Why Tragedies Result In Overreactions: 'Our Brains Aren't Very Good At Risk Analysis'

from the sold-down-the-river-by-our-own-intellect dept

Bruce Schneier has an excellent post over at CNN discussing why it's so easy for everyone from the general public to earnest politicians to draw the wrong conclusions after major tragedies, like the recent shooting in Aurora. Occasionally, a horrific incident will result in a positive change in existing laws or some much-needed rethinking of current policies and procedures. More often than not, though, the conclusions and lessons drawn from the experience are just flat out wrong. It's not as if anyone truly aims to make the world worse post-tragedy, it's just that the human brain is more than happy to sabotage better rationale, thanks to its inherent limitations.
The problem is that fear can cloud our reasoning, causing us to overreact and to overly focus on the specifics. And the key is to steer our desire for change in that time of fear.

Our brains aren't very good at probability and risk analysis. We tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar and common ones. We think rare risks are more common than they are. We fear them more than probability indicates we should.

There is a lot of psychological research that tries to explain this, but one of the key findings is this: People tend to base risk analysis more on stories than on data. Stories engage us at a much more visceral level, especially stories that are vivid, exciting or personally involving.
Schneier puts it more simply:
If a friend tells you about getting mugged in a foreign country, that story is more likely to affect how safe you feel traveling to that country than reading a page of abstract crime statistics will.

Novelty plus dread plus a good story equals overreaction.
While people might be swayed (through no fault of their own) by little more than anecdotal evidence, the real danger lies in legislators drawing the same bad conclusions from the same limited data. This knee-jerk legislative reaction is so common by now that it has its own truism: laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea. Beyond simply being an under-thought effort to "do something," the laws conflate the victim with the law itself, leading the public to believe that voting against the law is the same thing as voting against an innocent person.

Because of these factors, bad laws are pushed through with a minimum of resistance. In the aftermath of a tragedy, public opinion is usually on the side of the politicians looking to "do something." It's inconceivable to many people for a horrifying event like this to pass without some sort of reaction from their elected officials. Will bad laws follow the Aurora shooting? Well, it remains to be seen how "bad" any legislative attempts will be, but it's pretty much guaranteed that these attempts won't result in good laws or even necessary laws.

Public opinion is already on the side of legislators interested in reacting through legislation. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that more than half of those surveyed feel that violence in movies and video games leads to more violence in society. Another 14% were undecided.

The first politician to take a swing at "doing something," Senator Frank Lautenberg, is using the Aurora shooting to revive his dormant gun control bill (which was introduced after another rare occurrence -- the Tuscon, AZ shooting that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords), going so far as to have his bill grafted onto CISPA as an amendment in order to expedite its passage. His bill/amendment adds an ID requirement to the purchase of ammo in hopes of preventing a singular incident (a person purchasing 6,000 rounds of ammo via the internet and opening fire in a crowded movie theater) from happening again.
Lautenberg says his bill could help to prevent the sale of ammunition "to a terrorist or the next would-be mass murderer."

"If someone wants to purchase deadly ammunition, they should have to come face-to-face with the seller,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “It's one thing to buy a pair of shoes online, but it should take more than a click of the mouse to amass thousands of rounds of ammunition."
While it's a given that the bill won't actually keep ammunition out of the hands of "terrorists" or "mass murderers," one thing is certain: it will be heralded as a success by its supporters if another mass killing involving a gunman with thousands of rounds of internet-purchased, stockpiled ammo fails to materialize. This sort of post-hoc justification echoes the empty rationale surrounding post-9/11 legislation, as explained by Schneier:
Our greatest recent overreaction to a rare event was our response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I remember then-Attorney General John Ashcroft giving a speech in Minnesota -- where I live -- in 2003 in which he claimed that the fact there were no new terrorist attacks since 9/11 was proof that his policies were working. I remember thinking: "There were no terrorist attacks in the two years preceding 9/11, and you didn't have any policies. What does that prove?"
Well, it proves that questionable legislation, given the right political climate, can sail through nearly uncontested. In Lautenberg's case, it simply proves that no pet legislation ever really dies. It just stays on life support until it's passed or the pet owner leaves office. Of all the possible legislative overreactions to a tragedy like this, Lautenberg's is rather tame. With Holmes failing to provide a more easily attacked target like video games or music, all that's left is Hollywood, and it appears that most politicians are wisely reluctant to invoke charges of censorship while simultaneously angering one of their greatest benefactors.

When the next tragedy occurs, the cycle will begin again, not because people are stupid or politicians are evil (although there are plenty of both), but because humans are humans. The anomalous will always be more frightening than the mundane dangers of everyday existence. The more unforeseeable the event, the more we look for ways to prevent its recurrence. A recent plane crash will cause some to alter travel plans, but a deadly pileup on the freeway, while a more likely danger, never sends drivers scurrying for the safety of mass transit. The most we can hope for is to maintain a sense of perspective and apply some hindsight in order to prevent instinctive reactions from negatively affecting our future.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Børge Rosenbaum, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:00pm

    Good God, Man. Punctuate!

    why it's so easy for everyone from the general public to earnest politicians to draw the wrong conclusions after major tragedies

    Writing tip: A comma or two wouldn't have gone amiss in the quoted passage. I had to read this half a dozen times in order to parse it as you had intended thanks to the absence of helpful punctuation.

    Try this:

    why it's so easy, for everyone from the general public to earnest politicians, to draw the wrong conclusions after major tragedies

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:22pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      No. Yours is an incorrect usage of commas. The author of the article has it written and punctuated correctly. Besides, you quoted a sentence fragment of the original sentence, no wonder it doesn't make sense to you.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:16pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      So...substitute superfluous commas for proper grammar? Excellent idea, jackass. Perhaps you should try to raise your reading level above fourth grade instead.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        ChrisB, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 4:22am

        Re: Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

        What? While I hate grammar Nazis, his suggestion is correct. Commas are commonly used to separate independent clauses or, in his case, parenthetical elements. See what I did there? When two commas are used, you can eliminate what is in between them and still understand the sentence.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 8:21am

        Re: Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

        n ths mdrn wrld of txting ths is how we type lol
        neways cya ltr

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:59pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      Is this comment addressed to God or man?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:19pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      You suffer, from a bad case of, useless commas,

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 6:09am

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      Theworldisgoingtohellinahandbasketandyoureworryingaboutpunctuationandtheabilitytoparseasentencenextt hingyouknowpeoplewillbeaskingustoputspacesbetweenwordsgetagripman

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Laroquod (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 7:30am

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      You put the comma in the wrong place. It should go after 'everyone' not 'easy' -- which would more properly separate 'from the general public to earnest politicians' from the rest of the sentence as a clause modifying 'everyone'.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      MikeVx (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 10:03am

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      I had no trouble parsing the original sentence. If you were going to add commas, a less awkward rendering would have been:

      why it's so easy for everyone, from the general public to earnest politicians, to draw the wrong conclusions after major tragedies

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

      Here you go, Borge: , ,

      Thanks for the tip!

      Please enjoy this additional punctuation (free of charge!) that greatly resembles a person winking -- ;)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 4:53pm

      Re: Good God, Man. Punctuate!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:13pm

    Earnest politicians?

    WTF?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Pwdrskir (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:22pm

    Overreaction Damage

    Which is worse?

    The (anti)Patriot Act

    OR

    2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with the indefinite detention bill embedded?

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/16/three_myths_about_the_detention_bill/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:35pm

    Elephant repellent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      AdamBv1 (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:15pm

      Re:

      That sounds like something I could really use. You never know when rampaging elephants might come out of nowhere and trample you.

      Would you by chance take tiger repellent for trade?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:55pm

    This

    The reaction after 9-11 was mind boggling to me. Yes, it was a tragedy and yes, it was impactful. The reaction went way to far and cost us trillions of dollars and a lot of good will around the world.

    Here is something interesting...

    "There were 17,448 drunk driving deaths in 2001"

    That is almost 6x the number of deaths caused by terrorism.

    I watched the reaction and cringed again and again. I still cringe to this day.

    This article, needs to be understood by politicians and their constituents alike. Our freedoms are lost due to over-reaction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 9:05am

      Re: This

      And that's only ONE YEAR. That number and others like it are the reason why I ask myself on a regular basis "Why are these dipshits focusing on terrorism and the very few cases of mass murder and not on improving public safety via stiffening regulation on cars and other things?"

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      gnudist, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 10:48am

      Re: This

      Drunk driving deaths on various dates - never forget

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        JackOfShadows (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

        Tragic flaws

        Which is a bit insightful. To touch that up a bit: It is the *repetition* of drunk driving deaths, each different in some particulars, that lends a certain tragic inevitability to that class of events. Schneier's point was that it was a particular, *singular*, tragic event that lends itself for this type of resolution. As if we should, somehow, some way regain control of (our) life. The tragic flaw of the Greek dramas, again.

        You can guard against this in some way, and the framers of the Constitution did attempt to put some such safeguards from the thundering herd of the majority but it can be overridden and has on occasions too numerous to cite. [I can, endlessly almost, but what's the point.]

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:16pm

    There's a school shooting, so most states pass laws making it illegal to bring guns on school grounds. Everyone congratulates themselves as if they actually made people safer.

    They never stop to think that if someone is disturbed enough to ignore the law that says you can't kill people, they're not going to obey a law that says you can't bring a gun onto school grounds. Meanwhile, it ensures that their victims will be unarmed and unable to fight back, since honest people will actually obey the law.

    After the Aurora shooting, I wouldn't be surprised if there were new laws passed that make it illegal to bring a gun into a movie theater. Then everyone will pat themselves on the back and brag about they've made the world a safer place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Someone Special, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      I believe there was already a policy that prevented people from bringing weapons into the movie theater, even if you had a CCW. Whether this was a law or simply a theater policy, I'm not sure.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, in most states, private entities such as movie theaters cannot prevent you from bringing your legally registered gun on the grounds.

        The courts have had their say on that subject and they just aren't allowed to do that, it infringes on your Second Amendment right which even PRIVATE authorities aren't allowed to do.

        Now if we could only get that extended to the First Amendment, we would be golden.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2012 @ 7:11am

      Re:

      You're falling into the same trap, human.

      Only someone with no risk assessment ability would conclude that banning guns will lead to situations where only the deranged and criminal will have them.

      Our forefathers were not thinking about schools and movie theaters, college campuses and malls when they wrote the second amendment.

      They were thinking about being able to stand up to an overbearing, corrupt government. That, as important as it is, is all.

      Over time, the gun has become the symbol of independence and freedom in the U.S. And that's why banning guns is so repugnant...not because it leads to situations where criminals are the only ones with guns.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    RyanNerd (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 11:06pm

    Patriot Act

    This is why the Patriot Act passed so quickly without most senators even reading the piece of dog turd. The scary part of this act is that it was drafted long before 9/11. The government was just waiting for a time to put it into action. Politicians will never fail to leverage a "crisis".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    bigpallooka (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 11:24pm

    Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

    Your analogy with the school shooting is a classic example of what the article is highlighting. Instead of a rational examination of how to prevent an individual from resorting to such a tragic act by early intervention via mental health, anti-bullying programs, sensible firearms laws etc. you overreact and assume that arming more individuals is somehow going to prevent deaths. A proper risk analysis on your part would enable you to realise that the likelihood of any unarmed student being shot is extremely low while arming en-masse would seem to be a risky proposition especially when it comes to the young and untrained. Everyday in the US approximately 5 children are injured by accidental handgun shootings. The reality is that firearms are too dangerous for untrained individuals to handle let alone carry to school or the movie theatre on the incredibly small chance that someone is going to chose that moment to commit mass murder. That is the reality, unfortunately, as the article states, our instincts tells us to be scared and armed against this most unlikely outcome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      A Guy (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 1:09am

      Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

      We are already armed en mass. At least a quarter of all Americans are gun owners, probably more. That is a massive supply of publicly owned guns.

      As far as early intervention with the mentally ill, how do you propose that's possible? Is a bureaucrat going to decide when a person goes from depressed to not depressed? Could a bureaucrat tell the difference between a schizophrenic and a slob with a really bad back? The warning signs are exactly the same.

      If history has taught us anything, it's that evil people will do evil things, both in and out of government, no matter what the laws are. Untrained and irresponsible people will do irresponsible things no matter what the laws are. The best we can hope for is to take responsibility for ourselves.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        bigpallooka (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 4:28am

        Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

        I think you missed my point "A Guy" owning guns is massively different to arming the general public IN PUBLIC. I don't live in the US so it's not a cultural or emotional issue for me which it obviously is for most US citizens. From a practicality point of view, if you are suggesting that Reckruls suggestion that students and the general public be allowed to carry guns en masse in public and at school rather than attempt to prevent violent crime by other means then I would suggest that you are also exhibiting sign of the overreaction the article is describing. If you have no faith in trained professionals to attempt to address mental health and personality disorder issues but complete faith in untrained people to handle weapons daily then it would be pointless putting any suggestions forward as you won't be able to examine them rationally. The tiresome arguments regarding the uselessness of passing laws "because criminals won't obey them" completely disregards the fact that most of the mass tragedies discussed were not perpetrated by criminals.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          A Guy (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 4:55am

          Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

          I don't think we should all arm ourselves with assault rifles or carry around a gun with us at all times. However, if someone is intent on doing something horrible, the fact is there are a lot of assault rifles in public hands and available for purchase.

          Morality only works on fundamentally moral people. Beyond that, the supply and demand situation could probably allow monsters to acquire guns for a very long time into the future.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Michael, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 5:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

            And what makes you think that a lunatic needs a gun in order to wreak havoc? Your focus is rather narrow. There are many other ways to kill people than guns: knives, swords, arrows, poison, cars, etc.

            No law is going to stop a madman if he decides to plow through people with a truck. If such a thing happened, should we ban trucks?

            No law is going to stop a disgruntled guy from grabbing a knife from the kitchen and murdering his family. If such a thing happened, should we ban knives?

            And there's no way of telling who is going to snap. The nicest guy in your neighborhood could be a rapist or a pedophile for all you know. Should we all live in constant fear and anxiety over what *could* happen? Is the answer to overreact to every problem and give big daddy government more control over our lives? We could all live in glass houses and be monitored 24/7 in order to 'ensure our safety' but then we'd have to sacrifice our freedoms. Perhaps that's the answer, to eliminate our American values and traditions, to whittle away at both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights until we're little more than a glorified ant farm shouting "USA! USA!" at the top of our lungs.

            You can't have both freedom and security. That's what freedom entails, that we have the liberty to choose between right and wrong -- it's not a risk-free endeavor. Bad things will continue to happen, regardless of what laws are put in place, because people with bad intentions aren't going to magically disappear. Besides, you ought be more concerned about the government with too much power than the psycho on the street.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              bigpallooka (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 7:04am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

              Your arguments are increasingly illogical. I could use everything you have said to make the exact opposite point which is a sure sign you are arguing emotionally and dogmatically. All countries have laws that restrict access to dangerous items whether that means licensing, mandatory training or banning the items etc. Many of these laws have greatly reduced the danger to the general public. Why you equate sensible laws and effective policing with loss of freedom is beyond me. I have the freedom to walk on the side-walk because it's illegal for cars and trucks to drive there. I'm relatively safe although a madman or a heart attack could cause me to be hit by a car. Is it rational to imagine that statistically unlikely occurrences makes the law ineffective. Your replies are dogmatic and respond to some emotional triggers and not the content of my comments which began as a response to the irrational claims that a solution to the mass shootings at schools (and inferred to regard the Aurora shooting and others) is to allow students and the public the unrestricted freedom to carry firearms. Sweeping statements like "You can't have both freedom and security" are just plain stupid and mean nothing and say nothing. It's time to stop insisting that every topic has an evil answer or a righteous answer and nothing else. The whole world exists in a constant state of compromise which sometimes even works for the majority. The dogmatic who refuse to enter into an argument rationally are the problem (and seemingly the majority) if the article quoted is accurate.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Michael, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 8:49am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

                "Your arguments are increasingly illogical. I could use everything you have said to make the exact opposite point which is a sure sign you are arguing emotionally and dogmatically."

                The very fact that they react to each violent outburst by imposing more laws and restrictions is a clear-cut example of preying upon public emotion, i.e. fear, in order to push through an agenda. Why do you think FDR said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"? Because fear can be used as a manipulative tool by the government to further an agenda, that's why.

                "All countries have laws that restrict access to dangerous items whether that means licensing, mandatory training or banning the items etc. Many of these laws have greatly reduced the danger to the general public. Why you equate sensible laws and effective policing with loss of freedom is beyond me. I have the freedom to walk on the side-walk because it's illegal for cars and trucks to drive there. I'm relatively safe although a madman or a heart attack could cause me to be hit by a car. Is it rational to imagine that statistically unlikely occurrences makes the law ineffective."

                For one thing, I didn't explicitly state that 'all laws are bad,' just the heavy-handed, reactionary ones. What's illogical is to think that every problem requires a new law to fix or prevent it from happening again. The law isn't the be-all, end-all solution to everything.

                "Your replies are dogmatic and respond to some emotional triggers and not the content of my comments which began as a response to the irrational claims that a solution to the mass shootings at schools (and inferred to regard the Aurora shooting and others) is to allow students and the public the unrestricted freedom to carry firearms. Sweeping statements like 'You can't have both freedom and security' are just plain stupid and mean nothing and say nothing. It's time to stop insisting that every topic has an evil answer or a righteous answer and nothing else. The whole world exists in a constant state of compromise which sometimes even works for the majority. The dogmatic who refuse to enter into an argument rationally are the problem (and seemingly the majority) if the article quoted is accurate."

                That's a funny thing to say seeing as the whole point of the article is to show how people tend to overreact to situations before rationally appraising them for what they are.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                JEDIDIAH, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 8:45am

                Meanwhile my Nyquil is gone.

                Your post is nonsense.

                We live in a highly technological society. We have the means to produce things. That includes material, equipment, and expertise. This is all required to keep a modern economy going along. The fact that we can make things also means that we can "make bad things".

                That makes "banning things" effectively useless. Unless you want to create some sort of police state, it's simply not going to happen. We already see this kind of nonsense with effective cold medications.

                Naieve busybodies scream "do something" like some hysterical girl out of "John Q" and the end result is usually something boneheaded and ineffective.

                "Do something" is usually the most foolish thing to do.

                You want to get rid of guns? Good luck with that. You can finish getting rid of narcotics while you are at it.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 11:57am

                  Re: Meanwhile my Nyquil is gone.

                  Exactly. Certain images and movies are banned in the "land of the free", but can be downloaded all day long if you know where to look. ;)
                  And by the lords of Cobol, use a proxy!

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 7:08am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

              Isn't the purpose of the second amendment and gun ownership to ensure that you have both freedom and security?

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Michael, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 8:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

                "Isn't the purpose of the second amendment and gun ownership to ensure that you have both freedom and security?"

                Yes, self-security, not government-imposed security. There's a BIG difference. And the former is what the government is slowly trying to eliminate via fear campaigns. If the American public were ever unarmed (defanged, so to speak), we'd be sitting ducks -- there'd be absolutely nothing we could do to prevent a hostile takeover.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Rekrul, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

          From a practicality point of view, if you are suggesting that Reckruls suggestion that students and the general public be allowed to carry guns en masse in public and at school rather than attempt to prevent violent crime by other means then I would suggest that you are also exhibiting sign of the overreaction the article is describing.

          I wasn't suggesting that everyone should be armed, just that the laws against bringing (legal) guns onto school property don't make anyone safer. The mentally disturbed will just ignore the law. Meanwhile any responsible gun owner who brings a gun to school will be treated like a criminal.

          I'll try to find a link, but I recall reading a news story a few years ago about a teacher who stopped a school shooting. A student came to school armed and started shooting people. The teacher (or principal) heard the shots, grabbed his gun, which he had brought to school in violation of the law, ran into the hall and killed the shooter. Everyone involved agreed that the teacher saved a lot of lives. So what happened next? The cops arrested him and the DA filed charges against him for having a gun on school property.

          Or what about the case of Suzanna Hupp? In 1991 she was having lunch with her parents in a cafeteria-style restaurant, which was a "gun free zone". Some maniac drove drove his truck into the restaurant and started shooting people. Since Suzanna had left her gun in the car, she was unarmed as were all the other customers. She escaped, but lost both her parents.

          A having a law preventing people from bringing legally owned firearms into the restaurant didn't keep anyone safe. It actually cost 23 people their lives.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzanna_Hupp

          I'm not advocating that everyone be armed, just that they stop passing stupid and useless restrictions on people who are otherwise legally allowed to carry a gun.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 12:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

            This is the issue in a nutshell. In a culture of guns you are practically damned if you do and damned if you don't. On the one hand Suzanna may(!?) have been able to prevent some deaths, on the other hand she may just have caused her own death if she were armed. This one single instant isn't the argument you think it is. There have been many instances where a second gun has escalated a dangerous situation into a bloodbath instead of diffusing it. We all want to be able to defend ourselves and the knowledge that we won't be able to in every situation scares most people into believing in extreme solutions. I don't condemn people for having that attitude as I often feel that way myself. Unfortunately the broader impersonal view when all the facts are taken into account is that more guns in most situation means more violence, injury and death. As a completely unemotional statistical point of view carrying a concealed handgun for self-defence is a bad idea in most situations however the "what if that were me or my loved ones" mindset means we overreact as the article states. The likelihood of anyone being in that or a similar situation is very low yet if they were to carry a weapon the likelihood of that same person or someone close to them being injured accidently by that same weapon is much higher. While none of us want to die violently you simply can't protect yourself from every eventuality and in some instances your efforts to do so may increase the danger to yourself and those around you. Putting the macho bull aside for a moment, how many people with limited training are going to end with a clean kill in a dramatic situation. It's just as likely your flying bullets will kill an innocent bystander or simply draw attention to yourself.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 5:38am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sadly Reckrul, you are the article...

              Quite a few. A gun is not all that hard to use, it's basically point and pull the trigger.

              Considering that the people who the NRA puts in their magazines have had little to no training usually, it shows that even a totally ignorant person can use a weapon properly to defend themselves.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    JarHead, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:56am

    Yeah, gun control is bad news. Anyone know anything can pack more punch than M-28 Davy Crocket nuclear tipped but STILL legal? Just in case I need to "Stand My Ground".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      arcan, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 2:11pm

      Re:

      dumb gun control laws are. i have no problems with the background checks to get a gun or mandatory training. but zoning laws that say here you can bring a gun and here you can't need to go. that does absolutely nothing to make the areas safer and in fact makes them significantly less safe. the people who would do the massacres do not care in the slightest that they are not allowed to bring a gun into a zone. as for the what about schools? are you going to arm the children? routine that will undoubtedly show up in response to this, it is as simple as make the mandatory gun training lessons 18 and older. then make it so they can use rifles in designated zones for hunting provided a parent or guardian is there. problem solved. as for teachers, let them apply for a license to carry a gun into school. make it an additional background check. that way if some nut with a pistol shows up the school is not helpless until the police arrive.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Beech, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 4:11am

    It's been awhile since English class, but I would say commas don't work there. That phrase could probably stand being set off with -hyphens- or (parentheses), however.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mason Wheeler, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 5:38am

    Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

    According to the police, every gun the guy bought was an entirely legal purchase.

    According to his school, he was a psychiatric patient.

    Anyone else see something wrong with that juxtaposition? If you want to write up new laws about gun control, that sounds like an actually reasonable place to start.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 6:51am

      Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

      Do you see anything in the second amendment which gives the government power to deny gun ownership to anyone? It's quite the opposite. It says that the people have the RIGHT to keep and bear arms, and that right SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. Tell me where the second amendment grants the government the power to make exceptions. It's not there. The second amendment contains no exceptions.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Mason Wheeler, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:09pm

        Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

        *sigh* Why is it that the people who most like to speak loudly about the second amendment are the ones who understand it the least?

        Please do three things, or at least try to. The first two are very easy, but the third is quite difficult indeed:

        1. Look up the definition of "subordinate clause". Note how it says that a subordinate clause modifies the meaning of the independent clause.
        2. Read the entire text of the Second Amendment, not just the independent clause.
        3. Explain how it is possible for the concepts of "well-regulated" and "with no regulations or exceptions whatsoever" to coexist in the mind of a rational being.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 5:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

          Depends on what you understand by "well-regulated".

          A river is well regulated when it has nothing regulating its flow, no artificial means of regulation are necessary for it to be there, so by not allowing the placement of barriers or flow controls you have regulated that system to its optimum case.

          In that case the optimum regulation for guns is no regulation at all according to the forefathers.

          Which of course it won't hold true for every case but it holds true most of the time, I also believe in other non regulatory forms as actually forms of control, like free enterprise and the strict regulation and practice of granted monopolies, which should be only granted for very briefs periods of time, for very specific/narrow cases in a very limited set of circumstances because they upset the normal natural controls that are already in place. Which limits the benefits of such a thing a very few people.

          Limitations should not be addressed by governments because they don't know how to coupe with change and when initial parameters change so do the needs.

          You can rationalize almost anything if you think hard enough.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            JEDIDIAH, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 8:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

            > Depends on what you understand by "well-regulated".

            That's easy enough to do. You can simply look to the times. You don't have to make an guesses.

            This also includes acknowledging the 1793 definition of militia which is the entire portion of the population eligible for military service. It's not the Army, it's not the national guard, it's not the police, or any other disengenuous redefinition that the dishonest use to try and fool the unwary.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        JEDIDIAH, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

        > Do you see anything in the second amendment which gives the government power to deny gun ownership to anyone?

        Yeah. That whole well regulated militia thing.

        That means giving people eligible for military service the means to form up their own platoons and be ready to fight with the Army should the need arise.

        If you want to frame the 2nd Amendment in it's historical context then all of this stuff becomes pretty obvious.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Beta (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 8:01am

      Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

      This is the "connect the dots" fallacy. Many people own guns legally, very few of them go on murderous rampages. Many people consult psychiatrists, very few of them go on murderous rampages. For heaven's sake, didn't we all just read an article about overestimating the danger of rare and spectacular events?

      To put it another way, what rights do you think you should lose if you go to a psychiatrist? Should you be denied knives, matches and rope? Should the police impound your car, and search your home for razor blades and drain cleaner? Should you be barred from schools, playgrounds and places of worship? Should you be locked up? And for how long after you stop going to a psychiatrist should these reasonable safety measures be maintained?

      Do you drink, perchance?...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        bigpallooka (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

        At last, someone who actually read and understood the article. If your first instinct is to leap to conclusions or imagine that 1 (admittedly tragic and horrendous) crime which represents an anomaly rather than a a trend is what you should base your broader opinions on then you are "overreacting" according to the article. It doesn't suggest this is wrong just that you should be aware and take a step back to consider the situation in a broader context before thinking you are able to make a rational decision or reach a logical conclusion. It's hard for everyone but seemingly impossible for some to accept that your instinctive reaction may not be a rational one.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Mason Wheeler, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

          A clear trend does exist, it's just not the one that everyone is trying to say does not exist. When you look at it from the opposite direction, you find something very interesting: While it's true that not every psychiatric patient goes on a mass murder rampage, the converse is not true. Everyone who has gone on a mass murder rampage in the US in recent memory, including the truly infamous cases like Harris & Klebold (Columbine) and Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), have been psychiatric patients.

          While conspiracy theorists could make much of that fact--and some have, positing a truly sinister cause-and-effect relationship--a more rational analysis suggests a simpler truth: the system is working, but it's too limited. We are correctly identifying the crazy, dangerous ones before they snap and end up killing people, but identification alone doesn't seem to be keeping them from snapping and killing people.

          Making it harder for them to get ahold of lethal weapons would be a quite logical step. And this is hardly a new or modern idea; Socrates claimed that it would be moral to borrow an axe from your neighbor, with no intention of actually returning it, if you knew that he was mad. If he could figure that out all the way back in the 5th century BC, why is it so hard for us to understand today?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 9:07am

        Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

        Thank you, Beta. I've been pointing out the exact same thing that you did for years. It's time to stop blaming the guns or saying that we don't have enough control of guns and start blaming the people who do these things.

        As much as they can be blamed, since many of them are mentally ill or have been driven batty by various pressures in their lives.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Mason Wheeler, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 1:24pm

        Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

        No, I do not drink, and I find the insinuation that my ideas are the result of an impaired mental state highly insulting.

        And as I pointed out in another response, this attitude is looking at the facts from the wrong direction. Yes, many people consult psychiatrists, very few of them go on murderous rampages. But of the people who go on murderous rampages (in the US at least; not sure about other countries,) as far as I know every last one of them has been a psychiatric patient.

        That's a 100% correlation. Don't you think that's something worth taking seriously?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Beta (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

          You have completely missed the point. I don't want to sound like a munchkin, but you have really, truly, heatedly, repeatedly, emphatically, dramatically, totally missed the point.

          I was not implying that your ideas are the result of inebriation, I was suggesting that you yourself may have some ordinary habits, quite innocuous of themselves, which may well be more prevalent among mass murderers than among the general population, so that by your own logic you should be stripped of your rights. Maybe I should have gone with cigarettes or computer games instead of alcohol, but it never occurred to me that anyone would make such a false leap.

          "As I pointed out in another response... yes, many people consult psychiatrists, very few of them go on murderous rampages. But of the people who go on murderous rampages as far as I know every last one of them has been a psychiatric patient. That's a 100% correlation. Don't you think that's something worth taking seriously?"

          That is NOT a 100% correlation by any mathematical definition of "correlation" I've ever heard of, and in any case it's a lousy test for murderous lunatics; its false positive rate is huge.

          Honestly, your argument seems to be based on three things:
          1) You look down on people who have gone to psychiatrists (in the other thread you cite, you refer to them as "the crazy, dangerous ones" --or else you're using words in such a way that they have no meaning at all).
          2) You do not consider possession of guns to be an important right (and you haven't even tried to address my questions above, about what other rights psychiatric patients should lose).
          3) You are willing to pass a law to strip the people you look down on of a right you don't care about, based on ludicrous overestimation of the predictive power of an extremely weak indicator.

          I was trying to rebut by pointing out that by your own logic you could lose rights that you do care about because of harmless things you do, but maybe I was wasting my time.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Mason Wheeler, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

            ...seriously?

            You take something that I specifically said is not true and then try to say that my argument is wrong for claiming that it is true? Serious reading comprehension fail on your part!

            Please take the time to look over the claims I actually did make. Look at what I am saying is true and what I am saying is not true, and then formulate a response based on what I said instead of twisting my words 180 and attacking a bunch of silly straw men.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 5:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

          Nope, because the number of people going on a murderous rampage is statistically zero, they don't even make up one percent of the population.

          Further most of the population suffers from some form of metal problem, which includes depression, manias and so forth, so probably nobody would be able to get a gun or drivers license, insurance, jobs and other stuff with time making psychiatry help a liability, which probably could possibly increase the number of unstable people that don't seek out help, if they know they will have to deal with harsh social norms that would harm them.

          Would you like to see all your records expanding your entire life being able to be accessed by anyone and used against you at any point in your life?

          Because that is what you are asking for.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why not dosomething that actually addresses the problem?

            That is actually already happening today. Many people are unwilling to get psychological help because of the 'stigma' that some people put on it.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Fear and reason

    So true. I was on an aircraft in Denver a long time ago. In backing away from the gate, a part of the aircraft lightly touched another aircraft, so we pulled back in for inspection and possible repair.
    The aircraft was loaded to capacity, and we had a long flight ahead of us. I was between two "oversized" people, and a little uncomfortable (and very tired).
    The pilot mentioned that there might be damage, and we would be delayed for an hour to check and possibly do repairs; if anyone was uncomfortable with that aircraft, there was another leaving in four hours for the same destination.
    We were airborne in about an hour and a half, with ... you guessed it, a nearly empty aircraft! Heaven for me, an additional 2.5 hour wait for the people with the "screaming meemies" - whatever that old phrase means.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    IP Lawyer, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Gun Violence Is Not Rare

    Mr. Cushing, I generally find your posts to be really intelligent and insightful, and, as someone who is security obsessed, I am also a huge fan of Mr. Schneier.

    However, in this case, you have it very, very wrong. Gun violence is *not* rare in America. We have 4x the murder rate of the UK. In America, there are 290,000,000 guns, something like 1/4-1/3 of all guns on the planet, owned by a population of slightly over 300,000,000. New York city is in the midst of a shooting spree that puts it on par with cities in Iraq and Syria. Tens of thousands of Americans are murdered every year with guns, something utterly absent in other first world nations. Further, the main argument in defense of this absurd circumstance is the utterly childish fantasy that armed citizens can stop crimes. If they could, they would. Instead, they don't. In the dozens upon dozens of mass gun slayings catalogued by the Brady foundation, there wasn't a single incidence of intervention by an armed citizen. It's just a fairy tale. It's a Die Hard movie and an insane fantasy that is utterly unsupported by the tomes of evidence collected about the hideous situation of gun violence in America. So, to review, last month, in Aurora, a person currently undergoing psychiatric care for schizophrenia legally purchased four weapons, including a military grade semi-automatic assault rifle. This is in the state in America that is universally referred to as the harshest on gun laws. And that is pathetic.

    The reality is that guns are all too easy to procure in America. The vast, vast, vast majority of guns used in crimes were at one point purchased legally and then shipped across state borders. But, as the sad events of Aurora have shown, that is not even a necessary step, because even in the state that is notorious for having the most restrictive gun laws, a mental patient can still buy the tools of mass murder as long as he has the money in his checking account.

    So, sincerely, if you believe that events like the one in Aurora are rare, you are incorrect. Aurora may be particularly horrifying in its scale, but there have been over a hundred shootings in New York City in the past month alone, including two toddlers that were shot in the street.

    The reality is that Aurora happens in America on a semi-weekly basis - it just happens to be distributed all over the country, rather than in a single horrifying event. As a result, yes, stricter gun control absolutely would lead to less violence, and the attitude that calling for strengthening gun control as the country is in the wave of a pattern of indiscriminate gun violence is somehow 'reactionary' is actively enabling of those responsible for such pathetically lax gun laws in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:22am

      Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

      First you say, "New York City is in the midst of a shooting spree that puts it on par with cities in Iraq and Syria".
      Then you say, "...stricter gun control would absolutely lead to less violence...".
      New York City has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Care to explain your contradictory statements?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

        On top of that, when discussing the Aurora incident, you actually make that point and destroy your own argument.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          IP Lawyer, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          Familiarize yourself with the concept of externalities.

          When I used to work for a federal judge, I sat and heard many dozens of allocutions. This is basically the court proceeding in which someone pleas guilty to a crime. As I'm sure you know, federal jurisdiction is highly limited, so, in order to be a federal matter, a crime typically has to involve an interstate element.

          The vast, vast majority of crimes that were before the federal judge were under federal jurisdiction, because, in the words of the prosecuting US Attorneys, "The commission of the crime involved a gun that has never been manufactured or sold in New York State."

          The guns that are used to murder children on the streets of NYC and LA are sold -- legally -- to criminals in Louisiana. They then ship them across state lines. This is the most clear and blatant example I can imagine of the permissive gun laws of one state having a clear and direct negative impact on other states. It doesn't matter how restrictive gun law is in New York State when it is almost non-existent in Louisiana. This is a very, very simple concept to digest.

          And yes, my point about Aurora stands. The point being this: the most restrictive state in the nation has gun laws that are a pathetic farce. The national debate on this issue has moved so, so, so far in one direction that a dyed red hair lunatic with dead eyes can walk into a store, buy a weapon designed by many dozens of engineers specifically to shatter bones, rupture organs and dismember the limbs of *dozens* before it *even needs to be reloaded* and he can then order thousands upon thousands of rounds through the internet. This is utterly insane and, in my eyes, totally indefensible.

          If you cannot understand that thousands of guns seized every year in New York City, by the police, were legally entered into the stream of commerce in gun shows at other states, are utterly damning evidence of the broken state of gun control in this nation, I don't know what else to tell you. It is very, very simple. The loose gun laws of other states are directly and causally linked to murder rates in American cities. And, just to show how absurdly one sided this argument has become, even gun laws that are 'restrictive' in the eyes of gun lobbies still allow for violent lunatics to purchase military grade killing machines. Which is what happened in Aurora.

          So, I disagree wholeheartedly with your rejoinders, and honestly, you are a perfect example of how skewed this debate has become, and how utterly divorced from cold, hard, clearly linked causal effects between lack of gun control and gun violence the gun lobbies have become.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            arcan, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

            and you expect the federal government to be able to fix that? wow what an idealist that you are. the federal government took over a ranch(brothel) in nevada due to taxes and was forced to run it. they managed to run a business into the ground that was based around selling hookers and whiskey. do you really trust them to do good gun control laws or fix the economy for that matter?

            on a side note, i have no issue with laws that make it more difficult to get guns. my issue is with the zoning laws that say you can not take guns here or here or here. those do nothing except keep law abiding citizens from bringing guns there. a lot of those oh no armed citizen stopped this guy from shooting these other people you mentioned are exactly because the citizen did not bring a gun into an area that you are not allowed to legally bring guns into. so drop all of them except maybe schools and allow teachers to get a licence to bring a gun on school property. that would help.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

              Ever think that might have been the plan there, on the part of some of the more repressed in the federal government.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 10:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

            Remember the murders of innocent people in Louisiana after the hurricane...murders perpetrated BY THE COPS?
            Sure, I'll give up my guns...when the cops, military, and government give up theirs.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Beta (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

      Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

      "Tens of thousands of Americans are murdered every year with guns,..."

      The CDC says you're exaggerating. Where do you get your statistics?

      "If [armed citizens could stop crime], they would. Instead, they don't. In the dozens upon dozens of mass gun slayings catalogued by the Brady foundation, there wasn't a single incidence of intervention by an armed citizen."

      Do I really have to point out the logical fallacy there? Try it like this: "In the tens of thousands of cases in which gun owners have intervened to prevent crime, not one has become a mass slaying that made it into the annals of the Brady Foundation."

      There may be a case you can make for stricter gun control, but this isn't it. Statistics, like guns, should not be handled by people who don't know what they're doing.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        IP Lawyer, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

        http://www.bradycampaign.org/facts/gunviolence/

        You are right, it is closer to 100,000 people a year in America who are killer or injured as a result of gun violence. For further reading about the utter fantasy of armed citizens stopping crimes I suggest the following:
        From a former marine: http://www.thereformedbroker.com/2012/07/20/a-former-marines-plea-for-common-sense-on-gun-control/
        From a former police officer: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/opinion/armed-but-not-so-safe.html?scp=3&sq=guns&st=Search
        And from a former infantry officer: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/opinion/an-arms-race-we-cant-win.html

        Experienced, heavily armed soldiers routinely fail to prevent mass killings in areas that have high gun density, and they are at the height of their mental and physical preparedness, having been trained rigorously for this precise purpose. The idea that a fat white person could intervene to stop someone with murderous intent and a military grade assault rifle, when so many professionally trained soldiers fail to do this routinely, is a childish fantasy. And, sadly, a childish fantasy that is one we base major national policy upon, and this major national policy directly results in gun violence all over our nation.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Beta (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          When someone points out that your statistic is wrong, instead of trying to correct it, you quote a different statistic. And you're starting to argue by anecdote...

          I will not play whac-a-mole, thank you.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          arcan, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          i call bullshit on the increase of likliness of suicide because you have a gun in your home stat. complete and utter bullshit.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Scott, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 6:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          I've read what IP Lawyer has to say and the repetitious "military grade assault rifle" and "childish fantasy" along with churlish "fat white person" leads me to believe the agenda he/she is pushing is so ingrained as to be untouchable by discussion. If that's the case, if it's a situation where eyes are closed and ears are plugged, why even respond? Let him/her hunker in the corner quivering and whimpering while the rest have fun.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        IP Lawyer, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

        Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

        " Statistics, like guns, should not be handled by people who don't know what they're doing."

        I agree. And, in my eyes, "people who don't know what they're doing" includes the vast, vast majority of the population. We require people to get licenses to drive a car, and a car is designed to be a transportation vehicle. The fact that cars kill tons of people is an unfortunate but inevitable externality. In contrast, however, guns are designed to murder humans on a massive scale, efficiently and with virtually no physical effort. Why on earth should we be selling these to people with no background checks whatsoever? What possible basis could there be for that? The ridiculous fantasy that you will be able to stop an invasion onto your property from the federal government? Or the statistically unsupportable also ridiculous fantasy that you will use your gun to be a Capital H Hero and Stop a Crime? This just never happens, and I'm sick to high holy h-e-double-hockey-stick of basing important national policy on fantasies that overweight white people have to make them feel better about themselves.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 12:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          Wrong again. Guns, as invented, were meant to be used for self-defense and for hunting.

          War only came later after some kings realized how powerful these weapons were and how superior they were to bow&arrow and swords. With their range, relative stopping power, etc. guns are superior to both those weapons.

          The fact is that almost ANYTHING can be used for 'killing tons of people'. We don't blame the weapon or item in question for that, we blame the goddamned person who decided that "Today is a good day to kill lots of people!"

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Michael, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 6:40am

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          "Why on earth should we be selling these to people with no background checks whatsoever? What possible basis could there be for that? The ridiculous fantasy that you will be able to stop an invasion onto your property from the federal government? Or the statistically unsupportable also ridiculous fantasy that you will use your gun to be a Capital H Hero and Stop a Crime? This just never happens, and I'm sick to high holy h-e-double-hockey-stick of basing important national policy on fantasies that overweight white people have to make them feel better about themselves."

          First, thanks for making the false generalization that it's just a bunch of obese white folk who want to carry firearms, despite the fact that most of the gun violence is caused by black and latino gangs and robbers.

          Second, you think it's ridiculous that people should have the right to defend themselves from a potential hostile invasion? Why not just throw both our Constitution and Bill of Rights into the trash right now because that's precisely what will happen if we concede our 2nd Amendment rights. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." You think that the government is concerned about the public's well-being? Care to put that notion to the test? Try not paying your income tax. You'll find out real quick just how much your government gives a damn about you.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 10:49am

          Re: Re: Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

          There is no constitutional right to own or drive a car. There IS a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

      Re: Gun Violence Is Not Rare

      I wouldn't say gun violence is rare in America, either. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't.) These mass slayings are, considering the amount of the population with easy access to guns. That there is an "equivalent" of a mass slaying happening across the country every day isn't nearly the same thing when it comes to reactions from citizens and their elected officials.

      It could be put rather cruelly that nobody cares about 100 dead individuals scattered across the country. It's cruel, but there it is. There are a few gun control advocates who truly walk that same path each and every day. But many politicians (and members of the public) only get this idea in their head after a large scale tragedy. That's what I'm calling out. (And calling "reactionary.")

      Lautenberg's first try at tighter gun control immediately followed a mass shooting. So did his second try. You can't tell me this guy cares deeply about gun control. I think it might be one of his "key" issues but he's pulled the same move twice. That's why I'm calling this legislation "reactionary."

      I don't disagree with the fact that gun violence in America is a serious problem. But before I argue any further along these lines, I just want to lay down my personal feelings on the subject so there's no misunderstanding my following statements or mistaking me for representing something I am not.

      1. I don't own a gun. I don't plan to. I've lived nearly 40 years without one and I don't see it changing. Even if I moved to an area with higher crime, I can't see purchasing a gun for safety reasons. I think I would spend more time worrying about my kids possibly getting ahold of it or having it used against me by a criminal who's likely much more comfortable around firearms than I am.

      2. I live in a state that has one of the highest gun ownership rates in America. (Number 7 on this list.) Despite that, gun violence in the state is very low. So it's more than just guns. It's other issues.

      3. Despite the fact that I don't have a horse in this race (so to speak), I'm greatly disinclined to start advising others on how many horses they have and their feed-purchasing habits (again, so to speak).

      3.a. I'd be more willing to support various forms of gun control if the US legislative process wasn't known for its "feature creep." You often start off at something that seems useful and in the proximity of common sense (no more ordering a lifetime supply of bullets via the internet) and find yourself passing a wordy omnibus full of privacy invasions and rights erosion. Once you start ceding logical inches, they seem to think you've granted them free reign to start rolling up the miles.

      4. I do agree, however, that letting more private citizens carry a weapon in public will do little to prevent mass acts of violence. In Holmes' case, he was covered in body armor, making the theoretical "armed citizen" largely useless. Of course, a few warning shots might have scared him off. Who knows?

      But by and large, the problem with the armed citizen isn't that they don't know how to use their weapons or might freeze up when that moment comes, but rather that the mass murder has a leg up, psychologically. He came to kill. Fight-or-flight responses will vary, but the killer's won't.

      The flipside of this is that these recent mass slayings have all been performed in places that shooters would very likely run into little or no armed resistance: schools, malls, theaters. I might be wrong, but my gut feeling is that even the most die-hard gun supporter rarely takes their "conceal-and-carry" permit to mean that it's mandatory and their guns must accompany them to the theater, mall and school.

      After all that rambling, my feeling is this: I don't have a problem with making it tougher to purchase a gun. I think the effort should be made to ensure that the purchaser can be trusted with it. But, I'm not under any illusion that toughening this up or adding more parameters and waiting periods will have much effect on the amount of gun violence in the US.

      The unfortunate side effect of strengthening gun laws is that, much like DRM, it is more of a problem for good citizens than it is for criminals. If this sort of legislation isn't carefully written and consistently enforced, it will become like every other expansionary policy that starts out with its heart in the right place and ends up twisted bureaucratic annoyance.

      If you're thinking that I'm being completely churlish by not being willing to save a few lives in exchange for some additional hassle, so be it. I just don't see the heavy hand of legislation making much of an impact on violence statistics. I do, however, see it making an impact in unforeseen areas and laying the groundwork for further rights erosion.

      If laws based on response to violence actually worked, I wouldn't have to take my shoes off and step through a full-body scanner to get on a plane and I wouldn't have to dig out my birth certificate in order to get my driver's license renewed.

      But they don't. At least not the way we do them here.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 3:03am

        Re: The unfortunate side effect of strengthening gun laws is that, much like DRM, it is more of a problem for good citizens than it is for criminals.

        Except the empirical evidence shows it works elsewhere. Countries with tighter gun laws have lower incidences of gun violence. Even in the US, there is this correlation state by state.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 3:41am

          Re: Re: The unfortunate side effect of strengthening gun laws is that, much like DRM, it is more of a problem for good citizens than it is for criminals.

          I doubt that, the UK is tiny by comparison to the US

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 5:40am

            Re: Re: Re: The unfortunate side effect of strengthening gun laws is that, much like DRM, it is more of a problem for good citizens than it is for criminals.

            Right in one. The UK is small and has little population in comparison to the United States. When the figures are inflated to match U.S. population, the U.K. actually has MORE rapes, MORE robberies, etc. than the United States does.

            As to the 'countries with tighter gun laws have lower incidences of gun violence', you could say the same thing about countries that banned sharp knives. Less stabbings then, but most likely more hammers, axes, etc. being used to kill people.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Michael, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 6:31am

          Re: Re: The unfortunate side effect of strengthening gun laws is that, much like DRM, it is more of a problem for good citizens than it is for criminals.

          "Except the empirical evidence shows it works elsewhere. Countries with tighter gun laws have lower incidences of gun violence. Even in the US, there is this correlation state by state."

          Actually, no, it doesn't. NY has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country. IP Lawyer brought up how much of the guns that are seized in the state are being funneled into the state from elsewhere, but that only serves to illustrate that people will find a workaround, no matter what the law states. There can be no doubt that the NYPD's Constitutional-infringing stop-and-frisk policy is designed to disarm citizens and allow the police to harrass people of certain ethnicity. How many crimes has this phony policy prevented from happening? The answer: zero. Truth is, if somebody snaps one day and intends to kill a bunch of people, he's going to find a way to do it, with or without firearms. The law doesn't matter to a lunatic.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

            Re: NY has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

            Funny how New York still has this reputation for being a violent place among those who don’t live there. That may have been true back in the 1970s, but violent crime has declined since then. Thanks to better policing and, no doubt, tighter gun laws.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 2:27pm

              Re: Re: NY has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

              I bet the same could be said of China. Maybe you'd like to live there?
              Tienanmen Square, Beijing, 1989. People without guns stand up to authorities with guns. How'd that work out?

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                zegota (profile), Aug 5th, 2012 @ 2:43pm

                Re: Re: Re: NY has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

                I'd rather live in China than die in Aurora.

                Also, lol if you think your goddamn hunting rifle is going to mean anything if the US military comes knocking at your door.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Michael, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: NY has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

                  Then go live in China. America is supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave.

                  As for a military invasion, they'd be vastly outmanned and outpowered. Further, they'd have to turn on their own countrymen (inc. family & friends). Good luck with that.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 11:03pm

                Re: People without guns stand up to authorities with guns. How'd that work out?

                Overall, much better than the alternative, as it turns out. When you shoot at the Government, it need have no qualms about shooting back. But when the Government shoots unarmed civilians, then the world rises up in condemnation. Even in China, over 20 years after Tiananmen, the authorities still have their hands full, year after year, trying to stamp on the flames of rebellion that still will not go out.

                What happened in the US the last time somebody pulled a gun on a representative of the Government?

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jesse Townley (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 10:17am

    Stories versus data

    "People tend to base risk analysis more on stories than on data. Stories engage us at a much more visceral level, especially stories that are vivid, exciting or personally involving."

    This is a key point in politics that frustrates a lot of grassroots candidates who are challenging the status quo. They don't realize that you can't just have facts, you have to have an engaging narrative that touches voters' emotions.

    It can be really really frustrating, but the only way to counteract the asinine emotional anecdote is to build a more persuasive one grounded in facts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Beta (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Stories versus data

      "...In fear of what others might report about you, you stoned the woman when your heart revolted at the act... There were sixty-eight people there, and sixty-two of them had no more desire to throw a stone than you had. Oh, it's true. I know your race. It is made up of sheep... It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it... Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety- nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise--perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it--and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end."
      --Satan, "The Mysterious Stranger", Samuel Clemens

      The emotional approach has always been strong in politics, but I think that's finally starting to change, thanks to information technology. Decades ago the popular story would fill the front pages and the radio and TV dials, and those who doubted its validity would feel isolated and embarrassed, and keep quiet. (The alternative, stories from political extremists, would be even worse.) But now we can easily look up the facts for ourselves, and find online communities that discuss these things rationally.

      When I first read "The Mysterious Stranger", it occurred to me that they could have stopped the stoning, if they'd only had an anonymous communication protocol.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    quawonk, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    "If someone wants to purchase deadly ammunition, they should have to come face-to-face with the seller,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “It's one thing to buy a pair of shoes online, but it should take more than a click of the mouse to amass thousands of rounds of ammunition."

    You mean... it's NOT like that? WTF America??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 4th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

      Re:

      Well, yeah. It's pretty much like that.

      You have to buy the gun face-to-face (not always, but if you're going the legal route) and then you can order a bunch of ammo online. Kind of like going to the doctor for a prescription and then using that to order up a bunch of cheap Canadian drugs.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 12:00am

        Re: Re:

        Why should you have to see the seller in person? We don't do that for dangerous chemicals in most cases, you just have them delivered and they do a simple background check before giving you the chemicals.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 6:10am

        Re: Re:

        The bullets cannot be used without a gun. Therefore, it is the GUN that should be monitored, not the ammo for said gun.

        The fact is that thousands of round of ammo going to one home would set off alarm bells in the minds of any reputable seller and would make them deny shipping until a good reason was given for that.

        Or, the ammo would be shipped to a gun seller and then the person would have to come in and get it from the gun seller.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Michael, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re:

        If someone is intent on getting a ton of ammo, they're going to get it despite internet availability. Heck, people have been going on killing sprees since well before the internet. At least if somebody does purchase hundreds or thousands of rounds of ammo via the internet, there's an instant record of the transaction. And they're trying to prevent this? Why? To encourage the market to trend underground, thus making their own jobs that much more difficult?

        These people must be stupid.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 5th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    Intereresting article about the Aurora incident here

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Sources and their interests

    Why isn't it because we tend to be focused on what we hear about? We might be bad at risk analysis, but we also tend to think mainly about things that are presented to us. This is why radio still serves as an effective means of telling people what they should think. Finally, we are lazy, and would like to avoid the kind of situation that Aurora had.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    AS1 (profile), Aug 6th, 2012 @ 11:40am

    If you own a gun U live in Fear Period. If U own a gun U are afraid Period. Having had a Cuban Mafia Guy stick a gun in my forehead it was easy to psyche him out and use his fear against him..and Ima girl!! Melt all the Guns and Weapons WorldWide...oh and as far as removing corrupt governments you ask?? What the government fears most is the masses...get off Ur butt and get out on the Streets by the millions and you DON'T NEED GUNS. Period!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2012 @ 8:03pm

      Re:

      "What the government fears most is the masses". If the masses are unarmed, WHY?
      (And I have seen "V For Vendetta". One of my favorite movies.)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This