Struggles with guns

The dissonance is on display. Paul Marantz is wondering: More guns or fewer? The problems with evidence-based gun research and provides an illustration of asking the wrong question and avoiding logical inference by avoiding selected data.

To me, it seems patently absurd to suggest that fewer people would have died in that movie theater in Aurora, CO, if more theater-goers were toting firearms, or that fewer children would have died in Sandy Hook, CT, if there were armed guards in all schools, or Donald Trump’s more recent statement that if more people in that Orlando nightclub had been carrying guns, “you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.”

Absurd? It is one thing to not understand but entirely another to pre-judge. The use of ‘toting’ is also an indicator of this bias. Why would it be absurd to think that an armed citizenry would increase the odds of reducing the tenure of a mass murderer? The he poses a hypothetical to support his view: “But since we can’t actually know something that didn’t happen.” The logical fallacy is trying to apply a single case to a statistical phenomena. Rather than limit the observations to one specific and selected event to determine definitive result, why not look at the broader, statistical, population? If you do, then you will find cases where an armed citizenry did indeed cut a mass murder short and other evidence that your judgment of “absurd” is off base. This is only a part of the problem.

why not take a scientific approach to determining whether there is such an association and in which direction it points? While my heart resonates with this argument, my head finds a few significant problems:

1. The powers that be don’t want this sort of information.

Just how is assuming a conspiracy taking a “scientific approach”?

2. Even when information is available, we tend to ignore or disbelieve evidence that doesn’t comport with our beliefs. While there hasn’t been enough research on gun violence, there has been some, and it generally supports the notion that having fewer restrictions on gun access is associated with more, not fewer, fatalities

When you start to allege bias, the first place to look is always in the mirror. In this case, the need is shown by a questionable allegations. This is about not enough research – like the research that has been done and the measurements taken don’t support the view I like so we need more to find some that does. Another problem is the “fewer restrictions” means more fatalities which flies in the face of the overall statistic that violence has reduced over the last couple of decades as gun ownership and CCW permits have increased. The only ‘research’ to support his allegation is highly selective and bypasses proper consideration of pertinent variables in a complex situation.

3. Americans’ mistrust of science. This last point is perhaps the most problematic; although as troubling as I find it, I do understand it a bit. First, while science represents a methodology and an approach to thinking about and understanding the world, the way “science” is taught tends to emphasize what we’ve learned from science (often focusing on fact retention) rather than the methodology itself. While the latter is more interesting, it can be intellectually challenging, and one wonders whether our educational system is up to the task

How is this mistrust measured? Is it a sop for an ad hominem attack on those who do not agree? Perhaps a place to start would be to start to examine one’s own views of science. Think about the values of science and how poorly they are reflected in your own conclusions and rationalizations.

In sum: I’m hoping for effective, evidence-based policies to curb gun violence and reduce firearm-related deaths, but I am of little faith.

What are these “effective, evidence-based policies” that are going to do what what is already happening? Why is this restricted to just one type of violence and what does that indicate about the real target of the plea – and why is that target hidden? 

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