Friday, January 21, 2011

Myth of the Hero Gunslinger

Myth of the Hero Gunslinger - NYTimes.com:
At least two recent studies show that more guns equals more carnage to innocents. One survey by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that guns did not protect those who had them from being shot in an assault — just the opposite. Epidemiologists at Penn looked at hundreds of muggings and assaults. What they found was that those with guns were four times more likely to be shot when confronted by an armed assailant than those without guns. The unarmed person, in other words, is safer.

Other studies have found that states with the highest rates of gun ownership have much greater gun death rates than those where only a small percentage of the population is armed. So, Hawaii, where only 9.7 percent of residents own guns, has the lowest gun death rate in the country, while Louisiana, where 45 percent of the public is armed, has the highest.
Here's the thing, it's one thing to say "more guns makes us all safer," or some variation on the theme, it's another thing entirely to have some kind of rational basis for making the statement. I think it's much easier to imagine, and find anecdotal evidence for the opposite position, so what I wondered aloud the other day was what does experience actually tell us? It looks like reality agrees with my suspicion.

Of course, there's the thing about lies, damn lies, and statistics. As I reread the first clipped paragraph above, I anticipate and understand my ideological opponent's objection: the data says you're four times more likely to be shot if you're attacked by an armed assailant if you're armed yourself, but are you less likely to be attacked in the first place? I think these are questions we can answer, and once we've handled the reasonable (reality-based) concerns, one way or the other, our laws should reflect our findings, and the propagandists on the fact-free side of the argument should be ignored and mocked out of the debate if they persist in presenting nothing but specious arguments.

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