephia is a particularly gun-hating city? Or do you have some other explanation for the fact that more gun-carriers than non-gun-carriers were shot? Saying that this happened in a more dangerous area as though that explains it makes no sense; this study wasn't about the amount of shootings, it was about the percentage of shootings that happened in a particular group. Criticizing this study for having taken place in Philly is like criticizing a study of penguins for having been done in Antarctica; that's where penguins happen.
posted by koeselitz at 7:02 PM on October 20, 2009


should someone really give credence to me standing around and saying, "yeah, but what if it's really strong balsa?"

Well, there was this one time that I built a 20-gram balsa structure that held over 800 lbs! I got a trip to Disney World out of it!

But it sure is a whole lot of people to be assuming the worst of, right?

According to their infomercials, millions of men have ordered Extenze. How can that many people be wrong? Though, that group probably overlaps with the gun owners pretty well. Compensating for shortcomings, and all.
posted by hwyengr at 7:02 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now that I have kids, I feel a lot better having a gun in the house.

BAD IDEA
posted by weezy at 7:03 PM on October 20, 2009


tkchrist: "TheNewWazoo would it be safe to assume you don't like guns? Maybe you should be less subtle with your opinions."

This made me snort a piece of popcorn up my nose. You are the last person on metafilter who should consider policing people regarding subtlety, decorum or tact.
posted by boo_radley at 7:05 PM on October 20, 2009


The control group is not other assault victims, it's random people who were called on the phone. This part of the study made me giggle:

We assumed that the resident population of
Philadelphia risked being shot in an assault at
any location and at any time of day or night.
This is an acceptable assumption because guns
are mobile, potentially concealable items and
the bullets they fire can pass through obstacles
and travel long distances.11–14 Any member of
the general population has the potential to be
exposed to guns and the bullets they discharge
regardless of where they are or what they are
doing.

Oh, okay.
posted by kathrineg at 7:06 PM on October 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


strixus: "a confounding variable is one which correlates (either positively or negatively) with both the dependent and independent variable. It is one of the many steps you have to take to avoid type I errors in a statistical study."

So their mention of that adjustment was an "assurance of quality" stamp of some kind? OK.

So the new argument from gun control advocates based on this study will be "We're trying to protect you from your ignorance of how much danger gun ownership places you in" ?

I mean, if you think that's a fair position to take, I'll respect your decision to take it. But I don't see it playing very well.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:07 PM on October 20, 2009


You know, of course, that a gun is your best protection against someone with an axe.

I once went to a tomahawk fighting seminar. No shit. It was me and bout 10 other pretty experienced martial arts types. And like all martial arts seminars the guy asked for "feeders" to come up and do this or that attack against him. Him, with a tomahawk. People would walk up to him, he'd carefully explain the technique. And then he'd say okay anytime your ready, you can attack. And everybody would just stand there and look at him. And look at him. Anytime your ready, he'd say. Attack me.

"Fuck no, you gotta fucking tomahawk dude!" Was the usual reply.
posted by tkchrist at 7:10 PM on October 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


Man, one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans. And I say that as someone who by dint of my natural interests is inclined to find guns interesting.
posted by maxwelton at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2009


tkchrist: ""Fuck no, you gotta fucking tomahawk dude!" Was the usual reply."

well, did you try shooting him?
posted by boo_radley at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


This made me snort a piece of popcorn up my nose. You are the last person on metafilter who should consider policing people regarding subtlety, decorum or tact.

I KNOW! Can't a guy grow as person. Please let me grow as a person.
posted by tkchrist at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


well, did you try shooting him?

I think that would have only made him angry.
posted by tkchrist at 7:13 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just a few second ago I started (without wanting to) singing "Shot through the heart and you're to late. You give love a bad name."

I blame you Blazecock Pileon, I blame you sir.
posted by nola at 7:13 PM on October 20, 2009


man, I ain't got time to do research like that.
posted by boo_radley at 7:13 PM on October 20, 2009


But for fuck sake people don't know how to drive, either.

What score did you get on your written gun owning test? How about the behind-the-gun test?
posted by inigo2 at 7:14 PM on October 20, 2009


I either don't understand how you build a useful control group for this, or don't believe that they did build a useful control group. Guns are heavy, and I wouldn't want to carry one around unless I expected to initiate violence, or I expected someone to initiate violence against me. I see no indication that they built a control group who expected to be shot at shortly, or who purchased and wore bullet proof vests. I'm not too surprised that people who carry guns tend to be shot, any more than I would be by a study that people who purchase and wear life vests when not required to by regulation tend to wind up in the water.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:16 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]



What score did you get on your written gun owning test? How about the behind-the-gun test?

I will go on the record as being absolutely in favor of mandatory testing on basic safety for all firearms purchases and test for defensive firearm use for all handgun usage. All weapons should require a license absolutely.

'course I'd favor people testing on basic infant care competency before their allowed to be reproduce, too. It 's the Fascist streak in me.
posted by tkchrist at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Of course, most of the time, the people killing other people have easy access to guns.

Like pistol-packin' soccer mom Melanie Hain, for example.

"Melanie says it's about personal safety..."

Of course that didn't help her much, when she became a victim of a murder-suicide with her husband. Apparently, the two had been fighting for awhile... and when he came home after a few days away, tempers got high.

The two left behind three young kids.
posted by markkraft at 7:22 PM on October 20, 2009


maxwelton: "one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans"

Speaking as a sympathetic bystander to the subculture rather than a participant: It's a fantasy of power, of course.

Like women reading romance novels about irresistably lovable heroines. Or kids reading comic books about superheroes. Or some people enjoying the feeling that they've won arguments with strangers on the Internet. Not that I... know any such people...

Of course, your favorite fantasy of power sucks.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


The two left behind three young kids.

Under my licensing program neither tragedy would have happened.
posted by tkchrist at 7:25 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


"one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans"

They're loud and make holes in things. Duh. Why do so many people like first person shooters? It's like that but in real life but generally you don't kill people, which is a good thing. Because killing people sucks.
posted by kathrineg at 7:27 PM on October 20, 2009


For a thread on guns on metafilter, there are some seriously great lines flying around. Man, I'm glad I decided to pass on that scotch--I have a feeling a single malt rapid nasal evacuation would sting a wee dram.
posted by Decimask at 7:31 PM on October 20, 2009


jesus, a hundred frigging comments by people who carry/don't carry guns. don't those of you who have actually shot someone have anything to say?
posted by kitchenrat at 7:33 PM on October 20, 2009


Hey, look everyone I can fire my Glock and use my Blackberr
posted by storybored at 7:34 PM on October 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


You know if you own a car your way more likely to get in a car wreck.
Not per car-miles-travelled you aren't, which is the relevant comparison.

The gun control debate manages to make me cross with myself, as the pragmatic there-are-lots-of-guns-deal-with-the-situation-as-it-is-now side wrestles with the idealistic but-the-basic-premise-of-this-"right"-is-so-stupid side, and nobody wins. Good thing there are no guns in my head.
posted by fightorflight at 7:34 PM on October 20, 2009


I'm quite the opposite of a proponent of defensive gun ownership but this seems like the latest in a long line of studies that correlate gun ownership to an increased risk of being the victim of a gunshot wound while being unable to say anything very meaningful about why that correlation exists.

The scenario most people who would favor defensive armament are considering it the one in which they are threatened with violence and repel the violence by possessing a gun. This study can provide no insight into this because 100% of the sample group were shooting victims. In other words, the desired potential outcome to possessing a gun in the event of an assault was categorically excluded from study by the methodology of the sample selection.

Further, it seems pretty questionable to suggest, as the control selection method appears to, that a group of people selected on the basis of their having been shot can be assumed to statistically correlate to a randomly selected group of people.

It is easy to suggest confounding variables. What they boil down to is that a person who is more likely to get shot for some reason (they are engaged in crime, they are in a profession where they routinely face violence, they feel threatened by a specific agent) could rationally be more likely to carry a weapon for the very same reason. This kind of epidemiological study doesn't examine what role their gun ownership played in their being shot and consequently provides little effective argument against the proponent of gun ownership.
posted by nanojath at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


I own a shotgun and a rifle. I carry them around with me wherever I go. You know, I shower with them, I take them swimming with me. We go to the movies. We take long drives to look at houses around Lake of the Isles, and talk about which one we'd own, if we had the money. I prefer the more modernist houses. The rifle likes them to be eclectic. The shotgun, of course, likes rustic. We go to the gun range together. I get myself a glock and get whatever the other want -- usually a snub nose for the rifle and a Desert Eagle for the shotgun, who, if I can speak honestly, I think likes guns a little too much.

I've never been robbed. The shotgun has, but he was drunk and asleep outside a bar. He swears to God if he had been sober, somebody would have gotten stabbed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2009 [24 favorites]


Right after graduating college, I waited tables for a few months. One night I agreed to go out drinking with a fellow waiter who I had just started getting to know; he drove. After we parked, getting ready to head into the bar, he reaches underneath the passenger seat (between my legs) and pulls out a holstered pistol. "I don't expect any trouble, but this should help keep things safe." He slid it back into place. It was an absurd display, to this day I can't tell what he was thinking, but my thought was wow -- incorrect on both counts.

I'm still not sure what to be more concerned about: that kind of mentality or the particulars of the weapon at hand.
posted by eightohtwoeleven at 7:41 PM on October 20, 2009


Yeah, could someone in this thread who knows what they're talking about explain this a bit more to me? Because what I'm seeing is that they looked at

1) A bunch of people who'd been shot in Philly (677 people over 4 years)

and took especial notice of

2) the subset of group 1 who had a gun on them at the time they were shot (6%, or roughly 40 people)

and then they compared 2 --- with

3) a bunch of people they called up randomly around the time of a shooting and asked if they had a gun on them when the shooting occurred

So it seems like the comparison they're making is, of all the people who got shot in Philly, 6% had a gun on them at the time, whereas of all the people who did not get shot in Philly, despite some shooting going on, 1.3% or so had a gun on them at the time.

Do I have that right? Because if I do, then several issues occur to me, as well. The biggest and most obvious being, is "people who get shot" really comparable to "people who get cancer"? Like, it would seem to me that normally you'd expect people who get cancer to be randomly spread out throughout a community, because cancer is caused by random mutations in cells, and if you can identify a specific subset of people who got cancer who share a common characteristic, and there are a greater proportion of them in the cancer having population than in the non-cancer having population, then it's reasonable to assume that that common characteristic may be increasing their risk of contracting cancer. But it's not at all clear to me that "getting shot" would be randomly distributed throughout a population. And if that's not so I don't think their premise works.

However, I ought to bear in mind that I was an English major. Does anyone who knows what the fuck they're on about care to address this point?
posted by Diablevert at 7:44 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


If the goal is to deter violence, the analysis on hand does not agree with this assertion that "showing or cocking the firearm" is, on average, a smart decision to make:

"On average, guns did not seem to protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses can and do occur, the [statistically relevant portions of] findings of this study do not support the perception that such successes are likely."


The "analysis on hand" deals with shootings only, that's not enough to make conclusions on the defensive effectiveness of a firearm. I would particularly like to see a similar study done on rapes. In 1979, the Justice Department said that 32% of attempted rapes were successful, but if the prospective victim was armed with a knife or gun, 3% were successful.

How much of a difference does gun ownership make in deterring all crime? According to the research of Gary Kleck, quite a bit: In 1993, there were 2.5 million defensive uses of handguns. By comparison, armed criminal offenses numbered 400,000. Discussion of Kleck's work, here.
posted by BigSky at 7:51 PM on October 20, 2009


"Just a few second ago I started (without wanting to) singing "Shot through the heart and you're to late. You give love a bad name."

I blame you Blazecock Pileon, I blame you sir."


Why would you blame him when you get the words wrong?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:55 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not long ago I was violently set upon by a gang of hoodlums one of whom brandished a firearm. I seeing that I was outnumbered put up a valiant fight, yet was soon overcome. Suddenly the beast with the weapon turned on me and fired. I fell back in pain from the force of the bullet as the ruffians fled in fear of their dastardly deed. Stunned and expecting the worse I felt for the entry of the bullet then smiled, in my breast pocket exactly where the bullet would have struck was my own trusty revolver. I was saved.

Commander McBragg
posted by pianomover at 7:55 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Or, to quote the conclusions of the actual study:

We also did not account for the potential of
reverse causation between gun possession and
gun assault. Although our long list of con-
founders may have served to reduce some of
the problems posed by reverse causation,
future case–control studies of guns and assault
should consider instrumental variables tech-
niques to explore the effects of reverse causation.
It is worth noting, however, that the probability
of success with these techniques is low.

posted by nanojath at 7:56 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've only skimmed the thread, but I just searched for the words "fear" and "anger". No mention of "anger" anywhere in the thread, and one "fear".

Now I would like to respectfully point out that fear begets anger, and anger begets fear. And guns are made out of metal, but trigger pulls are usually made out of anger. And that's why I have NO interest in carrying a personal defense firearm. (While I do understand those in unusual circumstances who do.)
posted by krilli at 7:59 PM on October 20, 2009


Yay, another gun thread. These things are the equivalent of the hipster threads, wherein a bunch of Mefites say awful, hateful things I am pretty sure they would never dream of saying to my face.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


For people who are already in danger of being shot, it wouldn't surprise me that carrying a firearm lowered their chances. Meaning: if I (a person who doesn't think of himself as being in much danger of being shot) were to carry a gun, my chances of being shot probably go up, because my main risk is either having an accident or getting macho and escalating the wrong situation. But if a person already in danger of being shot because they are a cop/criminal/stalkee/etc carries a gun, I can imagine them being able to threaten/bluff/shoot their way out of trouble.

That is, I suspect for quite a few people, carrying a gun is a rational act that improves their chance of survival; for most others, however, who are not in an already risky position, that gun will make them statistically less safe.
posted by Forktine at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


There over 200 million gun owners in the US.

Really? US population, according to the US census, is 307 million +- a couple of million.

Are you *really* asserting that 2/3rds of the population of the United States owns a gun, right now?

Really?
posted by eriko at 8:05 PM on October 20, 2009


Can we update the post saying that tkchrist retracted his figures? /ducks
posted by fightorflight at 8:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I should say, having read the report, of my prior assertion:

Further, it seems pretty questionable to suggest, as the control selection method appears to, that a group of people selected on the basis of their having been shot can be assumed to statistically correlate to a randomly selected group of people.

They do extend a great effort to try to correct for this issue.

wherein a bunch of Mefites say awful, hateful things

Can you identify some of the "awful, hateful things" that have been said in this thread? Because it seems awfully tame to me.
posted by nanojath at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yay, another gun thread. These things are the equivalent of the hipster threads, wherein a bunch of Mefites say awful, hateful things I am pretty sure they would never dream of saying to my face.

Has this happened yet? I seem to have missed it
posted by kathrineg at 8:13 PM on October 20, 2009


I have to say, as an unarmed liberal, I've never really gotten concealed weapons permits. They just seem like a bad idea, because you don't know who's carrying a weapon. I've heard the argument that concealed weapons make everyone safer because potential outlaws will assume everyone has a weapon, but that only really works if a large chunk of the people own guns. If there's an overreactive person who's armed, I'd rather know he's packing heat before he points the gun at me than afterwards. If a person has a good reason to be carrying a gun in public, he should let others know by having the gun be clearly visible.

And yes, I know Ronald Reagan outlawed open carry in California to stop the Black Panthers from carrying assault rifles to prevent police brutality. Still, I don't get why open carry gets barely any discussion, while libertarians and republicans lobby for concealed weapons permits.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:14 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm struck by the similarity between gun and religion posts, fervency-wise. Not sure what it all means.
posted by islander at 8:14 PM on October 20, 2009


"one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans"

I've grown up with guns my entire life. So there is the culture of them. And it's not this crazed hollow-eyed fanaticism most knee-jerk liberals assume. My family are liberals. But they come from a small ranching farming town in south eastern Idaho where firearms are a utility you use and something you want to get good at using becuase of that. My father and most of the males in my immediate family were either military officers or in law enforcement. Guns were part of life. We know they are dangerous. But life is full of risk. I have been shot. It was accidentally self inflicted through the hand with a .22 long rifle. I was a teenager without any authority over me and I was rebelling. Drugs and shooting do not mix. It was harsh lesson. I'm lucky the only damage it did was to sever a nerve. I used to be able do a twisted little party trick with a cigarette and burn the flesh between two fingers and not wince. So all that in the interest of full disclosure.

Guns are fun to shoot. They are fun and challenging to get good at shooting. There is artistry involved.

They are interesting technologically.

And activities where guns were present like hunting and fishing are for me some of the fondest memories of my life. Though I don't hunt anymore for other ethical reasons.

Now as a former self defense instructor (and firearm accident victim) I know damned well the danger and the efficacy, or lack there of, of firearms in terms of self defense. They are not magic talismans. But they do what they do very well. And if you are the type person who is at risk of certain kinds of assault, and without the benefit of other economic or social protections, it would serve you well to learn to use a firearm. The formula for cost to benefits is up to the individual to calculate. To pretend they are useless for self defense is idiotic. I know people personally who have used them for for defensive purposes. But of course these are people who were willing to train and be rigorous in terms of safety.

There are all sorts of reasons people want guns. There are good reasons and bad reasons. The problem is there is waaaay too much emotion about their "badness" or "goodness" that people like me, people who view them as just dangerous tools, will never understand. Guns are a fact of life in this country. They are not going anywhere. INMHO every single adult in this country should know how to operate one safely and effectively. This will both de-romanticize AND help to prevent this silly demonization of what amounts to an inert hunk of metal designed to hurl dangerous projectiles. We have stop imbuing these things with metaphysical powers and ascribing intent to them. it's people that have the intent. Focus our efforts there.

I currently do not own a hand gun. All I own now is a two shot survival rifle I bring up to Alaska to when I fish. It is currently disassembled in a kit in a backpack tucked away in a closet. I live in a very wealthy neighborhood with excellent LEO response time. Also I am somewhat confident in my ability to beat the shit out of people with a baseball bat and that my condo nieghbors are close enough to call the cops. And why I do not keep a firearm in the condo. I am an ethical person. An accidental discharge of even a small caliber could travel through several units.

But there was a brief time I lived in a very poor neighborhood between two housing projects in the worst crime census tract in the area. With drug dealers on either side of the block. Where gunshots were a weekly experience for a while. Where our car was constantly prowled and our home constantly broken in to. At that time I was teaching self defense and taking defensive firearms training. So I had a gun for that. And I'm glad I did. And I may again, maybe. Who knows. I'd at least like the option.

Crime is trending down. Guns likely have nothing to with that. Most people will never need a gun for self defense. All true. But so what. As long as people want guns. Their gonna get them.

One other thing that also bothers me a little is that this idea that guns are so dangerous that merely owning them seals your impending doom and renders you irrational. This completely contradicts the other common anti-gun stance that crime is so rare, so over hyped, you don't need a gun. Okay. Which is it? Why worry so much then. If you don't get a gun you won't be shot, right?

But beyond all that. There is also a principle at stake. At this point in our history where the genie is out of the bottle I am uncomfortable ceding my rights to own a gun knowing that the most powerful and the criminal will always have theirs. It's irrelevant to me if the average gun owner can fend off tyranny or crime effectively. It's simply that no matter what the law says the worst or most powerful of us will always have what they want. As a progressive liberal person I can't abide the thought of yet another power disparity between the rich and the poor, between the thugs and Good citizen. Even IF the idea of achieving parity is only an illusion. There is the principle.
posted by tkchrist at 8:15 PM on October 20, 2009 [17 favorites]


Can we update the post saying that tkchrist retracted his figures?

Yeah. No shit. Metafilter telephone tag here we go.

Let me try this and see how five posts down it will get pull-quoted and hammered over and over. Ahem.

There are billions of people who use ninja stars to kill rabid grizzly bears ever day.
posted by tkchrist at 8:18 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, no. You cannot determine cause and effect by studying a population. As the old saying goes "correlation does not imply causation". In order to infer causation, you must manipulate the independent variable (gun ownership) and then measure the dependent variable (harm in assault) in addition to providing for additional factors such as randomization, etc.

That's not really true. Even if you're limited to observational studies, you can reasonably infer causation from a pattern of correlations, especially previously unknown and surprising ones, that are consistent with a particular pathway of causation.

Most theories are stories about causation. A given theory might predict that A and B are correlated, which we'd known for a whle. This is good; a theory that predicted that A and B were uncorrelated would be a bad theory. It might also predict that X and Y are correlated and that P and Q are correlated, which we hadn't examined before. And it might predict and F and G are correlated, which is something that sounds kind of stupid unless and until you think about it in terms of the theory (it is "counterintuitive").

So you look, and you find that X and Y are correlated, and so are P and Q, and so are F and G. That's all good evidence that your theory, your model, your causal story is a pretty good one, though of course there might be better ones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really scientists? Are you really calling people on the phone, asking them if they were carrying a gun last night, and then taking their answers at face value? And getting published?

Does anyone have any idea how much alleged scientific knowledge is based on thinking you can get accurate answers to these kinds of survey questions?
posted by straight at 8:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are billions of people who use ninja stars to kill rabid grizzly bears ever day.

Jee-zus, tkchrist. Don't say dumb shit like that.

The proper term is shuriken.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:26 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wolfram Alpha doesn't give me any stats about rabid grizzly bears, so I'm gonna have to take your word on this one.
posted by hwyengr at 8:28 PM on October 20, 2009


I'm as pro-gun-control as the next guy, but this is a stupid fucking study, if Diablevert is accurate in his summary.

Everyone is NOT as likely to be involved in a shooting, and it's a simple fact that if you're the kinda guy that's gonna carry a gun around Philadelphia (or Baltimore, or Detroit), you're the kinda guy that's likely to need to use it.

Aren't something like 40-50% of murders in cities gang or drug related?
posted by empath at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm actually kinda shocked that even 1% of the people walking around Philadelphia are packing heat, to be honest.
posted by empath at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2009


Really scientists? Are you really calling people on the phone, asking them if they were carrying a gun last night, and then taking their answers at face value? And getting published?

Why is that people assume and are convinced that they, the unscientific, are privy to startling insights of common sense that are unavailable to the fiercely competitive and rigorous worlds of research and academia?

I can just hear the statistical community now. "Oh shit! We were certain people would tell the truth on the phone! You mean they won't? FUCK. Burn the papers; shred the alleged scientific knowledge. Is McDonald's hiring?"
posted by fightorflight at 8:31 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Does carrying a gun protect you from physical harm?

Yes.

See, one night, my autistic son came barging into my room at about 3 a.m. and started doing one of his funny, excited dances he does. He startled me from a dream, and in that dream-like split second we all feel right when we woke up, I had a full-on nightmare that my son was actually some kind of elf-demon-leprechaun-alien with glowing red eyes. I'm not so macho that I can't admit that I screamed, because the entire episode scared the bejeesus out of me.

I later remarked to my wife that it was a good idea that I didn't keep a handgun at the ready. Because, in my nightmarish stupor, I honestly would have killed my son right there and then, shooting blindly into the half darkness.

Does carrying a gun protect you from physical harm?

Yes. Because if I had done that, had I killed him, afterward, I almost surely would have taken my own life.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:32 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


clearly, i need to avoid philidelphia
posted by pyramid termite at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2009


I can just hear the statistical community now. "Oh shit! We were certain people would tell the truth on the phone! You mean they won't? FUCK. Burn the papers; shred the alleged scientific knowledge. Is McDonald's hiring?"

Wasn't there a post about that a couple years back? About how these researchers were calling teenagers on the phone and in online communities and asking them about their sex practices and like everybody was either getting or giving blow jobs nine times a day. It sparked like one of those monthly Nancy Grace type outrage news cycles. And it was all bullshit.
posted by tkchrist at 8:37 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember when cameraphones were first coming out, and everyone was joking that it made no sense to mix a digital camera and a cell phone? And then once everyone had one, they all realized how useful it was to always have a camera to capture things at a moment's notice?

Why don't we design a cellular phone that just happens to also fire bullets? Think about it. Every two to four years, people get new cell phones. Within six or so years, almost everyone on the streets would be carrying guns.

It's no accident that a candy bar cell phone just so happens to be about the same size as the handle of a semiautomatic handgun. Not only would society be much safer with guns everywhere, but people would also be finding new, creative ways to use guns. And with smartphones like the iPhone, people could come up with useful apps to automatically fire the gun at convenient times (IE when the camera recognizes your enemies, or when you want to cheat at target practice). I haven't even begun to think up what Twitter could do with a gun.

Also, as an armed society is a polite society, we would eliminate all the problems of people being rude with their phones.

HAMBURGER
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:39 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Need to kill your teacher? There's an Ap for that.
posted by tkchrist at 8:41 PM on October 20, 2009


Cellphone guns have been out for a while.
posted by empath at 8:44 PM on October 20, 2009


About how these researchers were calling teenagers on the phone and in online communities and asking them about their sex practices and like everybody was either getting or giving blow jobs nine times a day.

Actually, I do I think I remember that, but in my head the discussion had a lot of "if I was asked about my sex life I would totally lie therefore this study is bullshit" stuff in it too; I can't remember if the study actually was bullshit or not.

Which is not to say it wasn't. It doesn't help that there's also a lot of wilfully bogus statisticing and bad sciencing going on out there to muddy the water. "ChastityCorp, makers of LipLock® anti-blowjob devices yesterday revealed that up to 90% of teenagers are giving or receiving blowjobs up to 8 times a day*" (in a study of two prostitutes).

But overall, at least we know what properly done surveys should look like. It's not an unexamined area, lets say.
posted by fightorflight at 8:46 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is that people assume and are convinced that they, the unscientific, are privy to startling insights of common sense that are unavailable to the fiercely competitive and rigorous worlds of research and academia?

Dude I am not trying to sound condescending here but have you ever like, met any academics?
posted by kathrineg at 8:46 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well though they were likely diligent, I can't see how they can control for one very important variable: a person who owns a gun believes they have a reason to. If the results of the study were presented "people who have a reason to own a gun are 4 times as likely to get shot as those who don't," it would seem far less surprising.

Not saying that it can't be more dangerous to have a gun in an armed conflict--having a gun escalates the conflict, I'm just not sure if it is feasible to figure the situation out too exactly with statistics.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:49 PM on October 20, 2009


katherineg: Yes. Are you saying that in your experience, or even overall as a breed, they aren't competitive or aren't generally rigorous in their work?
posted by fightorflight at 8:49 PM on October 20, 2009


I am saying that they are human beings who sometimes make mistakes; and arguing from authority is silly.
posted by kathrineg at 8:52 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: "I later remarked to my wife that it was a good idea that I didn't keep a handgun at the ready. Because, in my nightmarish stupor, I honestly would have killed my son right there and then, shooting blindly into the half darkness."

As opposed to a responsible handgun owner, who wouldn't keep their firearm in a state where they could discharge it without being fully awake.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:52 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


More guns in a conflict leads to more people getting shot. Wonder what could possibly change that.

At this point, nothing short of a time machine.
posted by rokusan at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2009


Why would you blame him when you get the words wrong?

I've never been so glad to be wrong.
posted by nola at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2009


It's entirely possible, according to the methodology of this study, that the people of Philadelphia not only labor under draconian gun possession restrictions, but also, due to lack of practice because of rarity of facilities, are just abysmal shots. Around the country, other self-defense shooters are having better effect.
posted by paulsc at 8:58 PM on October 20, 2009


Apparently you now need a degree in statistics before you're allowed to think critically about what you read on the news. We certainly wouldn't want a populace that thinks for themselves.

posted by jock@law


I'll keep that sentiment in mind the next time we're discussing a point of law.

Every time I see a study come out on a controversial topic that attempts to advance one more millimeter in the understanding of a complex issue, and the immediate shouts of "it's a flawed study because x, y and probably z", I am often prompted to ask just what in the world would the critics accept as a valid study?

Because it's a lot like having a debate with a religious person: there is absolutely no scientific study that would be acceptable in their eyes to disprove or cast doubt on what they believe without factual basis (i.e., what they take on faith). Scientific evidence is dismissed a priori if it doesn't support the interlocutor's prejudices.

So I'd sincerely ask the critics - asking as a progressive, gun-owning self defense instructor and scientist - what would be an acceptable design for a gun safety study which, once the results came back, would be unassailable in your eyes? Is it at all possible to design one that would be satisfactory? Because if there's not, then your criticism of this study is really just a proxy for a statement of personal faith that simply can't be refuted by any possible experimental trial.
posted by darkstar at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun(thats about 43-55 million households).

Really? Seriously? Holy crap, I'm rethinking any future visits south to the U.S.
posted by Go Banana at 9:04 PM on October 20, 2009


I am saying that they are human beings who sometimes make mistakes; and arguing from authority is silly.

That's nice, but irrelevant. The purported mistake isn't like dropping the test tube, it's like pretending to be a doctor when you're a novelist, and that's what peer review is supposed to be for anyway. Secondly, who argued from authority? I sure didn't. I did imply that the field as a whole isn't going overlook the possibility that people might not report the truth when asked until somebody on a forum points it out.

It's not arguing from authority to say that I reckon computer scientists have considered the idea when my Grandmother asks "haven't they thought about putting something in so that it doesn't crash? That seems obvious to me" after she loses her unsaved document for the 100th time.
posted by fightorflight at 9:04 PM on October 20, 2009


Because if there's not, then your criticism of this study is really just a proxy for a statement of personal faith that simply can't be refuted by any possible experimental trial.

This is true. And true when the gun-owning side of the argument also presents studies.

I think dissecting the validity of any given study is good. And it's good we have people smart enough to do that pretty well here.

It's not like global warming where eventually after all the complication there is an exact metric that be measured and we know how a given chemical interaction takes place etc.

There are few studies that can prove 100% one way or another the essential truth of one side or another on a topic like this with so many gray areas. At best all they can do is offer a data-point and maybe inform opinion. And that's the reality.

I mean if you accept this study, and your a gun owner, your either okay with being 4.5 times more likely to get shot or your give up your gun. Is that the point of the study? or is it to get people to behave more rationally and responsibly with their guns? Depends on what tribe you belong to, huh?
posted by tkchrist at 9:13 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]



Really? Seriously? Holy crap, I'm rethinking any future visits south to the U.S.

Canada has a very high gun ownership rate as well.

There are somewhere between 7 million and 11 million guns in Canada and between 2 and 4 million owners. There are only like 30 million Canadians.

So DON'T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE!
posted by tkchrist at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2009


I'll play, pianomover. . .

Commander McBragg: . . . in my breast pocket exactly where the bullet would have struck was my own trusty revolver. I was saved.

I suppose you could say that what you concealed carried the day, eh Commander?
posted by Herodios at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2009


Yeah, I'll take these numbers over the U.S. any day, thanks. Looks like 22% of Canadian homes contain guns vs. 50% in the U.S. And only 2% with handguns. Lower then France at 23%.
posted by Go Banana at 9:27 PM on October 20, 2009


There are few studies that can prove 100% one way or another the essential truth of one side or another on a topic like this with so many gray areas. At best all they can do is offer a data-point and maybe inform opinion. And that's the reality.

Totally agree.

I mean if you accept this study, and your a gun owner, your either okay with being 4.5 times more likely to get shot or your give up your gun

Only if you neglect the principle stated in the first excerpt I quoted: i.e., that the study is only a data point that helps to inform.

It seems quite reasonable to say that if you accept the study, then you are willing to give credence to the idea that carrying a firearm may, in fact, increase your likelihood to some degree, even if it isn't a 450% increase - of escalating a conflict to the point where there is gunplay and in which you, yourself, get shot.

Which seems a fairly reasonable conclusion, really.
posted by darkstar at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2009


Social scientists are notoriously unrigorous and, frankly, stupid. I say that as a former social scientist by training.

All the stats training in the world won't do you a lick of good if you don't know what it means. NYT had an article maybe a year ago about how lots of psychologists had been duped by this pathetically bad study on confirmation bias. Monkeys would choose either a red M&M or a blue M&M in the first round. In the second round, the monkeys who chose red over blue would choose red over green 67% of the time, and the monkeys who chose blue over red would choose blue over green 67% of the time.

Well duh. If the preferences were UTTERLY RANDOM, we would still see the same result. Because two thirds of the combinations where blue is favored over red -- blue > green > red, blue > red > green, green > blue > red -- it is also favored over green. It doesn't prove diddly.
posted by jock@law at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2009


(to adopt a mefi meme: your mind -- blowed)
posted by jock@law at 9:33 PM on October 20, 2009


I live in a "shall issue" state. Here's the tail end of a 10 year old discussion on the effect of "shall issue" on violent crime, between scholars with a statistical bent. On the strength of such arguments, the majority of states in the U.S. are now "shall issue."

Moreover, the state in which I live was the first to expand the old Castle Doctrine by affirming a right to active self-defense in its "Stand Your Ground" law, which became effective October 1, 2005. Despite the anti-gun lobby in the U.S., since Florida adopted "Stand Your Ground" in 2005, other states, including neighboring Georgia, Indiana, and West Virginia have specifically enacted "Stand Your Ground" legislation, while other states count on their established case law to support the doctrine.

What every applicant for a concealed carry license in Florida learns, is that self-defense shooting with hand guns requires regular practice to maintain gun control and shooting skills. Shooting for self-defense can be learned by nearly any normal sighted, moderately active person, but remaining capable of shooting accurately in a self-defense situation, with a handgun, does require continuing practice. Self-defense shooting with long guns, such as a shotgun, requires, perhaps, less regular range practice, because of the characteristics of long gun firearms, but it is still valuable to practice use of the weapon, and to review likely scenarios in which self-defense shooting might be required.

Basing a study on the simple issue of weapon possession entirely masks commitment to proficiency, and skill, as markers of success in self-defense shooting. Because this does not align with simple common sense, or the experience of capable, successful self-defense shooters, I, for one, can draw no useful conclusions about the data presented in this very flawed and incomplete "study."
posted by paulsc at 9:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems quite reasonable to say that if you accept the study, then you are willing to give credence to the idea that carrying a firearm may, in fact, increase your likelihood to some degree, even if it isn't a 450% increase - of escalating a conflict to the point where there is gunplay and in which you, yourself, get shot.

Sure. That may be the intent of the study. But it's safe to be cynical and say it sure isn't the intent of a huge portion of people will quote this study. Which will be to hammer you over the head about how god awful guns are and how the second you own one your a death dealer.

And 4.5% more likely to get shot is a reasonable assumption. In Philly. But I wonder the likelihood of mortality/injury due to defensive gun use in say Boise, Idaho. If there actually is any.

And I'm interested to know the mortality statistics of car ownership/use and why there isn't as equally a contentious hew and cry over vehicle deaths. I mean assuming the intention is to just give us another data point to inform our safety. Yes. I'm being sarcastic. but honestly all this is supposedly under the guise of "keeping us safe" and "saving lives." It the hyper inflated rhetoric BOTH sides use. Most of the time it's just emotional noise not informative data points.
posted by tkchrist at 9:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


From one of the authors other work:

Results: After adjustment, heavy drinkers were 2.67 times as likely to be shot in an assault when compared with nondrinkers (p <>

So, sober up, drunkies, lest you get got.

posted by electroboy at 9:51 PM on October 20, 2009


I can just hear the statistical community now. "Oh shit! We were certain people would tell the truth on the phone!"

I note that instead of answering my objection and saying: Look here, they did come up with an amazing technique to get people to answer truthfully a phone survey asking sensitive questions, even though everyone you've ever met would just hang up and refuse to talk to yet another unsolicited phone caller, and that's why this study isn't completely worthless, you just ridicule my objection.

I would absolutely be fascinated for you to prove me wrong, but no, I do not believe social scientists have devised a method for figuring out how many people will answer truthfully if you call them up and ask if they were carrying a gun last night.

And don't tell me that the errors cancel out, because in this case the reporting for the control group is definitely not the same as the reporting for the cases.
posted by straight at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2009


a phone survey asking sensitive questions

Not just sensitive questions, but potentially admitting to a crime, if you don't have a concealed carry license.
posted by electroboy at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2009


Results: After adjustment, heavy drinkers were 2.67 times as likely to be shot in an assault when compared with nondrinkers

Armed, drunk, and stupid is no way to go though life, son.
posted by tkchrist at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2009


They found that if a person gets shot, he is 4.5 times more likely to have a gun than the general population does. I'd be more interested in the other direction: if you are carrying a gun, are you more likely to get shot?

For that, I'd count the hours the gun carrying population carried guns in a year and the number of them who got shot. Then you'd have a ratio of how many hours you have to carry a gun before you get shot. Then you count up everyone else's hours of non-gun-carrying (and throw in the gun-carrying population when they were unarmed if you like) and see how many of them got shot. Then you know how many hours you have to walk around without a gun to get shot. Then compare the two numbers: higher numbers are better.
posted by A-Train at 9:59 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It doesn't prove diddly.


Nor does your example. The "lots of psychologists" you mention are not the epidemiologists that authored this study. So whatever the monkey study demonstrates or doesn't demonstrate about those particular psychologists has diddly to do with this particular study.

Your ad hominem -- blowed.


Basing a study on the simple issue of weapon possession entirely masks commitment to proficiency, and skill, as markers of success in self-defense shooting. Because this does not align with simple common sense, or the experience of capable, successful self-defense shooters, I, for one, can draw no useful conclusions about the data presented in this very flawed and incomplete "study."

But the world of handgun carriers isn't populated only by "capable, successful self-defense shooters", so why should they limit the study only to those kinds of firearm carriers? Your dismissal of the study is based on a "begging the question" fallacy. That is, If they studied only "capable, successful self defense shooters", then the resulting likelihood of their being injured in a confrontation would be lower. Well, of course it would, because you've pre-defined the kind of conclusion that you expect to see, since "capable" and "successful" are criteria you have defined ab initio for the kind of people you want to be studied, Hence, your framing implicitly assumes the conclusion, the heart of the "begging the question" fallacy.

Alternately, this could be considered a variation of a "No true Scotsman" fallacy. Basically you're saying that "No true capable and successful self defense shooter would be likely to get himself shot", and therefore the conclusion of the study that carriers are more likely to get themselves shot can't possibly legitimately apply to those people.

To dismiss a study because it doesn't employ a logical fallacy is not really grounds to call it "flawed".
posted by darkstar at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2009


So I'd sincerely ask the critics - asking as a progressive, gun-owning self defense instructor and scientist - what would be an acceptable design for a gun safety study which, once the results came back, would be unassailable in your eyes? Is it at all possible to design one that would be satisfactory? Because if there's not, then your criticism of this study is really just a proxy for a statement of personal faith that simply can't be refuted by any possible experimental trial.

I venture a quibble, here. I don't know that it's impossible to design such a study, though I do think it would be very difficult --- because it would be hard to gather statistics about non-events, crimes that did not happen because they were deterred by the presence of a gun. And it's that capacity which is supposed to help make the bearer safer.

I confess, I can't, at the moment, conceive of how you'd conduct such a study. But that's the thing -- figuring out how to construct such a study is damn difficult and the reason why innovative study proposals get grant money. The study under question here is supposed to be the first of its kind to treat gun violence in an epidemiological way --- despite decades of study, it's the first time anyone thought to approach the problem from that angle. Small wonder, then that, people might question whether the approach is appropriate.

And I do have such questions....despite myself, having very ambivalent feelings about guns and gun control. I could ramble on about them for ages, but no one really cares, so in sum: Don't own a gun, have no desire to own one, think they should be hard to buy but that given the 2nd amendment and people's strong feelings on the matter, think it's virtually impossible the US will ever have the kind of gun ownership rates of say, UK or Japan, and so will always have greater instances of gun violence, think gun control measures are mostly useful in order to give cops another reason to stop shady people, but probably do little to prevent guns from getting in the hands of shady people. So I think gun control laws could be helpful sometimes and useless sometimes, depending on the specific law and its effects. If it could be proved that merely having a gun makes you more likely to get shot, I think that would be very interesting and would personally be more in favor of broader gun control laws. But I think what this study's proving, inasmuch as it proves anything, is that people who own guns are more likely to get shot. And unless we're sure that there's no factor that distinguishes "people who own guns" from other people that would also them more likely to be shot, I don't think that means much.
posted by Diablevert at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


that self-defense shooting ... Shooting for self-defense...remaining capable of shooting accurately in a self-defense situation...Self-defense shooting with long guns...scenarios in which self-defense shooting might be required...

There are a lot of responsible, reasonable gun owners out there. Although I am not one of them, I know and am friendly with a not insignificant number of folks who own guns, and I am not philosphically opposed to the idea of gun ownership at all.

But, man. It just seems like there's a certain subset of gun owners who get super excited every time the subject of defending themselves with guns comes up. I honestly believe that there's a number of these folks are sitting up at night actually hoping someone tries to attack them or break into their house so they can shoot them. It's like the idea of blowing away some imaginary home invader gives them a giant raging boner, and frankly it fucking sickens me.
posted by dersins at 10:08 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would absolutely be fascinated for you to prove me wrong, but no, I do not believe social scientists have devised a method for figuring out how many people will answer truthfully if you call them up and ask if they were carrying a gun last night.

So, what, you think they just decide to ignore the issue and hope nobody notices? Seriously, what do you think they do? Hope? Objections like yours aren't hard to come up with, so did you think that you were the first person to ever think of it, and it's never dawned on statisticians? This is why I was ridiculing.

Alright. There are some techniques that let you get the truth out of a survey even on sensitive questions, like randomised reponse:
Ask a man whether he had sex with a prostitute this month. Before he answers ask him to flip a coin. Instruct him to answer "yes" if the coin comes up tails, and truthfully, if it comes up heads. Only he knows whether his answer reflects the toss of the coin or his true experience.

Half the people-or half the questionnaire population-who have not had sex with a prostitute get tails and the other half get heads when they flip the coin. Therefore, half of those who have not had sex with a prostitute will answer "yes" even though they have not done it. So whatever proportion of the group said "no," the true number who did not have sex with a prostitute is double that. For example, if 20% of the population surveyed said "no," then the true fraction that did not have sex with a prostitute is 40%.
but even on top of this, survey questions are very carefully designed, because people are likely to lie at different rates depending on how personal the questions are and so on. All of this plays a huge part in the huge amounts of work that goes into a survey before the first call is made.
posted by fightorflight at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2009


In 1993, there were 2.5 million defensive uses of handguns. By comparison, armed criminal offenses numbered 400,000.

If this statistic were true, you'd expect in areas where guns were banned, the armed crime rate would jump through the roof. And yet we observe exactly the reverse... for the most part, cities, states and countries with low gun ownership have lower violent crime rates.


Generally, I'm very dubious about the study - how, exactly, would they collect these numbers? But I'm willing to believe the shape of the outcome. I've known a lot of people who were committed gun owners, including some champion shots, and while quite a lot of them were perfectly decent people, almost all of them spent an astonishing amount of time discussing violence and their fantasies about violence, how they would defend themselves if attacked, etc. etc.

It certainly seems pretty reasonable to me that, given that the gun is about the best tool for violence out there, that a lot of gun owners will be people who are very interested in violence, and that any violent interactions with these people will be especially violent.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2009


And for the record, here in Arizona, you do not have to have a license to carry a firearm. And our state lege has recently voted to allow folks to carry them into bars.

Just noting that "firearm carrier" is not at all synonymous with "competent and successful self defense shooter".
posted by darkstar at 10:10 PM on October 20, 2009


dersins there is nobody — I mean nobody— in this thread and nothing in that pull quote from paulsc that implies any sort of ghoulish glee in killing anybody.

And your passive-aggressive pathetic trollish attempt at implying that there is frankly fucking sickens me. You should be ashamed.
posted by tkchrist at 10:15 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oooh, I love these threads. This is the part where people who haven't ready the study and don't have training in statistics or epidemiology uncritically accept the study's methodology because they like the researchers' conclusion!
posted by codswallop at 10:16 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


If this statistic were true, you'd expect in areas where guns were banned, the armed crime rate would jump through the roof. And yet we observe exactly the reverse... for the most part, cities, states and countries with low gun ownership have lower violent crime rates.

So, the places with tight gun control in the United States, say NYC DC and California, are crime-free utopias compared to the lawless open-carry dystopias like Vermont or Montana.

I did not know that.
posted by codswallop at 10:21 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon you guys. Everything was going so good.

Here we go. Round two. Let me tell you about my anecdotal exposure to stereotypically violent gun owners and how especially violent they are. But hey. Some of my best friends are violent gun owners so it's okay for me to issue broad insulting generalities.

There are tens of millions of gun owners in this country. Chances are you talk to one or two every day and you don't know.

I know some people who play video games, some of best friends play video games. They are great people. But man all they talk about is Elf Quest this and WoWC that. And hoo-boy are they fat, zitty, socially incompetent, and never get laid.
posted by tkchrist at 10:25 PM on October 20, 2009


I think it would be a much more profitable discussion if we turned it to sketching out a prospective study. What would we measure? What would our methodologies be? What are our controls? Clearly, this study does not satisfy, but it would be a mistake to say that, because we have rejected this, no study would satisfy.

And, finally, would we be inclined to change law on the basis of the outcomes of the study — if not, why would we do the study in the first place? What purpose would it serve besides scoring points in arguments about what you would do if you got to rule the world?
posted by adipocere at 10:29 PM on October 20, 2009


tkchrist, I think dersins has a valid issue and your reaction to it is way overblown. Just to repeat what he said:
There are a lot of responsible, reasonable gun owners out there. Although I am not one of them, I know and am friendly with a not insignificant number of folks who own guns, and I am not philosphically opposed to the idea of gun ownership at all.

But, man. It just seems like there's a certain subset of gun owners who get super excited every time the subject of defending themselves with guns comes up. I honestly believe that there's a number of these folks are sitting up at night actually hoping someone tries to attack them or break into their house so they can shoot them. It's like the idea of blowing away some imaginary home invader gives them a giant raging boner, and frankly it fucking sickens me.
That's absolutely true in my own experience, and I'm a gun owner. I have met a significant number of people whose fantasies of heroic home defense border on mental snuff films. It's kind of like some of the survivalists I know who drool at their fantasy of societal collapse. I don't see it as casting aspersions on people in this thread, per se, but a recognition that this subset of society is out there.
posted by darkstar at 10:29 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


"... Hence, your framing implicitly assumes the conclusion, the heart of the "begging the question" fallacy. ..."
posted by darkstar at 1:02 AM on October 21

You make a facile, if flawed argument, darkstar.

If, in order to obtain a carry permit, and thus, to legally possess a handgun, you are taught, by mandated class instruction, that practice and proficiency are key to successful self-defense hand gun shooting, then how is it not germane to determine how many of the unsuccessful failed to maintain proficiency?

It's one thing to take the state mandated 2 hour concealed carry permit class, and another, entirely, to show up, month after month, at a range, at your own expense, and fire rounds against targets, figure out what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, pay for practice ammo, pay for range time, pay for firearm maintenance, and take instructor suggestions for improvement, to remain proficient. Those that do so, are likely to clear their holsters without shooting themselves, and be able to shoot 6" groups at 7 meters, if and when the time to do so ever comes. Those that don't practice, are highly unlikely to hit much of anything vital in an adversary, when circumstance demands.

If the difference between training to kill, and failing to train, or, being willing to be killed because of laziness or lack of range facilities, in spite of hand gun possession, isn't germane to the results of such a study, I don't know what is.
posted by paulsc at 10:30 PM on October 20, 2009


I think it would be a much more profitable discussion if we turned it to sketching out a prospective study. What would we measure?

Well. That's just it. How do you measure something that doesn't happen?
And. Where do you measure it so is meaningful for a large population?

As far as changing laws? Well. Some people cannot abide the existence of handguns in civilian use at all.

Others want it completely unfettered and regulated.

These are emotional positions. Really, religious positions. What law could you possibly enact that would even remotely bridge this divide.

I think a good study could help possibly influence government and private donors to fund education programs about violence. Provide metrics about where and hoe this violence occurs.
posted by tkchrist at 10:38 PM on October 20, 2009


So, what, you think they just decide to ignore the issue and hope nobody notices?

It's unclear, since it's not noted in the "confounding factors" discussion. I mean, they cite a study that shows the effectiveness of leaving messages on an answering machine on survey participation, but they don't discuss how they get someone to possibly admit a crime to a stranger?
posted by electroboy at 10:44 PM on October 20, 2009


tkchrist, I think dersins has a valid issue and your reaction to it is way overblown.

Really. Then why the pull quote? he seemed to be implying that paulsc was a such a person since he wasn't talking "to" paulsc.

I'm willing to entertain the idea that misread as I am want to do. Which I would retract my admonition.

But really. In any other thread to constantly harp about your anecdotal experience with a given negative stereotype, and how much it "sickens" you —just to "affirm" the existence of the negative streotype — rarely adds to the productivity of a discussion now does it? At best it's a derail.
posted by tkchrist at 10:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does carrying a gun protect you from physical harm?

I don't know, but I can tell you how not carrying one might have.

Once, many many years ago, I was selling bibles door to door in a smallish city in Missouri. I'd rented a room in a house with no phone to save money. When I needed to make a phone call, I generally went next door to my landlady's house and used hers (I did say many many years ago).

So, one evening, I went over and the landlady wasn't home, but her sister was, She didn't really know me, but she let me in to use the phone. She hung around and watched me while I made a couple of calls, took some notes, checked the time on my watch -- and then she suddenly Freaks! RIGHT! OUT!

She starts yelling, "You're a mugger, a thief! Stay away from me! Get out of here! I'm calling the police!" and so on -- and runs upstairs. So I hung up and got out of there. And through the front door I can see her peering around the corner of the stairs. . . .

So later, when the cops come, they tell me, "She says you had a gun".

Well, I didn't own a gun, and even if I had one, why would I threaten my landlady's sister with it in the middle of a phone call? And then having not shot anybody nor taken anything, walk out the front door and lock it behind me and be standing here waiting for the cops to come? And with no gun in evidence?

"Hmm," say the cops, who quite apparently do have guns, "You have a point, there, hippie." So they go back and talk to the still-half-hysterical lady for a while and come back and say "She insists you pulled out a gun when you were on the phone in there."

Ahh. . . a dim and distant light bulb winks on, and I slowly and carefully pull my shiny shiny metal pocket watch out to demonstrate to the officers what she must have seen when I checked the time during that phone call.

I remain very pleased that the landlady's sister wasn't packing and the house wasn't full of self-defence.
posted by Herodios at 10:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Provide metrics about where and hoe this violence occurs.

Near liquor stores, apparently.
posted by electroboy at 10:46 PM on October 20, 2009


Not weighing in on the gun issue (as a non-American it bewilders me that this is even a debate), but:

Social scientists are notoriously unrigorous and, frankly, stupid. I say that as a former social scientist by training.

This is a really stupid statement, and says two things to me:

1. What you know about 'social science' would fit on the back of an atom.

2. You're spending most of this thread decrying worn, tired and ignorant generalisations about gun owners by people not acquainted with the culture....
posted by smoke at 10:49 PM on October 20, 2009


If, in order to obtain a carry permit, and thus, to legally possess a handgun, you are taught, by mandated class instruction, that practice and proficiency are key to successful self-defense hand gun shooting, then how is it not germane to determine how many of the unsuccessful failed to maintain proficiency?

1. As I've stated above, not all states actually require you to do ANYTHING to be able to possess and carry a handgun. Which ruins your caveat right off the bat. No training of any kind is required for an Arizonan to carry around a pistol.

2. Even in cases where it is required, being "taught, by mandated class instruction, that practice and proficiency are key to successful self-defense hand gun shooting" does not mean that everyone who has passed such a course is or will be a successful self defense hand gun shooter.

3. Even if someone IS competently trained, there is no guarantee that they will go the extra mile and repeatedly maintain their training in the manner that you represent. In fact, I'd suggest that the majority of folks in the country that carry firearms do NOT undertake the rigorous recurrency training you outline. So to limit the study only to those who do would be to commit a monstrous sampling error in a study seeking to elucidate the general social trend.

4. In fact, you don't know who has been a "successful self defense hand gun shooter" until AFTER the fact. That is, after they have already been in a gunfight and emerged unharmed. Hence, the "No true Scotsman" fallacy.

5. Limiting your study only of those kinds of proven successful handgun carriers prejudices your conclusions, by definition. It is a classic "begging the question" fallacy.

Hence, your dismissal of the study is based on a number of logical errors, you have failed to support your point and your rebuttal fails to address the kernel of my rebuttal.
posted by darkstar at 10:52 PM on October 20, 2009


jock@law: "Social scientists are notoriously unrigorous and, frankly, stupid."

paulsc: "I, for one, can draw no useful conclusions about the data presented in this very flawed and incomplete "study.""

I don't think that enough people are really reading/understanding the study. Paulsc is making what I guess one could call a reverse ecological argument-- that because the data presented in the study doesn't pertain to highly-trained marksmen such as himself it's not germane to anyone. I think that the discussion section of the paper pretty well outlined who the results are for-- it's for folks who are considering gun ownership as a protective method, that they might have an additional piece of information on which to base their decision. Not everyone has that commitment to proficiency or skill that you have; some folks, and I don't know what percentage, believe that the sheer act of owning a gun is a protective factor.

Now, to delve into the more statistical concerns. Jock@law made a good point. Some social science is truly bad, and this largely stems from researchers who don't have a good mathematical grasp on how statistics work. The epidemiologists and clinicians I work with, however, have a very good grasp on it, and I think that your argument is better suited to softer sciences. Generally speaking, the closer you get to NIH money the better and more rigorous your studies are going to be.

Now, to address some concerns about the study design. I had to read the article a few times before I was able to really grasp how the groups were being compared, so it's unsurprising that there's a lot of confusion.

A lot of folks are hung up on how the control group was being used. For example, some folks have claimed that the study compares likelihood of getting shot if you have a gun and are in some sort of altercation to the likelihood of getting shot if you are sitting at home playing scrabble. That's not true. The control group represents risk time, providing a group of folks who were statistically more or less at the same risk of being involved in a shooting as anyone else.

This matched case-control study uses a simple 2x2 epidemiological table. You can find a good one here. The 2x2 table compares two conditions that have two levels each. In this case, it compares gun ownership (yes/no) to outcome in an assault (fatal/nonfatal). Here's a good mathematical rundown of how matched case-control stats work (pdf).

Anyway, I need to sleep or else I'm going to start typing lies. Would greatly appreciate it if someone picked up where I left off and explain odds ratios and how they needn't be burned at the stake.
posted by The White Hat at 10:59 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


> Gun-toting soccer mom, husband shot dead
Fucking soccer...


Jesus christ, perhaps a little sensitivity may be in order here?

Football, people, it's called football.

If the damn Euros and South Americans and suchlikes owned some freaking guns, I wouldn't have to be step in on their behalf like this.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:02 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]



From the study:

However, compared with control participants,
shooting case participants were significantly
more often Hispanic, more frequently working
in high-risk occupations, less educated, and
had a greater frequency of prior arrest. At the
time of shooting, case participants were also
significantly more often involved with alcohol
and drugs, outdoors, and closer to areas where
more Blacks, Hispanics, and unemployed individuals
resided. Case participants were also more
likely to be located in areas with less income and
more illicit drug trafficking


No shit. IOW people more likely to associate or be in close proximity with gangs. Not exactly your average law abiding gun owner.

Adipocere asked what would be a better study: A broader study that involved people who you now for certain obtained their firearms legally and are more likely to reflect the average owner out there. Maybe the results would be identical. Who knows.
posted by tkchrist at 11:03 PM on October 20, 2009


the kernel of my rebuttal

My new band name.
posted by tkchrist at 11:04 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans

I'm not a gun owner, but I am an occasional gun borrower. Dude, do you know what happens when you blow the shit out of a pumpkin or watermelon with a shotgun at close range?!? PUMPKIN OR WATERMELON REDUCED TO TINY FLYING BITS It's fucking fun! There are many inantimate objects one may safely (okay, that one night with the propane tanks probably wasn't all that safe) combine with firearms to produce pleasing sights, sounds and explosions. /redneck
posted by little e at 11:08 PM on October 20, 2009


Social scientists are notoriously unrigorous and, frankly, stupid. I say that as a former social scientist by training.

All the stats training in the world won't do you a lick of good if you don't know what it means. NYT had an article maybe a year ago about how lots of psychologists had been duped by this pathetically bad study on confirmation bias. Monkeys would choose either a red M&M or a blue M&M in the first round. In the second round, the monkeys who chose red over blue would choose red over green 67% of the time, and the monkeys who chose blue over red would choose blue over green 67% of the time.


"Pathetically bad"? This is incredibly unfair.

(1) The studies were on cognitive dissonance, not confirmation bias.
(2) The mistake was subtle and surprised a lot of extremely smart people. It was based on the Monty Hall problem, which is famously unintuitive... particularly if you are not looking for it. It's fairly hard to process even if you know about it. Chen's discovery was a genuine insight, not the identification of an obvious statistical error. This error is not at all representative of any purported statistical sloppiness in the social sciences. It's a special case. That's why it got so much media play -- it was unintuitive.
(3) The researchers who were taken in include all sorts of wonderful experimentalists, and your characterization of them as "frankly, stupid" is, frankly, stupid. The people involved in the experiments -- people like Laurie Santos and Paul Bloom -- are stellar scientists. They quickly recognized that Chen was right and the capuchin researchers performed experiments that corrected for the Monty Hall effect. They still found evidence of cognitive dissonance.
(4) You're being taken in by the breathless reporting of science journalism. The study got a lot of play because it was based on the Monty Hall problem, which is kind of intrinsically interesting, but the event wasn't a huge deal. Chen showed that there were problems with the methodology of some psych experiments, but so what? It would be bad if the errors weren't corrected for, but these were, and progress continued apace. It's not like psychologists are making so many errors that progress is impossible.
posted by painquale at 11:12 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


So, what, you think they just decide to ignore the issue and hope nobody notices? Seriously, what do you think they do? Hope? Objections like yours aren't hard to come up with, so did you think that you were the first person to ever think of it, and it's never dawned on statisticians? This is why I was ridiculing.

Alright. There are some techniques that let you get the truth out of a survey even on sensitive questions, like randomised reponse:

Just because it's an obvious problem doesn't mean that researchers have solved it.

Randomized response, for instance, is mathematically clever, but does it work? What percentage of people feel secure enough to tell the truth when the coin comes up heads?
You could try calibrating it in situations where you can double-check the answers (and assume that those situations are not significantly different from situations where you can't check the answers) but unless it's somehow always the same percentage, that wouldn't help you much.

And am I also supposed to believe that the group people who will take an unsolicited call and put up with all of that coin flipping hassle are no different from the group of people who will just hang up and refuse to talk to you? Mathematically, there are techniques to control for that, but practically, how do you find out enough about the people who don't talk to you to to effectively control for their differences?
posted by straight at 11:20 PM on October 20, 2009


"... 1. As I've stated above, not all states actually require you to do ANYTHING to be able to possess and carry a handgun. Which ruins your caveat right off the bat. No training of any kind is required for an Arizonan to carry around a pistol. ...
posted by darkstar at 1:52 AM on October 21

Thanks for reinforcing the point that a study of narrow geographical selection says nothing about national self-defense shooting trends.

"... 2. Even in cases where it is required, being "taught, by mandated class instruction, that practice and proficiency are key to successful self-defense hand gun shooting" does not mean that everyone who has passed such a course is or will be a successful self defense hand gun shooter. ..."

If, after taking such a class, and doing the recommend practice and proficiency training, they wind up dead, in gunfights against criminals, you can legitimately count them as dead, or as failed self-defense shooters, if you like. But do bother to at least verify who showed up at the range regularly, and who didn't, when reporting such statistics.

"... 3. Even if someone IS competently trained, there is no guarantee that they will go the extra mile and repeatedly maintain their training in the manner that you represent. In fact, I'd suggest that the majority of folks in the country that carry firearms do NOT undertake the rigorous recurrency training you outline. So to limit the study only to those who do would be to commit a monstrous sampling error in a study seeking to elucidate the general social trend. ..."

If the general social trend points to the need for increased practice and training by hand gun owners, rather than something else, isn't that a useful result? Suppose a properly designed study showed that inexperienced hand gun owners were 4.5 times as likely to die in a firefight as non-gun owners, but that trained, in practice hand gun owners were 1/2 as likely to die in a firefight, wouldn't you agree that such a study provided strong evidence of the need for continuing practice and proficiency training among hand gun owners, rather than that hand guns are a poor means of defense?

"... 4. In fact, you don't know who has been a "successful self defense hand gun shooter" until AFTER the fact. That is, after they have already been in a gunfight and emerged unharmed. Hence, the "No true Scotsman" fallacy. ..."

You ever been to a 10 lane range, bub? It doesn't take a college education in statistics to spot the people who can hit a target, reliably, from those who can't.

"... 5. Limiting your study only of those kinds of proven successful handgun carriers prejudices your conclusions, by definition. It is a classic "begging the question" fallacy. ..."

Failing to account for proficiency training, and on going self-defense education, prejudices your conclusions, by including people who are a danger to themselves, more than to an adversary, by definition.

"... Hence, your dismissal of the study is based on a number of logical errors, you have failed to support your point and your rebuttal fails to address the kernel of my rebuttal."

Hence, your gossamer fabric of opinion in defense of this badly flawed "study" is full of intentional logical ju-jujitsu, and fails, entirely, to appreciate the reality of hand gun ownership and continuing training, for many responsible, caring people interested in self-defense.
posted by paulsc at 11:21 PM on October 20, 2009


the kernel of my rebuttal

My new band name.



Now playing, one night only at The Debate Club Bar and Lounge!

Four dollar cover charge, free admission for anybody packin' heat.
posted by darkstar at 11:23 PM on October 20, 2009


"... Four dollar cover charge, free admission for anybody packin' heat."
posted by darkstar at 2:23 AM on October 21

Great. But you'll get yours, won't you, in padded bar tabs, and dance ticket concessions?
posted by paulsc at 11:29 PM on October 20, 2009


Hence, your gossamer fabric of opinion in defense of this badly flawed "study" is full of intentional logical ju-jujitsu, and fails, entirely, to appreciate the reality of hand gun ownership and continuing training, for many responsible, caring people interested in self-defense.

Look, Hopalong. As I've stated before, I AM a gun owner, have spent literally thousands of hours in my lifetime training, practicing and even competing with firearms. So let's please keep our debate restricted to the points of fact and logic - as I have done thus far - rather than trying to play the ad hominem, condescension card of who really appreciates the reality of gun ownership, m'kay?

I'm not sure if you can see how every one of your responses completely misses the mark. The intent of the study is to offer a data point for people who may be interested in owning a gun, asking themselves whether it will safeguard them from harm. It offers data that suggests that it may incite an escalation of gunplay that results in a greater likelihood of getting shot, oneself.

You come along and want the study to be about something else, though. You want it to be a study on how lifelong recurrency training can make you less likely to get shot than someone who doesn't have that training. Fine. But that's not the scope of the study. The scope of the study isn't to determine how much training correlates to how much risk, nor is it meant to determine which kind of handgun or round or carry harness will keep you safer in a gunfight. Sure, those things might be "useful" or interesting or "germane" to questions you may be asking, etc. But their absence from the study doesn't make the study flawed.

Just because the study isn't about what YOU wanted the study to be about doesn't make it flawed. And the reasons you've stated are logically flawed, themselves, for the reasons I've stated above and which your rebuttal fails to effectively negate.

And seriously, if you think you can tell who is going to be a "competent, successful self defense shooter" in a gunfight just by watching who can hit a target on a 10-lane range, then I'm not sure we have much common ground for discussion, here. Because the implication seems frankly absurd.
posted by darkstar at 11:42 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


And before I hit the hay, just a thanks to palinquale for the exposition of that study on cognitive dissonance.
posted by darkstar at 11:45 PM on October 20, 2009


I suspect the problem with this study isn't the study's statistical conclusion, but the interpretation. The main conclusion, that gun owners are more likely to be shot in assaults, sounds like it was successfully demonstrated. The methodology, comparing gun ownership (or at least gun possession) by people shot in assaults to that of the population in general, should be sound. The thing is, people are once again confusing correlation and causation, including the writer of the linked article and possibly the research team itself.

Look at the first line of the linked article. "In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault." That conclusion actually does not follow from the study. The total rate of attempted assaults was not known (and it was known to not be constant between the two groups in the study) so you can't actually say anything about what proportion of assaults guns stop, aside from stating that it doesn't stop all of them. The researchers are no better. "The research team concluded that, although successful defensive gun uses are possible and do occur each year, the chances of success are low." You just can't know that from the input data!

Ultimately, the study proves a statistical point, but without causation it's meaningless as a guide to action - imagine a study attempting to correlate cancer deaths with chemotherapy use. Of course you'd find that chemo patients had higher rates of cancer death, but it wouldn't mean that chemo caused cancer or even that it was ineffective. Gun owners self-select - it is naive to assume they differ in no other way than in owning a gun. You cannot determine whether gun ownership increases or decrease safety for any given person through methods such as these.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:47 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Look, Hopalong.
posted by darkstar at 2:42 AM on October 21

So, you think an ad hominem reference to a 1930's crippled Western movie star is likely to enhance your opinions, darkstar? 'Cause, um, I've got to say, I'm immensely flattered by the reference to Hopalong Cassidy.
"... He was reserved and well spoken, with a fine sense of fair play. He was often called upon to intercede when dishonest characters were taking advantage of honest citizens. "Hoppy" and his white horse, Topper, usually traveled through the west with two companions — one young and trouble-prone with a weakness for damsels in distress, the other comically awkward and outspoken. ..."
"... The intent of the study is to offer a data point for people who may be interested in owning a gun, asking themselves whether it will safeguard them from harm. ..."

Agreed. That's as dumb a study motive as trying to find out whether ownership of a Bible, or a 6 pointed Star of David, would protect a family from harm. And if you picked Kristallnacht as the location and time to study ownership of 6 pointed Star of David medallions, you'd get a far different result set than if you chose 1979 Vancouver, BC as your study environment. Don't be disingenuous.

"... You come along and want the study to be about something else, though. ..."

I don't want the study to be "about" anything. I think it fails on design, for a number of reasons, which I've elucidated. Period.

"But their absence from the study doesn't make the study flawed."

Sure, they do.

"... And the reasons you've stated are logically flawed, themselves, for the reasons I've stated above and which your rebuttal fails to effectively negate. ..."

Heh. Says you, darkstar. Too tired to make your case, further? Falling back on unsupported rhetoric, now?

"... And seriously, if you think you can tell who is going to be a "competent, successful self defense shooter" in a gunfight just by watching who can hit a target on a 10-lane range, then I'm not sure we have much common ground for discussion, here. Because the implication seems frankly absurd. ..."

The "implication" that is "absurd" being, I guess, that practiced shooters are more likely to hit their targets in a survival situation, than unpracticed shooters, who might not even know how to release the safety on their weapons, or have them loaded?

Pardon me if I think your implications are, well, to quote you "absurd."
posted by paulsc at 12:14 AM on October 21, 2009


carrying a gun makes one 4.5 times more likely to be shot

If you're already anything more likely than, say, 4.6 percent to be shot, then you're better off carrying a gun.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:50 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Too tired to make your case, further? Falling back on unsupported rhetoric, now?"

Too tired to continue to reiterate the points of logic that I've already stated, which you refuse to accept as supporting my argument, yes.

Too tired to continue to explain to your satisfaction a plethora of things that should be self-evident, like just because you can hit a stationary target on a range does not mean you will be a "competent, successful self-defense shooter" in a gunfight. Or to explain to your satisfaction that my use of "Hopalong" was intended to ironically prod you out of using ad hominems by positioning yourself as some great authority that can condescend to lecture me about the reality of gun ownership.

Just too, too tired to continue to restate the obvious, I guess. I am absurd, when you come to think of it. I should have stopped responding to you several comments ago.

See, at least I learned something from our exchange!
posted by darkstar at 12:51 AM on October 21, 2009


"... See, at least I learned something from our exchange!"
posted by darkstar at 3:51 AM on October 21

I'm glad for that, darkstar. I never thought you were ineducable. I just thought that your arguments regarding this Philadephia based gun ownership study were, um, absurd logically, deeply flawed.

You're probably the best dance hall operator I ever met on the Internet.
posted by paulsc at 12:59 AM on October 21, 2009


Although I think Paulsc is taking his argument quite a bit too far, I think I can see a bit of what he's getting at. In some ways, lumping all gun owners in together, rather than separating out by training and whether they were drunk at the time of the shooting and so on, is like giving overall figures for car accidents without separating out the DWIs.

In other words, although X% of car drivers cause a bad accident on a given night, if I personally can refrain from drinking and driving my risk of causing an accident is considerably less than X%. There's a reason my car insurance is really cheap, and my friend who keeps wrapping his cars around trees and light posts pays a fortune -- our behaviors put us at very different risks while engaging in the same activity of driving.

And I'd guess that this applies to the study, as well -- gun owners as a whole are 4.5x more likely to die, but sober, non-drug-using, law-abiding, etc, gun owners are certainly less than 4.5x at risk, just as are the ones who don't live in a high-crime neighborhood.
posted by Forktine at 2:23 AM on October 21, 2009


And I'd guess that this applies to the study, as well -- gun owners as a whole are 4.5x more likely to die, but sober, non-drug-using, law-abiding, etc, gun owners are certainly less than 4.5x at risk, just as are the ones who don't live in a high-crime neighborhood.
"It is also worth noting that our findings are possibly not generalizable to nonurban areas whose gun injury risks can be significantly different than those of urban centers like Philadelphia.64"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


People who care about gun ownership laws are not really the people with guns you need to worry about.

Gun-toting motorists more prone to road rage.
posted by stavrogin at 3:02 AM on October 21, 2009


In some ways, lumping all gun owners in together, rather than separating out by training and whether they were drunk at the time of the shooting and so on, is like giving overall figures for car accidents without separating out the DWIs.

I don't think that's what the study's doing, though. It's starting point is not "people who own guns" It's "people who got shot." It then seeks to draw a link between "people who had a gun on them when there was shooting going on" and "people who got shot" stating that a there's a higher percentage of "people who had a gun on them" in the "shot" group verses the "not shot" group.

The analogy is to disease --- say, 40% of people who have lung cancer smoke; only 20% of people smoke, therefore, smoking makes you more likely to get cancer.

The question is not, "are all people who smoke equally likely to get lung cancer?" Which is more what you're asking with the DWI thing. It's not a question the study attempts to answer, and it seems unfair to me to dismiss it because it doesn't answer a question it doesn't ask. It'd be like saying "This cancer study is bullshit because it mostly applies to people who smoke like 2 packs a day as opposed to charming people such as myself who have one pipe a week and a cigar for special occasions."
posted by Diablevert at 3:17 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a caveat, I'm not making a point about actual legislation, proposed legislation, or even ideal legislation; this is just a statement about my own feelings, but:

I just find it astounding that anyone would want to carry a gun. It seems like, in my mind, just following the rational implications of the weapon through, to carry a gun I'd have to be prepared not only to go through the physical act of shooting someone, which I probably could do with a good deal of training, although I know that gun owners work hard to earn their skills; I'd also have to be prepared to go through the emotional and spiritual act of shooting someone. It seems irrational to simply hope that I could immobilize someone with a gun by shooting them in the hand or leg; in fact, shooting someone who carries a weapon in the hand or the leg while I'm at close enough range to land a shot that precise seems utterly foolhardy, since in all cases they can still use the weapon they're carrying, so long as they don't pass out and with varying amounts of accuracy. I'd have to aim for the heart or the head.

So, basically, to justify carrying a weapon defensively to myself, I'd have to prepare myself emotionally and spiritually to kill someone.

That's something cops do, and if there's any one thing I respect cops for it's that. It's something soldiers do, too. I can't help but feel that preparing for and dealing with having killed someone has to be the worst part of anybody's job. Why in hell would I want to bring that on myself? If I lived on the street in Sarajevo or Rwanda I don't know that I'd carry a weapon defensively; first of all, I don't think it would help, but second of all I still wouldn't want to have to face that kind of awful choice. I'd rather just stay home.

So I won't. Some people might be ready for the experience of killing someone. Some people might think I'm silly for thinking that's what defensive handguns mean. I've used guns, though I'm not terribly familiar with them; where I come from, small-town Colorado, guns are hunting and sporting and generally laid-back stuff. But weapons for self-defense are something entirely different, and, again, I really couldn't get my mind around them.

Again, just my own opinion; and I have met people who could and did prepare themselves for the experience of killing another human being. I'm just lucky, I guess, to have the luxury of never having had to do that.
posted by koeselitz at 3:38 AM on October 21, 2009


"... Again, just my own opinion; and I have met people who could and did prepare themselves for the experience of killing another human being. ..."
posted by koeselitz at 6:38 AM on October 21

In self-defense?

Because taking a life, in defense of your own, is something different, practically, morally and emotionally, than taking a life as if you were shooting a deer, as a hunter, or an enemy, as if you were a soldier...
posted by paulsc at 3:58 AM on October 21, 2009


paulsc: In self-defense?

Because taking a life, in defense of your own, is something different, practically, morally and emotionally, than taking a life as if you were shooting a deer, as a hunter, or an enemy, as if you were a soldier...


I've met cops who've had to do that, yeah.

Shooting a deer or an animal seems to be different (although I haven't done that, either.) This gets into the thorny area of animal rights, but I really believe that there's something essentially different between killing an animal and killing a human being.

But the differences between "killing in self defense" and "killing because you're a soldier" seem harder to riddle out to me. The soldiers I've met who have killed... well, it often was in a kind of self defense, and while it was rather that their training and vocation led them to be in a position where they had to kill to defend themselves, well...

I guess all I meant is: I really wouldn't want to have to find out how different killing in self-defense on the street in the US is from killing somebody as a soldier. Again, just a description of my own emotional outlook, which is probably colored somewhat by the fact that I'm not remarkably brave, to put it mildly.
posted by koeselitz at 4:08 AM on October 21, 2009


Or rather: what do you mean? I don't have much experience with this, obviously; how is it different?
posted by koeselitz at 4:11 AM on October 21, 2009


"Or rather: what do you mean? I don't have much experience with this, obviously; how is it different?"
posted by koeselitz at 7:11 AM on October 21

I mean, that no true Scotsman, to use darkstar's straw man, comes to shoot white outline targets, monthly, on a range, without thinking about what it would mean to shoot a person, any more than any first time deer hunter, doesn't worry about buck fever. You practice a controlled draw, weapon presentation, target acquistion, and firing, and all the time, as you are thinking about the elements, and looking for your target accuracy, in some part of your mind, you hope, to High Heaven, that you never need to square up on another human being, as much as, if you are deer hunter, you hope you will, soon, sight and shoot a trophy buck.

Meet me at the range, and come out in the woods with me. Soon, you'll understand.
posted by paulsc at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2009


I'm ok with gun ownership. Guns are a lot of fun when you're shooting at paper targets! The US Constitution's 2nd amendment is ok. I just wish we would actually follow it:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I.e. if you want to own a gun, you need to participate in a well-regulated militia. I'd feel much better about everyone packing heat if I knew that they had dedicated five hours each week training to clean, store, use, and NOT use them properly.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2009


paulsc: Meet me at the range, and come out in the woods with me. Soon, you'll understand.

I did that every day for a while with people who knew a lot about guns. Guess it just never took.
posted by koeselitz at 4:52 AM on October 21, 2009


And maybe I was waiting for something that never actually comes; you say you "hope, to High Heaven, that you never need to square up on another human being." Well, so do I.
posted by koeselitz at 4:54 AM on October 21, 2009


Are you really saying that shooting at a paper target is even in the same league as shooting a person? Every cop and soldier I've ever met who's actually had to shoot someone, much less kill them, suggests to me that there's a whole realm of preparation beyond "I practice out at the target range."
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 AM on October 21, 2009


Are you really saying that shooting at a paper target is even in the same league as shooting a person? Every cop and soldier I've ever met who's actually had to shoot someone, much less kill them, suggests to me that there's a whole realm of preparation beyond "I practice out at the target range."

Hmm? Are you referring to me? I'm saying that it's fun to shoot at paper targets...what made you think I meant something else?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:04 AM on October 21, 2009


No, not you, Salvor. Sorry. I was responding again to paulsc, whose answer to my qualms about preparing myself to shoot someone was something like: 'well, I practice every day, so that helps.'
posted by koeselitz at 5:07 AM on October 21, 2009


As opposed to a responsible handgun owner, who wouldn't keep their firearm in a state where they could discharge it without being fully awake.

I hear you. But I counter -- it makes more sense to take the bullets out of the gun (i.e. no gun in the house) than to wear a bullet-proof vest (i.e. trigger lock, safe, etc).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:14 AM on October 21, 2009


Meet me at the range, and come out in the woods with me. Soon, you'll understand.

The best thing about debating on MetaFilter is no matter how long paulsc rambles angrily at people there's no percentage increase of the chance of being shot by him.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:18 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, not you, Salvor.

Ah. Sorry, nevermind :)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:35 AM on October 21, 2009


How many people can you kill with one gun? As many as you have bullets for.
How many people can you kill with one knife? All of them.
posted by Balisong at 6:37 AM on October 21, 2009


Oooh, I love these threads. This is the part where people who haven't ready the study and don't have training in statistics or epidemiology uncritically accept the study's methodology because they like the researchers' conclusion!
posted by codswallop at 1:16 AM on October 21 [1 favorite +] [!]


Since this was rather clearly directed at me, let me ask you a question: do you listen to your banker's advice on the finer points of dentistry? If not, then why not?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many people can you kill with one knife? All of them.
posted by Balisong at 6:37 AM on October 21 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by electroboy at 7:04 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


You ever been to a 10 lane range, bub?

posted by paulsc at 12:14 AM

Look, Hopalong.

posted by darkstar at 11:42 PM on October 20

Lighten up, Francises.
posted by electroboy at 7:37 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many people can you kill with one gun? As many as you have bullets for.
How many people can you kill with one knife? All of them.
posted by Balisong


You could also pistol whip people to death once you run out of bullets.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:38 AM on October 21, 2009


However, compared with control participants, shooting case participants were significantly more often Hispanic, more frequently working in high-risk occupations, less educated, and had a greater frequency of prior arrest.

Badlands. Philly's heroin distribution nexus is a square of land in North Philly stretching from Kensington Avenue over to 9th Street, from Lehigh Avenue up to Erie, comprising the neighborhoods of West Kensington and Fairhill. It's called the Badlands, it's primarily a barrio and it's typically the most violent neighborhood in the city. I just had a client get blasted with a .50 cal Desert Eagle on Front and Westmoreland, it blew a hole the size of a fifty cent piece clear through his leg. It's healing okay but he still might lose it, the doctors aren't sure. There's so many complications that come along with such a greivous wound.

Earlier this year one of my clients was murdered up there. He was totally reckless and deathbound, a young Latin boy who had been slinging dope since he was 12 years old, maybe a 4th grade education, mental health problems. I actually had a conversation with him a couple weeks before he died where I told him I didn't think he was going to live to get off my caseload if he didn't make some changes in his life. He laughed it off, told me everything's cool, everything's under control. The Friday afternoon before he was murdered he was at his outpatient group saying goodbye to everyone, thanking them for their support, so he knew it was coming. They shot him in the head, point blank. I went to his funeral; they had his head mostly covered because most of it was missing, so I assume a fairly powerful handgun did the damage.

He had a 9 month old daughter. He was one of my favorites and I busted my ass for months to try to prevent that outcome so it was tough news to take.

So, yeah, guns, Philly, it's a big problem.
posted by The Straightener at 7:44 AM on October 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


Since this was rather clearly directed at me, let me ask you a question: do you listen to your banker's advice on the finer points of dentistry? If not, then why not?

"finer points" are facts. Facts require learning. Facts about dentistry require learning about dentistry - something dentists (presumably) have and (most) bankers (presumably) do not.

The conclusions of a study are reasoning. They say "Here is what we know, and here is what we conclude based on those facts." Reasoning requires a disciplined mind, but it doesn't require intimate knowledge of the underlying material. Don't get me wrong -- that intimate knowledge helps, especially to fill in the gaps of communication or to understand terms of art. But it doesn't require intricate knowledge of statistics to propose that it's at least possible that another variable exists that affects both, a possibility that may or may not have been addressed in any given study.

It may be true that gun-owners in Philly, as a whole, are 4.5x as likely to be shot as non-gun-owners in Philly, as a whole. That doesn't mean - as science journalism would suggest - that going out and buying a gun makes you 4.5x as likely to get shot. If anything, it might change the stats to mean that gun-owners in Philly are 4.49999999x (or 4.500000001x) as likely to be shot.

Experts have expertise, truly. That doesn't mean they're smarter. It means they know more stuff.
posted by jock@law at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2009


Maybe people who have legitimate reasons to worry about getting shot are more likely to carry guns.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:03 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


jock@law, so if I'm interpreting your argument correctly, you're asserting that one does not have to have a deep understanding of the facts in order to come to a well-reasoned conclusion? Or is it just that one generally arrives at a superior conclusion when one doesn't have all the facts?

With regard to most of the "but what if they didn't consider x!" arguments here, "facile" is the word that comes most readily to mind. So the researchers were lazy enough that they didn't consider the sorts of facile objections that some layman on the internet who hasn't even read the study can come up with? Really? And just because the experts happen to know more facts, they're no more reliable than said layman?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2009


It seems like, in my mind, just following the rational implications of the weapon through, to carry a gun I'd have to be prepared not only to go through the physical act of shooting someone, which I probably could do with a good deal of training, although I know that gun owners work hard to earn their skills; I'd also have to be prepared to go through the emotional and spiritual act of shooting someone.

That's part of the point for the defense-oriented gun owner (who isn't part of a criminal enterprise).

They get to pretend* that they've prepared themselves for the terrible burden of having killed someone. They get to pick up their pistol while they're cleaning it and murmur under their breath "With great power comes great responsibility" and think about shooting and killing a stereotypical mugger or rapist who's attacking a stereotypical victim, and about how awful and scarring that would be for them to live with. Then they can think about the terrible psychological burden they're willing to bear as part of their noble duty to defend the innocent, and about what an absolutely stupendous bad-ass that makes them.

*Which isn't to say that they automatically aren't prepared to do so, just that any preparation is so hypothetical and so unlikely to be actually invoked that it's effectively pretending.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:24 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


With regard to most of the "but what if they didn't consider x!" arguments here, "facile" is the word that comes most readily to mind.

Perhaps you're familiar with this.
posted by electroboy at 8:52 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, nanojath and kathrineg, I was thinking mostly of the "stupid until proven otherwise" and "fucking mental patient" comments, but in retrospect these were either not as awful or not as broad as I initially read them. We like to think that each thread is a hermetically sealed entity, but of course it's not so, and I brought my expectations from previous gun threads into this one and saw those comments as harbingers. Thankfully I was proven wrong.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:53 AM on October 21, 2009


Although ROU_Xenophobe's comment up there comes perilously close to the kind of overly broad, condescending bullshit I (largely erroneously, it turns out) feared would turn up here.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2009


Perhaps you're familiar with this [Argument from Authority].
posted by electroboy at 11:52 AM on October 21 [+] [!]


"Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism."

Am I arguing that this paper should not be subject to peer review? Certainly not. But to attack its methodology without having any understanding of the underlying subject matter or even an understanding of the conclusion itself is, well, facile, yes.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:01 AM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


The fact that this FPP was posted by Blazecock Pileon* is a triple word score of eponysterics.

*
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2009


I handled a shotgun last weekend, and I wasn't shot once. Obviously the study is flawed.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:58 AM on October 21, 2009


But to attack its methodology without having any understanding of the underlying subject matter or even an understanding of the conclusion itself is, well, facile, yes.

That's all well and good if that had been the argument you'd been making, but other than the snark about people arguing against the result, all you've really said is HAY GUSY THESE IS EXPERTS WE CANT QUESTION THEM.
posted by electroboy at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except people totally are arguing against the result, in part in a fully snark-deserving manner. Facile.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on October 21, 2009


Except people totally are arguing against the result, in part in a fully snark-deserving manner. Facile.

No more facile than not questioning the methodology because you agree with the result. People may be motivated to question the methodology because they don't like the result, but that doesn't invalidate their criticism.
posted by electroboy at 10:23 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


People may be motivated to question the methodology because they don't like the result, but that doesn't invalidate their criticism.
No of course not, but not knowing what they're talking about does. It's like vaccine doubters with not a lick of medical understanding who don't like the idea of foreign chemicals put in their blood by the gubmt. Is it a valid criticism of a particular vaccine, especially compared to one from a medical expert?

It's not an argument from authority to say that the latter criticism would hold a lot more weight. Similarly, I don't think anybody here is saying the study is correct merely because it was performed by experts , which would be such a fallacy.
posted by fightorflight at 10:34 AM on October 21, 2009


No, the criticism being grounded in speculation or misunderstanding invalidates their criticism, as it does your false equivalency.
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on October 21, 2009


Except that "facile" means "ignoring complexity". My position basically boils down to 1) experts in a particular field are generally pretty good at dealing with complex issues in their field, and 2) I am not an expert in their field and probably can't come up with confounding issues that they haven't considered (probably in their 100-level classes), so 3) the odds of me (or you) coming up with an "a-ha! gotcha!" style counter-argument are vanishingly small.

And yet this thread is full of people going "OMG BLAX" and "but I'm a responsible gun owner" and "obviously their sampling methods are too wrong" with no citations or support or credentials and any number of other facile arguments against the conclusion. People don't like the conclusions prima facie so they attack the (admittedly obscure and specialized) methods, instead of assuming that the experts are perhaps more informed than they are and seeking to reconsider their views.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Plus the many, many suggestions of confounding variables that couldn't possibly be accounted for in the study but which random internet dude could come up with. And the one guy complaining that the abstract has some sneaky talk about confounding variables and he doesn't like the sound of that at all.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2009


Is there any discussion in the study about the specific types of incidents covered? Do they make any distinction between incidents where both parties are involved in crime, such as gang-violence or drug deals gone bad, etc., versus a situation where one party is innocent, such as a canonical mugging?

I'm just trying to figure out if the results are implying that one should refrain from committing gun-involved crimes versus implying that joe-citizen should not carry a gun. Or how much the gang/drug/etc crime is impacting the results. Thanks.
posted by jsonic at 11:00 AM on October 21, 2009


It's like vaccine doubters with not a lick of medical understanding who don't like the idea of foreign chemicals put in their blood by the gubmt.

But you'd agree there's a difference between "Jesus didn't need no vaccines" and "Should I be concerned about thimerosal in vaccines?" The former is nonsensical and the latter is based on the commonly understood fact that mercury is poisonous. Similarly "No one better take mah gun!" doesn't need to be addressed in this context, but "How do they know the control group was being truthful" probably should be. Even you admitted that if asked about a personal issue, you probably wouldn't tell the truth. I'm still unclear on how a the study that determines how leaving a message on an answering machine vs. not leaving a message increases study participation merits a mention, but the truthfulness of the control group doesn't.

I think the main problem is that this is a pretty shitty post. The original FPP consisted mainly of a link to the abstract, the study is narrowly focused and doesn't really lend itself to any larger conclusions about gun possession in general. People started weighing in with the snark from the get go, so there's an extremely low signal to noise ratio.
posted by electroboy at 11:39 AM on October 21, 2009


lets see... police officers all carry guns, and they have a relatively safe job. if you look at the mortality rates (BLS statistics), tons of jobs are more dangerous, including working in a cannery, herding cattle, doing construction. since none of those folks carry on the job, and their jobs result in more death, then perhaps carrying a gun reduces the risk of on the job mortality. on the other hand, cops kill themselves at twice the rate of people in most other professions. so carrying a gun for work makes you twice as likely to kill yourself. i guess its a trade off.
posted by mano at 12:29 PM on October 21, 2009


dersins : It just seems like there's a certain subset of gun owners who get super excited every time the subject of defending themselves with guns comes up.

There certainly are, and one of the most frustrating parts of being a gun owner and an advocate for their recreational use is being lumped in with them. I would never tell someone not to use a gun to protect themselves, as that is completely their decision, but what I have done is tried to demonstrate that in most cases, a gun is not necessarily the ideal choice for home or personal defense in light of simpler cheaper and safer alternatives.

And, in fact, because a lot of people believe that just having the gun is enough to keep them safe (as opposed to learning to use it, maintain it, and store it properly) in a lot of cases, having a gun is actually more dangerous, both because the user has in inflated view of their perceived safety as well as the associated risks of being around a firearm in inexpert hands.

It makes me sad. Because guns are really a lot of fun when separated from all the power-trip baggage associated with them.
posted by quin at 12:47 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cellphone guns have been out for a while.

I'm going to stick with my cellphone whiskey flask, though.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:00 PM on October 21, 2009


More Anecdata:

I hung out for a while in this coffee shop on Crescent street in Montreal, and there was this old guy who used to come around and the owners would give him all the empty cans to return for the deposit. This old guy, Leo, was full of stories about WWII and serving in the armed forces.

I forget exactly how the conversation turned onto the subject, but I remember him telling me one day: "If someone wants to fight with me, I'll kick their ass, but if they pull a knife or gun, I'll fucking kill them". He managed, somehow, even gripping his cane, to morph from a harmless old dude into a hard-eyed soldier for about ten seconds. I remember shaking off the intimidation I felt with a little chuckle, but to be honest I always think of that when these discussions come up... That the seeming threat of a weapon might just be all the excuse someone needs to justify taking your life, instead of just kicking your ass.
posted by ServSci at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2009


quin: It makes me sad. Because guns are really a lot of fun when separated from all the power-trip baggage associated with them.

I really feel the precise same way. And I don't really hold any ill will toward gun owners – like I said, I grew up in small-town Colorado, so I've lived around gun owners, and people who are proud to own guns, my whole life. It's only that there are a few who hold what I think is a naive view – not a malicious or evil or "red-state" view, just a naive view – that guns are a natural intuitive measure for self-defense.

To be honest, the event that really crystallized my own view on this was the Joe Horn shooting incident in Texas a few years back. At the time, there was the obvious obligatory idiocy on both sides – i.e. making Joe Horn a vicious, evil white guy, or else making Joe Horn a heroic vigilante who stood up for his rights or something – but what struck me about it was this: at the center of it was an older man who was clearly a hell of a more fragile than anybody wanted to believe, a man who was going through his own hell because of what he'd done. He didn't do very many interviews; it was this ABC interview that most intrigued me:
Interviewer: Do you feel you did the right thing -- are you glad you did this?

Joe Horn: No... I -- I had to do the right thing to save my life, but this is not a good feeling, no... [on the tape of my 911 call] you're listening to a man who is scared and alone... That person is a man that has never, ever been in any kind of situation like this in his entire life. He is alone. He is scared that 'these two guys are gonna come breaking into my house.'

Interviewer: So you're saying that all this conversation with the 911 operator was just bravado about 'I'm the guy with the gun?'

I'm sorry to say that, but it's true... It's been very traumatic... To go through an event like this, you can not imagine how bad you feel. Both mentally and physically – it takes a mental toll on yourself and it takes a physical toll on yourself... Ma'am, you have no idea. To be in a situation where you have to take two lives to save your own – you have no idea what that does to you. Not just – at the time that it's happening, you don't think like that. But after the fact, no one wants to feel like I feel.
That poor guy. I don't blame him for what he did – I agree that he was scared to death, and he did the only thing he knew how. And it's fitting that he has his lawyer there, as he needs to be defended from the allegation that he's done something evil and horrific, that he's some sort of murderer; he's clearly not.

But it's blindingly obvious that this guy is scared to death and absolutely traumatized. It's not difficult to guess why, either; Joe Horn probably still doesn't go through a day or two where he doesn't wonder what might have happened if he'd stayed in his house, wonder if those two guys might still be alive, wonder about their families and parents and friends, wonder if he did the right thing, wonder if he'd waited a moment or fired a warning shot or something if he'd have been able to keep from killing two people. I have very little doubt that it's taken years of therapy for him to let that go and stop blaming himself for what happened; it's human nature to think back on events like that and think such unavoidable thoughts. Again, I don't blame him, but I also don't envy him; I know, from having had to do a few things that are not nearly as serious as killing two people, that he must have questioned his own actions thousands of times.

I'm sure not every act of self-defense using a weapon is like the incident that Joe Horn was involved in. I'm sure that quite often nobody dies or is paralyzed or loses a limb or anything like that. But there's always a chance – frankly it's that chance that scares the tar out of me. And no, paulsc, I am not convinced that that's something that goes away with regular visits to a shooting range and practice hitting a paper target shaped like a person. With all due respect, when it comes down, I have a very, very hard time not thinking that all this "come with me to the range a few times and you'll understand" stuff is just like the bravado that Joe Horn was talking about.
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


[ interview link ]
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2009


People don't like the conclusions prima facie so they attack the (admittedly obscure and specialized) methods, instead of assuming that the experts are perhaps more informed than they are and seeking to reconsider their views.

What was interesting to me is that 95% of the attacks in this thread were already addressed in some manner by the principle investigators, and were discussed in the research findings. Ignoring statistically compelling evidence that invites rethinking assumptions, opponents instead went on autopilot.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:35 PM on October 21, 2009


*Which isn't to say that they automatically aren't prepared to do so, just that any preparation is so hypothetical and so unlikely to be actually invoked that it's effectively pretending.

You guys either mock gun owners for considering the implications and responsibilities of owning a gun. Or you guys mock them for NOT considering the implications of owning a gun. Jesus Christ. We can't fucking win.

Either way somehow gun owners are all fantasists. Either way anybody who considers the slightest bit of ambiguity or nuance when it comes to gun ownership or use in self defense get's lumped in with sociopaths or fantasists.

When did it get okay on Metafilter to spew grotesque generalities and negative stereotypes? How about I would ask you to consider your own fantasies. Consider your own biases positions.

There are so many HURF DURF GUN CRAZIES paranoid fantasies and anecdotes in these gun threads by knee-jerk people it's ridiculous. Listen to yourselves.

Of course there is no 100% adequate mental or spiritual preparation for the act of having to take another human life.

I lived my entire LIFE with a man suffering from severe PTSD as a result of killing other human beings. I have witnessed exactly what it's like. My father wrested with these demons for thirty years. He wasn't pretending. I have a living example of how terrible it would be to kill another human being. I have few fantasies about that. And why hope to Christ it never happens.
posted by tkchrist at 4:04 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


tkchrist: You guys either mock gun owners for considering the implications and responsibilities of owning a gun. Or you guys mock them for NOT considering the implications of owning a gun.

I don't see any mockery here at all.
posted by koeselitz at 4:13 PM on October 21, 2009


tkchrist, I think you're seeing what you want to see, or maybe what you're afraid of seeing, in other people's arguments. Your description of this thread doesn't seem to match the reality at all to me.
posted by koeselitz at 4:16 PM on October 21, 2009




Ignoring statistically compelling evidence that invites rethinking assumptions, opponents instead went on autopilot.

And that's what you intended with this post. Rethinking assumptions. Riiiiight. Have you browsed through this thread and read 99% of the ignorant assumptions about gun owners in this thread?

You assume that most responsible gun owners don't understand there is an inherent risk owning and using a gun. Of course they do. I find it immanently believable people in Phily who carry guns around to defend themselves have a 4.5% greater risk of being shot. And?

This study clearly states not all defensive gun uses are comparable to the urban examples studied in crime blighted Phily. So what other assumptions are supposed to be reconsidered?

I'm sorry it's hard to see the point of this post other than to grind your well worn axe.

The post itself, regardless of bias, was crap. Three links? One to a press-release summary, the other to hospital main site, and a third to the abstract you have log-in to download? All essentially for the same source material. While I had no problem with the studies methodologies per se it's no wonder people were skeptical.
posted by tkchrist at 4:24 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see any mockery here at all.

Don't make me do this. If you can't see I can't make you see it. The tone is just dripping with mockery, fear baiting, and contempt in this thread.

Like:
"...They get to pick up their pistol while they're cleaning it and murmur under their breath "With great power comes great responsibility... willing to bear as part of their noble duty to defend the innocent..."

And all the anecdotes about how crazy gun owners (spiced with gems about "some of them are good people") are and how they just can't wait to kill people.

I'm not going to get bogged down in in other peoples filters and semantics. You look.
posted by tkchrist at 4:31 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz Okay. Your right. There are only three posters who attempted the sort of direct generality I'm talking about. However I suppose one doens't have to look too far in other threads. But that is not germane. You are correct. I apologize for lumping the entire thread in with two of three usual suspects. That is not hardly fair.
posted by tkchrist at 4:46 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


After a thorough reading of the study I note that the authors took my earlier objection into account (thanks to nanojath, the academic language was too obfuscated for me to pick up right off the bat). I no longer question the methodology or the control group, and the conclusion the authors draw is narrow enough to be correct, although almost entirely useless for purposes of increasing self-defense or formulating public policy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:16 PM on October 21, 2009


“I have met a significant number of people whose fantasies of heroic home defense border on mental snuff films.”
Significant how?

“It's kind of like some of the survivalists I know who drool at their fantasy of societal collapse. I don't see it as casting aspersions on people in this thread, per se, but a recognition that this subset of society is out there.”

Yeah, no way this could be confirmation bias.
There are some people who are nutty. But that's not the majority. And most people don't have a lot of knowledge about actual firefights and practical applications. Saw on a gaming board the other day a bunch of guys calling each other 'operators.' So, they don't count under nutty or fetishist?
Apparently we can't swing a dead cat in here without hitting 20 experts on self-defense, firearms, combat instruction, etc., but most professionals who do the stuff for a living tend to talk about golf or movies or almost anything except their jobs like anyone else on their off time.

I have the same experience with my mechanic friends. Seems they only want to talk about cars. They're nuts about cars. Of course, *I* usually talk to them about cars because they’re mechanics...

"What was interesting to me is that 95% of the attacks in this thread were already addressed in some manner by the principle investigators, and were discussed in the research findings"

Either the study is valid or it isn't. If it's not there's no premise here to talk about. So one can only really talk about the conclusions. I think the legal changes in gun ownership and the policing methods are salient factors to the conclusion - not the data. It might be true, might not. I can't really verify it, so all things being equal I have to go with it being valid.
I think the underlying assumption though as to why someone would want to own a gun for protection vs. someone who doesn't own one and their respective likelyhoods of getting shot in the first place - pretty big matter of context there.

And there are technical realities to owning a firearm that are predicated on things other than just the object itself.
I don't know how useful it is to have data that in a violent crime area someone taking potentially violent measures to defend themselves are more likely to suffer damage than someone who is not.
Perhaps for irresponsible gun owners. This makes an excellent case for responsible gun ownership. And it highlights all the more how a firearm is only a tool and requires human input to do anything. And that it must be the proper form of use.
For anyone with military combat training this is ingrained.
(Take a mob of 50 armed people at random and put them against a small squad trained to work in concert and the squad will eat them for lunch.)

So too – any organization will succeed in inflicting greater damage on any disparate group. Here you have armed gangs working together to force their will on their respective populations. That people, individually, own weapons isn’t going to make any difference. And yeah, they’re likely to do themselves some additional damage.

So the argument is either 'no guns' or 'people in this situation can't use guns as a magic wand to stop the violence.'
If it's the latter - well, duh.
But this seems to be here mostly the former.
And that's a greatly oversimplified conclusion to draw from these findings. As simplistic, if not as insulting, as paring down opposition criticism to 'OMG BLAX!'

Especially considering the differences in the real differences between a community under stress and one that is not, social factors like the degree of community organization and solidarity, and so forth.
Think in a working community with strong social centers, a community watch, etc. a person with a firearm will fare better in defense than someone in an impoverished community with little or no cohesive social centers, communication, no community watch, etc. ?
I'd like to see that study. I'd suspect it's the case that it is so.

Overwatch is the heart and soul of any tactical defense. Shooting is defensive only when it’s suppressive. It’s very hard to suppress fire on your own behalf while eliminating/driving away the threat. Not to mention escalating.
If you're the target of an assailant and you pull a firearm in defense - far different scenario than if you're the target and someone else pulls a weapon on your behalf against an assailant.

Now these are somewhat technical terms (I don’t mean complex, I mean used in technical application) but they do apply socially. A handgun isn’t going to protect anyone that way. Like any tool they need human systems and cooperation to work well.

Again, I’m not saying the study is invalid. But it’s tautology if you don’t look at the people mechanisms (the laws, the social interactions, etc. etc.) that affect them.

Think folks on patrol in a neighborhood watch are assaulted more than people who aren’t?

Avoiding assault/ self-defense are two different things in that context. So too – the mere fact of gun ownership by itself, and that more people are getting shot in Philly if they have a firearm – implies a lot more about the social fabric than just more people who have guns get shot.

“Again, just my own opinion; and I have met people who could and did prepare themselves for the experience of killing another human being. I'm just lucky, I guess, to have the luxury of never having had to do that.”

You’re not lucky. And it is not a luxury. This was made possible by the sacrifice of others who did prepare to kill those who were looking to kill you.

Now there’s plenty of things to be said on that broad topic that are cynical, snarky or supportive or illustrate other aspects of that situation true, grey or false.
But the core fact of it is that it IS a sacrifice. And one that some people quite consciously make to not only protect physically – but precisely so someone like yourself never has to experience it.
Typically we trust folks not to abuse this sacrifice. But that goes on. Just as much as profiteering or bloodthirst or any number of other things. And that all is pretty horrible. And it gets complex with loads to say about the details there.

But yes, koeselitz, if I can bear a burden like that, that you cannot, I will do it. And I have. In a variety of roles. Plenty of others can say the same.
Rarely though, is it recognized that bearing a firearm is more about responsibility and sacrifice than power (assertions of self-delusions of ‘nobility’ aside).
If there were as study that could illustrate that I’d be delighted.

There are people who do bear weapons in defense of others in an honorable manner. And it is a burden. One folks like yourself shouldn’t have to feel anymore than putting out your own fires, hauling your own garbage to the dump, doing your own surgery, etc.

Lots more to be said on that topic that I have no time to say.

“I just had a client get blasted with a .50 cal Desert Eagle on Front and Westmoreland, it blew a hole the size of a fifty cent piece clear through his leg. It's healing okay but he still might lose it, the doctors aren't sure.”

Here's a nifty data point. Do I think he's lying? No. But what someone in an urban area shooting a human with a .50 cal DE says to me is that he was shot by a middle level drug dealer (not a killer, the guy who shot The Straightener's other client, that guy was a killer) who fired first and more than likely from a small crew, possibly a stopped car, with bystanders.
'Gee, Smed, what're you f'ing Kojack?' - no.
Unless you're hunting, a .50 DE is a vanity weapon. It's shit in a firefight because if you want to sustain fire you're looking at some serious wrist pain. Unless the guy was a game hunter, odds are he's clueless about the weapon beyond the movies and hasn't been in a real firefight.
So - he can afford it. Or it was given to him by someone higher up.
Either way, big money guys tend to spend time watching their money, not shooting people anymore (unless it was personal). He's fired it before, he fired low because the gun has a big rise to it and because he had the time to shoot. So he fired first.
Also because sighting on someone center mass probably makes him nervous, but he doesn't want to show it. This gives him an excuse. So again, probably mid-level guy. Not making serious money, but enough. So he's only got the DE.
No reason to tote around a cannon like that if there's no one to see you shoot it. So he probably had people with him. Also to watch him shoot someone (again, bystanders too). From a car because if he wanted to kill him and sighted again, it's hard to miss within pistol range with the .50 DE, so they probably left quickly, in part because they could. And it's loud.

Now, can I call these conclusions? No. But based on experience and what I know it's the likely scenario. But those are predicted on the firearm AND the social context. We can't contend, for example, the .50 cal DE is it in and of itself is the problem in this narrow situation even though I take it as valid that this particular guy was shot with one in this situation.
In fact, other than overpenetration, if more gang members carried .50 cal handguns there would be less shooting simply because of the practical realities of shooting such a weapon. Not to mention the cost and availability of the ammo and its performance in handgun engagements.
I would argue that this guy is alive because his assailant used a .50 cal. And that argument is predicated not on the firearm itself, but on the abstract, but solid realities around having and using a weapon like that.

I can see where one could insert a 'no true scotsman' objection here. But that's evading the focus on the circumstances, which are the point, in favor of the details.
That is to say, the guy isn't a bad shot because he's using a .50, but rather, someone who would own a gun like this has goals other than being successful in killing an opponent.

So - why one has a firearm is at least as important as the fact of it. That fact is beyond the scope of this study. Pointing that out does not question the validity of the data, method, all that.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:45 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"one day I'll figure out the passion guns inspire in their fans"

I'm a fan of guns for shooting at paper, clay, steel plates, or other targets. The passion comes up not because of guns, but because I appreciate having a bill of rights. Anyone who wants to amend the constitution to clarify the second amendment has my support, even if they ban private ownership in the process. Anyone who wants to support legislation that goes against the highest law in the land has my undying and passionate condemnation. I'm a much bigger fan of the rule of law than I ever will be of guns themselves. I eschew opening the doorway to anarchy and the subtle erosion of constitutional rights. I think that way lies madness, waterboarding, and suspension of habeas corpus. Not only that, but the erosion of respect for constitutional law is to me an erosion of respect for everything I believe is important in building a community. I believe that people have a right to take a moral stand where their morality conflicts with law, but I also believe that they need to pay a sacrifice for such actions. If not, then the polite fictions that glue our society together will disappear.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:05 PM on October 21, 2009


Smedleyman: You’re not lucky. And it is not a luxury.

Fuck off. I am lucky. It is a luxury. Can you read? It's a luxury I'm lucky enough to enjoy because people fought and died for my freedom to enjoy it.

Don't go all pretentious and holier-than-thou like some sodding bastard when you know damned well that that's precisely what I meant. I don't need a lecture from somebody who can't seem to parse what I'm saying.

Did you just fail to put the words together properly, or do you really mean to say that the rights and freedoms I enjoy weren't actually worth fighting for, and that the people who fought for them were actually fools? Because when you say that I'm not lucky, that I don't enjoy any luxuries, well, that's what you're saying.
posted by koeselitz at 6:06 PM on October 21, 2009


And by the way, it's nigh-on impossible to tell what your point is.
posted by koeselitz at 6:09 PM on October 21, 2009


Smedleyman: Rarely though, is it recognized that bearing a firearm is more about responsibility and sacrifice than power (assertions of self-delusions of ‘nobility’ aside).

So you felt the need to talk down to me merely in order to repeat the point that I just made?
posted by koeselitz at 6:12 PM on October 21, 2009


Apparently we can't swing a dead cat in here without hitting 20 experts on self-defense, firearms, combat instruction, etc., but most professionals who do the stuff for a living tend to talk about golf or movies or almost anything except their jobs like anyone else on their off time.

Be careful swinging that cat! Even mild-mannered firearms and self-defense experts can get a little tetchy when flailed with felines.
posted by darkstar at 7:47 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that it hasn't been pointed out yet, but the validity of the study and the validity of the conclusions made in the fpp are separate things.

carrying a gun makes one 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault, than someone not possessing a gun

I find that implausible. Even if gun-carriers in Philly are 4.5x more (more? really? as in 5.5x as?) likely to be shot than non-gun-carriers, and even if there is a causal element to it, I'd have to see some pretty compelling evidence to apply both the probability and the causal element on an individual basis. "Makes one"? A police officer who decides not to wear his holster one day is 82% less likely to be shot that day - because he's not carrying his weapon - than he was on the day before? I'd have to see it to believe it.

Some criticism from people who know more than I do (and who have read the study):
One can try to control for this in some measure — but while the study controls for some relevant attributes (race, sex, age, neighborhood, having a “high-risk occupation,” and having at least one arrest on one’s record), it leaves a vast range of factors uncontrolled. You’d think that gang members are more likely than others to carry guns and to get shot, even controlling for the presence of an arrest record. (Lots of law-abiding people carry guns, but I expect that more gang members do.) But the study doesn’t control for that, or for many other things.

The research model works only to the extent that you actually know who possesses guns and who doesn’t.... And both the cases and the controls might have plenty of reasons to lie.... Fortunately, the study helpfully tells us what would happen if there’s concealment of gun ownership by some fraction of cases and controls — though of course the press release and the newspaper article are silent about this. If only 1% of controls and cases who are reported not to have had guns are randomly recoded to having guns, two of the three results (”all gun assaults,” “gun assaults where victim had at least some chance to resist,” but not “fatal gun assaults”) end up yielding statistically insignificant results. If 3% are so recoded, all three results lose statistical significance.

If we assume that 1% of controls were concealing their gun possession and 0% of cases were concealing it ... all three results lose statistical significance.
Again, credit goes to Eugene Volokh.
posted by jock@law at 8:49 PM on October 21, 2009


yeah, tkchrist, I wrote intemperately. Sorry. I do honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of people who own a gun for self-defense or especially home defense are merely engaging in a fantasy not far removed from survivalist ones. Unless you're yourself a criminal, or you live in one of those enclaves where society has broken down to such an extent that even basic law enforcement has essentially gone away, your odds of ever needing to fire a firearm at an assailant anywhere in the US are minimal and declining. Going to the range a few times a week to practice your draw isn't, for most people, going to help you defend yourself in a real, functional way any more than practicing your drive out of the city will actually help you escape a thermonuclear explosion.

koeselitz wrote that he didn't understand why someone would own a firearm for defense when the consequences of killing someone else are, for sane people who haven't been counterconditioned, quite severe.

My contention, phrased in an inflammatory way that I'm sorry for, was that he was close to asking why someone would go through an inconvenient set of preparations to play an LP instead of cueing up the relevant FLAC off a server that's already running. The preparatory ritual is, in part, the point.

And I honestly think for some or many people who own a gun for defense, that feeling of dreadful responsibility is part of the point. At least, people who own guns for self-defense or who carry seem, anecdotally and to me, to be awfully eager to tell you what a terrible responsibility it is that they bear and how it would rip their lives up to have to kill, but they'd do it to defend the innocent. About the only people more eager to tell you how deadly serious their pastime is are ham radio operators.

Obviously, I think this is at base (usually) a pretend seriousness and that, barring those people who carry or own a firearm for defense who've actually killed people before, they don't really know what they're in for if they kill someone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 PM on October 21, 2009


You know when I decided I didn't want to have a gun in my house? The day my dad stalked through the house with his .45 after the intruder he heard, which turned out to be me. I consider myself very lucky that I managed to leave the house without running into him.

I was leaving for high school at 7AM and forgot something and came back in to get it. My dad heard the door and ended up stalking through the house naked brandishing the gun around every corner. I am certain that if he had seen me through his just-woke-up haze he would have fired.

He owned many guns, had a concealed carry license and had attended a course of gun use and safety. Knowing my father, however, I figure I'm lucky to have escaped a tragic gun accident that day, so I don't take the chance of having a gun in the house now.
posted by threeturtles at 8:30 AM on October 22, 2009


It's interesting that you bring that up, threeturtles. I know someone with moderate PTSD who keeps a shotgun in his closet out of fear--of course, it's a horrible idea.
posted by kathrineg at 8:37 AM on October 22, 2009


Here's a nifty data point. Do I think he's lying? No. But what someone in an urban area shooting a human with a .50 cal DE says to me is that he was shot by a middle level drug dealer (not a killer, the guy who shot The Straightener's other client, that guy was a killer) who fired first and more than likely from a small crew, possibly a stopped car, with bystanders.

It was a stick up, purely wrong place/wrong time, no drug tie-in and not being investigated as such by the police as there were a number of other stick ups the same night in the same neighborhood that they suspect was the same guy. The victim took off running when the shooter stuck the gun in his face, then the shooter started firing, bullet entering the back of the victim's upper leg and exiting the front. Another bullet whizzed past his ear and luckily didn't hit him in the head. I'm honestly not sure how to read you question, "do I think he's lying," I really can't tell what you're trying to say with that. I will say that I've seen the hole in dude's leg and communicated with the team of physicians at the hospital that is treating him. Your line of speculation about mid-level drug dealers was interesting but is wrong. I'm wondering what training, education, expertise or experience you thought you were drawing on with that elaborate hypothesis. Believe me, I am dead seriously not trying to be an asshole here, but I think you know less about this stuff than you think you do.
posted by The Straightener at 9:56 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your line of speculation about mid-level drug dealers was interesting but is wrong. I'm wondering what training, education, expertise or experience you thought you were drawing on with that elaborate hypothesis.

Not to speak for anyone else, but I'll make a guess; the critical part is that it's a .50 AE Desert Eagle that was used. It's a very powerful gun, but it's also completely ridiculous; it's extremely heavy, it only holds a few rounds, it sounds like artillery when it's fired and because, at the end of the day it's still just a handgun, it's difficult to use it accurately.

A Desert Eagle is not the kind of gun that would be carried by a reasonable person looking to use it for self defense, as there are cheaper, smaller, higher capacity, and far easier to use options. It's drawing a bit of an inference, but the kind of person who would be using a .50 Desert Eagle, is the kind of person who is using it because it's a .50 Desert Eagle. As Smedlyman said "a vanity gun".

That doesn't limit it to mid-level drug dealers, but if you were to draw a venn diagram of the kind of person who could afford it, would tolerate it's inadequacies for style sake, would care about style's sake when shooting someone, etc. midlevel drug dealers would certainly feature prominently in the crossed circles.
posted by quin at 10:24 AM on October 22, 2009


A Desert Eagle is precisely the kind of weapon some macho scum bag, who doesn't know shit about guns except they kill people and they saw it in a movie, might carry for "defense".

Like a Bushmaster AR-15 is the kind of "hunting" rifle a poseur would use who has never hunted except off the back of a pick-up truck at a game farm.

But these are just my bias. Based on experience. But bias none the less.

Obviously, I think this is at base (usually) a pretend seriousness and that, barring those people who carry or own a firearm for defense who've actually killed people before, they don't really know what they're in for if they kill someone.

Sigh. ROU: You know I could generalize and issue a pretty negative opinion about the typical anti-gun person, too. That "some or most" only pretend to care about the babies. About suicide. Or. They pretend to care about all the wanton violence and death. That pretending it's about a deep humane concern for the safety and health of society is all part of being against guns. When in fact none of that is borne out by logical consistency of their positions or facts when so much more death and injury is caused by other less controversial technologies. And really it's the same emotional fear and ignorance that drives the extreme on the pro-gun side.

I could do that. But I realize there is nuance to BOTH positions. And the fact is guns in America are going nowhere. All this fear mongering will do nothing to change that fact.
posted by tkchrist at 10:51 AM on October 22, 2009


You know I could generalize and issue a pretty negative opinion about the typical anti-gun person, too.

Go ahead; it won't bother me one whit as I'm not anti-gun. Actually, I'd agree that much of the anti-gun sentiment is misplaced, and that there's a distressingly high amount of talk from the anti-gun camp that seems pretty clearly to be more anti-bubba than anti-gun.

I just think having a gun for defense (as opposed to for hunting or plinking or curiosity or just for fun) is, absent some specific and realistic threat, ultimately rather silly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2009


Rather silly and, as this study shows, strongly correlated with you getting your ass shot.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:02 PM on October 22, 2009


Maybe the best self defense strategy is to give guns to one's enemies in the hopes that they will be shot.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:12 PM on October 22, 2009


I believe that may have been the basis of foreign policy at times.
posted by Artw at 6:25 PM on October 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


They'd also have to move to Philly.
posted by electroboy at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2009


Or the Hindu Kush.
posted by darkstar at 11:06 PM on October 22, 2009


BrotherCaine: Maybe the best self defense strategy is to give guns to one's enemies in the hopes that they will be shot.

Artw: I believe that may have been the basis of foreign policy at times.

electroboy: They'd also have to move to Philly.

"In a sudden change in policy, the Obama administration announced today a radical new program designed to combat further militancy in Afghanistan. Spokesman Rahm Emmanuel outlined the plan, which involves handing out Desert Eagle .50s and first-class one-way airplane tickets from Kabul and Kandahar International Airports to Philadelphia in areas considered to be Taliban strongholds, in a surprise press conference. 'See, we all read this really interesting study at the White House last weekend, and apparently the best way to get rid of them is to stick 'em in Philly with a Desert Eagle in their hand,' Mr Emmanual explained."
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 PM on October 22, 2009


“Fuck off. I am lucky. It is a luxury. Can you read? It's a luxury I'm lucky enough to enjoy because people fought and died for my freedom to enjoy it.”

Yes. And I have plenty of scars from fighting for you to enjoy it. You’re welcome. But hey, fuck me if I take a tangential look at a subject. Shows how much that sacrifice means to you.

“Don't go all pretentious and holier-than-thou like some sodding bastard when you know damned well that that's precisely what I meant”

I thought I was augmenting your point. Sorry I wasn't clear on that.

“I don't need a lecture from somebody who can't seem to parse what I'm saying.”

Sorry about the lecturing tone. I take exception with the idea that something that is bought and paid for at the expense of others doing their duty is the result of ‘luck.’
It’s not happenstance. People made deliberate choices to put themselves in harms way. Luxury? No, I think it’s a necessity for a society to exist.

Now in the sense you mean them? Sure. Unlike most of the people on the Earth you have the luck to be born at a place and time where enough people are community minded enough to put themselves in harms way. Luxury? Yep, it’s very comforting and nice.
But I think those words recognize your experience of those things. Not the deeper truth that these things are necessary to a society. Some people can do it and some can’t. I don’t think any less of the folks who can’t. I think sacrifice and reciprocity are the soul of any community. So I resist luck and luxury being cast as the result of duty and responsibility.
As a former service member I hold myself neither apart from nor above nor below the community I serve.

There have been many sacrifices made by peace activists, labor activists, countless others, that have shown true courage and a depth of commitment to principles and ideals.
The rights we enjoy – and they are rights – are the result of sacrifice and hard work.
Your point is that we enjoy them (implicit in luck and luxury). Ok. I’m pointing out that while they’re enjoyed, they’re also rights. Perhaps implicit in your argument, but I dislike the conceptualization of something hard won and fought for as the result of luck. If such a thing exists I've never seen it beyond working hard to create it for oneself and one's intended beneficiaries. Luxury as well - I don't see anything worth fighting for bearing that label. But that's an argument over a matter of taste in terms of what you mean. Not something I intended to oppose. Just to, in contrast where you shed light on the result, illustrate the cause.

“Did you just fail to put the words together properly, or do you really mean to say that the rights and freedoms I enjoy weren't actually worth fighting for, and that the people who fought for them were actually fools?”

I thought you’d enjoy hearing from someone who’s spent the vast majority of his life in the military and public service talk about the rights and freedoms he was wounded multiple times for. Guess not.

“So you felt the need to talk down to me merely in order to repeat the point that I just made?”

Wasn’t talking to you. Re-reading it still reads like a general comment, otherwise I’d apologize for the misunderstanding. Enjoy the narcissism though.

“Be careful swinging that cat! Even mild-mannered firearms and self-defense experts can get a little tetchy when flailed with felines.”

Hmmm....
*holsters cat*
Nothing like a good quick draw cat holster. Tough to get kitty speed loaders though.

“I'm wondering what training, education, expertise or experience you thought you were drawing on with that elaborate hypothesis.”

I know a great deal about firearms in general, how to use them, gangs, criminal organizations, etc. Not making a claim per se, but replicating the form of the argument for sake of illustration (see below)

“I'm honestly not sure how to read you question, "do I think he's lying," I really can't tell what you're trying to say with that….Believe me, I am dead seriously not trying to be an asshole here, but I think you know less about this stuff than you think you do.”

The point being – your data, that is, guy being shot with a .50 cal, etc, can be perfectly correct, and generally accepted (and indeed, ironclad, no one here can really contest your immediate personal experience) yet a given conclusion – while reasonable or even probable – can be wrong or not applicable, etc, without more context.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:13 AM on October 23, 2009


Like a Bushmaster AR-15 is the kind of "hunting" rifle a poseur would use who has never hunted except off the back of a pick-up truck at a game farm.

Who the hell uses an AR-15 as a hunting rifle?

They are a hell of a lot of fun to shoot though....
posted by jock@law at 9:30 AM on October 23, 2009


Who the hell uses an AR-15 as a hunting rifle?

IANAH, but ask Jim Zumbo or Ted Nugent. It makes a lot of sense to me to use an AR-15 or an AK for certain kinds of hunting (deer, large vermin?). If you aren't an avid reloader, there are a lot of economies of scale involved in buying a weapon platform used by the military. Cheap surplus rifles, cheap ammo, cheap accessories. Jim Zumbo lost his job and got tarred as an elitist for suggesting that these rifles were for terrorists, not hunters. I wouldn't automatically think someone was crazy for using a $500 AK and a box of 1000 rounds for $200. Even if it's a mistake, it's a cheap one to make considering how much money you can blow on hunting.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:01 PM on October 23, 2009


I dunno, "elitist"? The AR-15 and the AK never struck me as particularly cheap. I think they have some cachet, not unlike the Desert Eagle mentioned upthread, because they're "real military weapons" and command a premium as a result. I'm not an expert, but I thought the SKS, which isn't really your typical scary black rifle, was the go-to for cheap military surplus.
posted by electroboy at 12:46 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm sure 'elitist' was more rhetoric than reality. I looked on gunbroker to figure out what a cheap AK goes for, and it seems to be a little more than an SKS. AR-15s are a lot more though, so you're right there. I also saw an AR-15 lower with a .50 BMG upper, which sets the crazy bar pretty high.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2009


Actually, I think the charge of elitism may have been because the main problem people seem to have with scary black rifles for hunting isn't functional or economic, but aesthetic. I'm guessing once the argument is framed in those terms, it evokes images of $100,000 engraved double barrel shotguns with walnut stocks.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:49 PM on October 23, 2009


AK cloines used to go for around $300, with ammo being sometimes 10 cents a round. Cheap as free.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:15 PM on October 23, 2009


(Not my discussion but I think a lot of ex-military guys have more trigger time on the M-16, so they choose the AR. Other than that though – all other factors being fairly common – the AR tends to fire a bit high at closer range because of the sight line. I think Bushmaster is trying to fix this with the new series. But for shooting 5.56, I’d rather go with, say, a mini-14. Many other .223 rifles a lot cheaper, simpler, and more functional for small game. Plenty of folks though who would rather seem than be. Not sure why anyone would bother. I’ve never had, for example, a motorcycle that would command serious respect. So a lot of guys don’t consider me a serious biker. Had a guy at a shop try to sell me on a smaller bike that barks like a big dog. Not something I care much about. I like riding. I ride as much as I can. A lot less than most guys I know. If that makes me not a ‘real’ biker, so be it. I just like being on two wheels sometimes. If I had time for pretense, I’d use that time to get something better rather than pretending I know something. Only get myself in trouble anyway.)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:32 PM on October 23, 2009


Yeah, I guess there's still a gentleman hunter/rednecks shootin' shit thing going on. In that context, I could see it. Still, there's respectable hunting rifles that cost about the same and are much better guns.
posted by electroboy at 3:27 PM on October 23, 2009


Rather silly and, as this study shows, strongly correlated with you getting your ass shot.

In Phily.
posted by tkchrist at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2009


"Did you just fail to put the words together properly, or do you really mean to say that the rights and freedoms I enjoy weren't actually worth fighting for, and that the people who fought for them were actually fools?"

Aaaand still no apology or even recognition of the possibility of misunderstanding.
I'm not Hemmingway and I gladly admit that, but damn it'd be nice for someone to extend a hand when I extend mine.
Typical.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:02 PM on October 23, 2009


Relax, Smedleyman; I didn't see your comment. We're averaging about 36 hours between volleys in this fusilade; it's now been 16 since your last to me, so please understand that I'm not trying to snub anybody, I just have other things to do.

And honestly, my last left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sorry to have reacted that way. Yes, I am a little tetchy these days (one more reason I'm the last person who should probably have access to guns, heh.)

I guess what bugged me is that I felt a bit like you were talking past me; I mean, my central point before really had been that civilians who talk a big game, as though they're going to whip out there self-defensive handgun and carefully execute the safe return of an old lady's handbag on the street, generally have no idea what true professionals – policemen and soldiers, frankly people like yourself – have to do to prepare themselves both mentally and physically. Earlier in this thread, paulsc gave me this bogus line about how I would "understand" if I went shooting with him at the range a few times, but I know for a fact that I won't; I've been shooting at ranges before, and it doesn't do it. I have good friends who are in the military; most recently a friend of mind finished his battery of training and went to Iraq as a Lieutenant with munitions expertise. (You and he probably would have a lot of interesting stuff to talk about on that front.) The year of thoughtful approach to it – the consideration he had to put into what it all meant, the preparing himself for doing what he needed to do, and the setting aside of resources so that he can deal with it all when he comes back – are so much more than what "a few times at the range" can give that it's absolutely laughable. I know that being a cop (at least in my eyes) doesn't take as much going in, but it's still a position where you're exposed to that daily, and my sense is that even the most corrupt cops have at least thought about that more than the average dude who'd like to think he could defend the home front with his handgun.

Not that there are a lot of stupid gun owners out there. I guess I just wanted to express that I don't think people realize what our military and police officers really have to do to approach this kind of thing – what you had to do. And to be honest I was a little miffed at myself that I didn't make myself very well understood when I tried to say that.

But that's not really your fault. So consider this my apology; you didn't deserve any "fuck offs," and at least 50% of the "lecturing" I think I thought I saw in your comment was really just my own insecurities. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 3:22 AM on October 24, 2009


"And to be honest I was a little miffed at myself that I didn't make myself very well understood when I tried to say that."

Yep. Fair enough. I am subject to the same thing. It's tough to not bring baggage from upthread or another post or whatnot into another conversation. Alters your mindset and such, so what is essentially supportive can seem derisive.
And too, I am sincere in my apologies as to not being clear. I tend to take a lot as read.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2009


Thanks, man. This was a good discussion regardless; I learned a lot, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 AM on October 25, 2009


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