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  • Personal Experience is Referred to as “Anecdotal”

    Posted by James R. Rummel on October 31st, 2005 (All posts by )

    Steven den Beste sent me a private Email with a link to this article by John Lott. In the op-ed, Lott discusses how Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin brought the subject of gun control up during a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This is after badgering the new US Ambassadore on the same subject when he arrived in Canada to fulfill his duties.

    Steven asked a question in his Email.

    “Why is it that gun control activists have so much trouble with this
    concept?”

    I started to answer that question in the reply, but decided that it was long and involved enough to rate a post.

    I’ve been a self defense advocate and active 2nd Amendment supporter for the past 14 years, and in that time I’ve debated a number of people who support gun control. It’s been my experience that the majority of the hard core true believers, the people who donate the majority of the time and money needed to keep the movement going, have lost a loved one to suicide by gun.

    This makes sense when one considers that the majority of all gun deaths are suicides (close to 60%). I’m not qualified to render a psychological profile of the people with which I’ve come in contact, but it seems that they are uniformly extremely emotional about the issue. They also tend to be convinced that their program of abolishing all private gun ownership will reduce all levels of violence, from crime to suicides.

    Itís obvious that the persons who provide the greatest impetus for the gun control movement are moral, concerned individuals that are genuinely convinced that they are attempting a great good for all of us. Unfortunately, the record shows that they are wrong.

    But emotional motivations arenít affected by facts, and I donít expect the hard core supporters of gun control to ever change their mind no matter how effectively their position is shown to be without merit. Their extreme devotion to a lost and empty cause, however, can be manipulated by cynical politicians to garner support at the polls.

    I think that is whatís going on in Canada right now. Gun control has always been a hot button issue on both sides of the border, and Canadian politicians havenít been slow to exploit it for whatever they can get. Even though their big solution to Canadian gun violence has resoundingly been proven to be a bad idea, and one that has led to disturbing allegations of corruption in that government, it would appear that they are trying to play the gun control card once again.

    What the Canadians desire is for the US government to violate the Constitution, the highest law of the land in my country. This is idiotic in the extreme. Itís also idiotic to think that an internal law enforcement problem in Canada can be addressed by badgering a visiting Secretary of State. Since Martin is trying just that, I think it shows a failure by the Canadian government to come up with any reasonable solution. Or, at least, any solution that doesnít involve admitting that they were wrong and reversing the official position on gun control. This was possible in the United States when Bush was elected President. For some reason I donít think thatís going to happen in Canada no matter who is elected as Prime Minister.

     

    42 Responses to “Personal Experience is Referred to as “Anecdotal””

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      Another powerful emotional appeal of gun control is elitism.

      Gun control isn’t about controlling things but about controlling people. It is inherently based on the idea that the ordinary, law abiding citizen is to stupid and irrational to safely keep and use personal weapons.

      Advocating gun control lets people imagine themselves as part of an anointed elite taking away dangerous objects from their childlike fellow citizens. Such vicarious superiority is a powerful emotional draw for many people.

    2. Millie Woods Says:

      Canada like the UK is experiencing unprecedented gun related criminal activity. So much for alleged gun control and bans on their use.

    3. chel Says:

      Part 1
      First, up front hereís where Iím coming from: I’m in favor of putting more restrictions on guns. I don’t think that all guns should be outright banned, I just think they should be harder to get.

      I feel like I do understand why the other side is doesn’t want any restrictions on their gun acquisition. Some people like to go hunting. Some feel like they are personally safer if they have a gun. Some people just like guns because theyíre neato. Sure, I get it. And those are all valid things that I believe should be weighed against the negatives of guns. I understand the need for gun enthusiasts to find a justification that is larger than ďI like guns and they make me feel safe.Ē I really do understand that need. And Iím not saying that just because something hurts some it should be automatically banned.

    4. chel Says:

      Okay, I wrote this long reply to your post and it won’t let me post it! I thought maybe it was too long so I broke it into 2. It let me post the 1st part (above) but now I can’t post the rest and so my comment above makes not sense. Egad.

    5. James R. Rummel Says:

      First, up front hereís where Iím coming from: I’m in favor of putting more restrictions on guns. I don’t think that all guns should be outright banned, I just think they should be harder to get.

      I understand what you’re saying, chel, but I’m afraid that you seem to have missed my point. You are still framing your position in emotional terms. You feel this, the other side feels that, they like guns because they’re neato, etc. The whole point of the post is that an emotional justification to restrict a right enshrined in the Constitution isn’t a justifiable position.

      The only reasonable justification to do something so radical is based on real world considerations. Gun control advocates claim that restrictions on private ownership will curb crime and lower violence, instead the opposite is true. The number of guns is at an all time high, and more people are carrying them while they go about their daily lives then ever before. Yet it is undeniable that crime has fallen.

      This is a free country, which means that you are free to have any opinion that you choose. But don’t expect too many changes in this society if the best you can come up with is that it would make you feel better.

      James

    6. mattew Says:

      Do you really argue that the negative correlation in time between gun ownership and crime is a proof that gun control is a bad idea? Talking about anecdotal evidence!
      Of course you should control for many factors (wealth, age, income distibution, changes in police tactics etc. etc. ) before you can make this deduction.
      And if you think that simple correlations can be used as evidence, what about a cross country comparison. Clearly, countries with strict gun laws (Sweden, Canada) have less violent crime than the US.

    7. Steven Den Beste Says:

      I’m not particularly interested in the time-correlation; I’m more interested in comparing the situations in the UK and Canada right now with the situation in the US right now.

      And by the way, Mattew, given that the Second Amendment is already part of the Constitution, opponents of gun control don’t have to prove anything. The default in the US is “no gun control”. Those who wants to impose significant limits on private ownership of guns are the ones who have to prove that there would be a significant societal benefit for doing so.

      If no one on either side can prove anything, the Second Amendment continues in full force.

    8. Sandy P Says:

      Wait and see, Matthew. They’re not as homogenous as they used to be. And how’s it going in Ozland and Britain?

      Broken window applies here.

      Plus, who’s the king?

    9. chel Says:

      Ahhh… wait James, you didn’t get to see the other 2/3 of the very long comment I wrote. So that, 1st little part up there that I posted doesn’t make sense by itself. (MT wasn’t allowing me to post and I thought it was because my comment was too long so I broke it into parts, and then it only let me post the 1st part. Ug.) I’ll try posting it again later today, somehow. Or maybe I’ll e-mail it to you.

    10. chel Says:

      (Okay, let’s hope it let’s me post this time…)

      First, up front hereís where Iím coming from: I’m in favor of putting more restrictions on guns. I don’t think that all guns should be outright banned, I just think they should be harder to get.

      I feel like I do understand why the other side is
      doesn’t want any restrictions on their gun
      acquisition. Some people like to go hunting. Some
      feel like they are personally safer if they have a
      gun. Some people just like guns because theyíre
      neato. Sure, I get it. And those are all valid
      things that I believe should be weighed against the negatives of guns. I understand the need for gun enthusiasts to find a justification that is larger than ďI like guns and they make me feel safe.Ē I really do understand that need. And Iím not saying that just because something hurts some it should be automatically banned.

      What I don’t get is when gun people claim that there are no negatives of guns or that loose gun laws make people safer at a population level. I havenít seen any evidence for this. You linked to a chart that showed a drop in violent crime starting in the 1990s and then to a map of conceal and carry laws which because more common in the 1990s. Those two pieces of data alone are not evidence that these two things are related. There’s a lot of things that changed in the 1990s. The CDC maps on obesity follow a similar upward trend in the 1990s.
      (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/
      click on powerpoint presentation. You can flip
      through them pretty fast in slide show viewÖ just skip the 1st few slides with text. Itís actually very interesting.) Also, amount of time people spent using computers also went up. Maybe the reduction in violent was because people were living more sedentary lives? No, of course I donít really think this is what caused the drop in violent crime in the 1990s. Iím just saying that this type of juxtopositioning is not proof.

      I donít see why you dismiss gun control advocates who have lost a relative to a gun suicide because they have ďemotional motivations.Ē As you said yourself somewhere around 60% of gun deaths are suicides. In 2002, 30,242 people were killed by firearms. (And let me add that only 300 of these people were killed in the context of ďlegal intervention.Ē) Itís easy to do the math and see that there are a lot of people killing themselves with guns. This is very real. A proportion of these suicides would still be alive today if they did not have access to such an easy self-killing device. Not to mention the homicides.

      I say, fine, be a conservative and stand up for
      personal rights and responsibility at any cost and
      have that be your argument. But 30,000 dead in the US per year is big and I think itís important not to just brush this aside.

    11. chel Says:

      Okay, here’s what MT wasn’t liking… the word “inf0rmati0n.” Gee wiz

    12. Jonathan Says:

      Violent crime rates are low, often lower than are comparable rates in Europe and Canada, in parts of the USA where gun ownership is widespread. Meanwhile violent crime rates in places like Brazil, South Africa and parts of the ex-USSR that severely restrict private possession of firearms are astronomical by US standards. And there are countries like Finland, Israel and Switzerland where guns are widely available, even ubiquitous, and crime rates are modest. I don’t think such cross-cultural comparisons demonstrate much except that some cultures are more violent than others and that gun restrictions tend to be imposed as politically expedient responses to crime.

      WRT costs/benefits, the statistics show that the benefits of widespread private gun possession by law-abiding people outweigh the costs, or at worst are a wash. And it’s clear in any case (even gun prohibitionists admit this) that gun restrictions never disarm the criminal or irresponsible minority — people who by their nature do not obey rules.

      And the statistical reality, whatever it is, does not change the situation for individuals. It is a fact that you can be victimized even in places that are statistically safe. It happens. Given that it can happen, people have the right to protect themselves. This is a basic human right, for good reason a foundation of Anglo-American common law. It applies particularly to the extent that government cannot protect individuals and, indeed, under our system has no obligation to do so.

    13. James R. Rummel Says:

      Do you really argue that the negative correlation in time between gun ownership and crime is a proof that gun control is a bad idea?

      No, not at all. My position is that the gun control advocates have failed to prove that it’s a good idea. Like Steven points out in the comments and I pointed out in the post, gun ownership is a right enumerated in the Constitution. There has to be an incredibly clear justification to change that document, and gun control supporters have consistently failed to do that.

      Clearly, countries with strict gun laws (Sweden, Canada) have less violent crime than the US.

      Like Sandy said, it’s even more clear that two countries very close to the US in culture (England, Australia) have seen soaring crime rates and an alarming increase in violence since they banned all private ownership of handguns.

      So far as Canada is concerned, this very post starts out by discussing how there has been a surge in gun violence and crime in that country. Odd how the Canadians are having trouble with illegal guns after their national gun registry was put in place. According to the news reports and Canadian government websites I’ve read, this is the very problem that the registry was designed to prevent.

      James

    14. Jonathan Says:

      Chel,

      If you look at John Lott’s web site, and google around for papers by Gary Kleck, you can get more information about the cost/benefit arguments that favor widespread gun ownership.

      The suicide issue is a red herring, since there’s no strong evidence that reducing availability of guns reduces suicide rates.

    15. James R. Rummel Says:

      chel has left the rest of his comment….

      I understand the need for gun enthusiasts to find a justification that is larger than ďI like guns and they make me feel safe.Ē I really do understand that need. And Iím not saying that just because something hurts some it should be automatically banned.

      One of the problems I have with people who believe in the supernatural is that they make their claims and then challenge skeptics to disprove their assertions. They don’t seem to understand that the burden of proof is on them.

      I’ve come across the same tactic with most of the gun control advocates I’ve debated. They claim that gun control is good, and they think that anyone on the other side of the issue has to prove them wrong. This is simply not the case.

      No, but they are sufficient to destroy the justification for gun control.

      Itís easy to do the math and see that there are a lot of people killing themselves with guns. This is very real. A proportion of these suicides would still be alive today if they did not have access to such an easy self-killing device.

      Like I said, gun control supporters make broad statements with no proof and then challenge their oppenents to disprove them. Okay, that’s easy enough.

      Japan has less than half that of the United States, and it’s well known that the country has some of the most stringent gun control on the planet. Yet more Japanese die by suicide every year than Americans die by gun violence, and that includes the US numbers of suicides and violent crime combined!

      Sorry, chel, but there simply isn’t any justification for your position.

      James

    16. Sandy P Says:

      What loose gun laws? There’s thousands on the books.

    17. Sandy P Says:

      We lose thousands to auto accidents every year, do we ban autos or is this an extreme example?

      People want to kill themselves, they’ll find a way, bridge, RR, pills, hanging, whatever.

    18. chel Says:

      James,

      You cited some statistics about how Japan has a high suicide rate and low gun ownership. But the data we really need in order to get some better evidence your claim would be this: Japan suicide rates if Japan switched to a less stringent gun control policy. Or on the otherhand US suicide (and homicide) rates given a switch to Japan-like stringent gun control policy. Both of these would be impossible though excellent experiments for answering the question. I feel that there are so many things that differ between the US and Japan culturally and otherwise that this comparison doesn’t really add anything. Murder and homicide are extremely multicausal. I certainly would not claim that gun law is the only factor determining these rates. And sure, I acknowledge that’s it’s really impossible to 100% prove anything but I feel some comparisons add more and some add less.

      I thought I’d share some evidence for more permissive gun policies leading to more deaths (homicide and suicide.) Some of these studies compare before and after gun laws within a country which I feel removes some (but not all) of the cultural differences confounding. What I posted below isn’t 100% proof, but I believe it adds something. I can’t find a study that shows that permissive gun laws reduce homicides or suicides. Like I was saying before, if your arguement against stringent gun laws is an arguement of personal freedom, I think that’s valid. But if your arguement is that stingent gun laws lead to more people murdered or committing suicide, I just don’t see it.

      1.) Firearms and suicide in the northeast.
      Miller M, Hemenway D, Azrael D
      Link

      2.) Gun control law (Bill C-17), suicide, and homicide in Canada.
      Bridges FS.
      Link

      3.) Household firearm ownership and suicide rates in the United States.
      Miller M, Azrael D, Hemenway D.
      Link

      4.) Firearm availability and suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths among women.
      Miller M, Azrael D, Hemenway D.
      Link

      5.) Suicide and firearm prevalence: are youth disproportionately affected?
      Birckmayer J, Hemenway D.
      Link

      6.) Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths, suicide, and homicide among 5-14 year olds.
      D.
      Link

    19. chel Says:

      Sandy you have an excellent point about the autos. There are (very) roughly the same number of people killed by automobiles as by guns per year in the US. Believe it or not, I certainly don’t think that 30,000 annual deaths is reason enough to restrict something. You’ve gotta weigh the pros and cons right? Most people believe that the utility of having cars easily acessible is worth that amount of death. My question: is the utility of having guns easily acceptable worth 30,000 deaths? I can see how someone might feel that it is and I think that this sentiment and the personal freedom arguement are valid. Denying the harm that guns cause is problematic to me. It also seems to be a weak argument given the evidence we have.

      PS. The argument that people will just find another way to kill themselves doesn’t seem to hold true. It’s relatively difficult to pull of some of those other methods of suicide. Let me know if you want some articles.

    20. chel Says:

      Jonathan,

      I just wanted to say that your personal rights and individual protection arguement makes sense to me even though I don’t personally agree with you. I like reading this blog because I really want to understand “conservative” thinking in a more in-depth way. You know there’s not enough dialogue between people with very different ideas about these things. Often I really don’t know what’s behind some people’s arguements and whether they have the same inf0 I have and vice versa.

      Also all my programs have been taking a loooooong time to run this week which gives me lots of blog time!

    21. chris Says:

      I am an avid long time gun owner/hunter/shooter. I have also had extensive military training in firearms and have used them since I was about 6 or 7 under careful guidance and attended full weekend safety courses as a child, which was required in Kansas as a child to get your hunting license.

      I am perfectly fine with having more restrictions, but by restrictions I am referring only to the backround checks/time needed to procure a gun..not more restrictions to the types of guns you can own…not having every john q. public have access to fully automatic weapons is fine, but the idea of banning so called “assualt rifles” based on their clip count is ridiculous. I could go into a buidling and kill way more people in a shorter amount of time with 2 or 3 pistols than I could with an assault rifle with 30 round clips…

      The main problem many gun control activists face is one of intellectual honesty when it comes to the constitution. They will talk 1st ammendment no questions asked and say it is beyond reproach because it is in the constitution, but would be quite happy to take 2nd ammendment away.

      “Guns don’t kill people, I do!” – McBain

    22. James R. Rummel Says:

      I’m afraid that the sources you link to are either not credible or say nothing to support your position, chel.

      The first link is to an abstract of a study by a pair of Harvard doctors that supposedly shows a correlation between gun availability and suicide. The only problem is that at least two of the authors, Dr. Miller and Dr. Hemenway, have produced flawed studies in the past which have been thoroughly debunked. Fruit from the tainted tree and all that.

      The second link also leads to an abstract, and this one is of a study to determine the impact of firearm deaths after the introduction of a Canadian gun control law. The study shows that gun deaths did indeed reduce in number, but it does nothing to find out if the overall rate of homicides and suicides were reduced or if people just found other methods. (This is reasonable since, after all, the researchers weren’t bothering to collect that data.) That doesn’t stop the author from claiming just that since he says his study shows that gun control laws will reduce suicides and homicides! Yet another idealogue making claims without the data to back it up.

      Link #3 leads to another study by Hemenway and Miller. This one was not only debunked by myself, but also the priceless Megan McArdel.

      I’m not even going to bother with the next three links because they all lead to abstracts of studies by Miller, Hemenway, or both. (Surprise, surprise.)

      But none of this matters a bit. The facts are beyond dispute. Gun violence and crime is down while gun ownership is at an all time high. Any claim you make about the social benefits of gun control are destroyed by these two facts.

      I mentioned in the post above that gun control advocates never change their mind no matter how untenable their position or how many times the justification for their views are debunked. I really don’t mean to offend, chel, but I think it’s about time you proved me wrong.

      James

    23. Sandy P Says:

      Who are guns easily accessible to?

      The same who steal your car?

      Legally, you can get a car faster than a gun.

      Guess we’ll find out in time now that Detroit has C&C.

      Owning a gun is not conservative thinking, it’s history. Our Founding Fathers lived it. I don’t think anyone of their time thought they were “conservative.”

      And quite frankly, a few years ago there was a study done by some pro-control professors who looked at our early history and had to admit Americans were not pro-control. Didn’t that movement start about 1876?

      Have you ever considered, chel, that Southern Blacks after Reconstruction, the Germans (Hitler) and the Cubans (Castro) all have at least 1 thing in common? Their right to bear arms was taken away. The 30K number pales in comparison as to how many millions might have been saved if they didn’t rely on the state for protection.

      Who is the King, Chel?

      Look at the bright side, James, at least he didn’t put up Bellesiles.

      You should start visiting Alphecca – I think that’s him – chel.

    24. Jonathan Says:

      Chris,

      You raise an interesting point. I suspect that most gun-rights advocates would be satisfied with the current regulatory regime, however imperfect, if there were a reasonable expectation that that regime would never be changed. But in reality no such assurance is likely, and one of the reasons why many gun-rights advocates are uncompromising is that they have learned from long experience that the people driving gun-control activism will not be satisfied with limited regulation, but will use every “reasonable” regulatory measure as a hook to rationalize additional restrictions ending in complete prohibition.

      One of the ironies of all of this is that the gun controllers might have gotten much more of their program enacted if they had been sincere about limited regulation and had quit while they were ahead. As it is they are not only failing to enact their agenda, they are keeping their more numerous political opponents riled up, and there is now a real possibility that we will see significant rollbacks in local and federal gun regulation in the coming years. (Not that I mind.)

      It’s pretty clear, to me anyway, that the main interest of some of the most dedicated gun-control advocates is now fundraising rather than serious policy analysis. The incentive for these groups is to gin up hysteria, which brings in the money, rather than to do important but undramatic things like helping to develop workable policies (i.e., ones that involve political compromise) to reduce violent crime. In the process they are effectively enabling their pro-gun political opposition. The pro-gun groups are not above using the hysterical approach to raise money themselves, but their argument has a lot of historical precedent on its side.

      Beware the activist group that has outlived its original mission. Such groups tend to become fund-raising mills that define their agendas based on what scares the most donors rather than on the actual costs and benefits of different policies.

      Chel,

      Thanks for reading. James makes good points about the researchers you cite. There is nothing wrong with reading their work, but if you do it might also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the arguments of their principal critics. (BTW, I would add David Kopel to the list of pro-gun essayists whose arguments are worth reading.)

    25. Andy Freeman Says:

      > My question: is the utility of having guns easily acceptable worth 30,000 deaths?

      That’s not a terribly useful question. The interesting question is whether restrictions will affect the number of deaths and if so, how.

      A small fraction of the guns in the US are used criminally. In fact, the total number criminally used could be smuggled into the US with just a fraction of the known smuggling volume. (Much of that capacity is currently used for drugs, but there’s no reason to expect smugglers to avoid a profitable product, and criminally used guns are incredibly profitable. And there’s also manufacture – guns are actually very low-tech.) Thus, it’s fair to ask if a restriction that took away 95% of the guns would have any positive effect.

    26. A Scott Crawford Says:

      James,

      I suspect you are pointing out the argumenum ad verecundiam fallacies of some of Chel’s sources. While I agree with you for the most part, the FBI did do a study on suicide rates as well… still, I fail to see how suicide preferences relate to arguments regarding Federal bans on ownership. Obviously shooting oneself in the head is not considered appropriate use of a firearm… (duh).

      The only point I’d add to those you already cover is the distinction between Federal, State, and Local authority vis a vis restrictions on personal gun ownership. Each of these levels of civil authority have different arguments and justifications regarding firearms, and I think it’s important for even staunch Libertarians like myself to concede that at a certain level of government, it’s appropriate for an electorate to opt to enact even draconian and counter productive restrictions on personal use and ownership of firearms. Just what that appropriate level of government is, exactly, is what should be debated I think.

    27. aaron Says:

      Matt, you forgot to include Switzerland.

      The Swiss probably have some of the strictest gun control laws in existence, and almost no violent crime. Every man is required to join the military and keep a gun in their home.

      Swiss suicide rate is comparable to other countries, but a large number of suicides are gun suicides.

    28. aaron Says:

      How ’bout this for a crime and gun control experiment? Require that a percentage of victims and people who fall into highly targeted demographics to get CC and train with a weapon. This can be done by giving tax credits, grants, and perqs to qualifying individuals. It’s time we accept and embrace AA in our society.

    29. chel Says:

      James, oh you don’t offend me at all!

      I feel like the items you are using as proof of your point can go either way. I mean I could make the arguement that the reason why violent crime began to decline in 1994 was that Bill Clinton signed into law the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act at the end of 1993. That’s exactly when the violent crime rate in the graph that you linked to started to decline. Or just as you mentioned the high suicide rate in Japan, a country where guns are hard to come by, I could mention the high firearm homicide rate in South Africa or Columbia, countries where firearms are more readily available. I don’t think that these particular types of correlation hold much water, whether they are yours or mine. There are just so many other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

      That’s what the studies I posted try to do, whether it be from looking at many countries at once or looking at one region both before and after a policy change (so that the two comparison groups are more comparable.) No study is perfect, every study has flaws and limitations. Heck, someone who threw out every single study with any kind of flaw wouldn’t even be convinced that smoking causes cancer or that age is a risk factor for heart disease (And there are people who don’t buy either of these things.) But even a study with limitations can add a little to our understanding of the way the world works.

      To summarize:

      1.) I think gun ownership as a right is a good arguement for less gov’t gun control

      2.) I agree that the thought of a well-armed govenment that would totally diarm its citizens is creepy.

      3.) I understand that guns give people pleasure (collectors, hunters, etc.) and that’s not something that should be disregarded.

      4.) I understand that some folks feel safer by personally owning a gun and I also accept that some individuals might be safer by personally owning a gun.

      5.) 30,000 people per year in the US are killed by guns. This is a lot of people.

      6.) Even if some gun advocates are “emotional” this does not alter the reality of #5 above.

      7.) There is no evidence that a shift toward easier access to guns would saves lives at a *population* level.

      8.) There is some limited evidence that easy access to guns is associated with greater number of homicides and suicides at the population level.

      James, I have a lot of respect for your career, beliefs, work, and experience around firearms. Obviously I’m not trying to change your mind on this issue I know I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to (which I don’t.) I acknowledge that my own position for increased gun control has downsides — it’s limiting of personal freedoms, impedes on constituational rights, makes government more creepy-powerful. We all weigh pros and cons, I just felt like you were denying that any cons might even exist and that’s why I’ve been really pressing this.

    30. TangoMan Says:

      The Canadians are finding themselves in a bit of a
      pickle in that they probably realize the root causes but are unable to speak to them, so they turn to the perenially favorite pasttime of blaming the Yanks.

      Canada, like Britain, used to have very low homocide rates, much like we see in gun-owning countries like Switzerland and Finland. However, unlike Switzerland, Canada has been increasing its immigration. I see that people throughout this thread have been pointing to the existance of gun-control laws as though they have some sort of powerful predictive variable to explain rates of violence and all the while overlooking an even better predictor – Race. And that is the unspoken
      factor that the Canadians cannot mention, at least
      most of them. Here the Toronto Star:

      The data show that accused black people represent
      nearly 27 per cent of all violent charges; this,
      although the latest census figures show that only 8.1 per cent of the population list their skin colour as black. . .

      The data show that people with white skin, who the
      1996 census says make up 62.7 per cent of the
      population, were underrepresented ó accounting for
      52.2 per cent of violent charges. People classified as having “brown” skin accounted for 15.9 per cent of the charges, while those in the “other” category were charged with 5 per cent of violent offences. In most cases “brown” is used to refer to people of South Asian descent while “other” mainly represents people of Chinese and other Far Eastern origin. . . .

      The numbers show that 48.6 per cent of charges in violent crime cases are laid against people born in Canada. The second largest category is made up of residents identified as being born in Jamaica.

      Those residents are listed in 12,777 charges, or
      9.5 per cent of total cases for violent offences. Census data indicates Jamaican-born residents comprise 2.4 per cent of the population. While instances where blacks have been mistakenly identified by police as Jamaican-born have occurred, it is highly unlikely such errors could account for the large discrepancy.

      We explored related topics in these two posts.

      Blaming Americans for being the source of the guns is a no-lose situation for the Canadian politicians for it plays to the anti-American symapthies of the liberal population, especially the uber-liberals in Toronto who think that it is the easy supply of guns that is the source of the rapid rise of violent crime over the last generation. These uber-liberals don’t even want to look at the demographic data of Switzerland and Finland but the less diverse cities of Canada don’t have quite the problem that is seen in Toronto, which is a magnet for immigrants.

      Anyways, I wanted to escort the 8 tonne pink elephant into the discussion, unwelcome as I imagine it might be.

    31. Jonathan Says:

      The strongest causal relationship is between crime and gun-control laws. In the USA major national gun restrictions were enacted in 1934 and 1968, following big runups in violent crime. There was very little violent crime in late-19th Century Britain and firearms were essentially unrestricted. Serious controls began to be imposed after the first world war, and have since been tightened as crime rates increased, and in response to a few mass homicides. Australia did something similar. Jamaica essentially banned private firearms possession, in response to chronic political violence. South Africa is now gradually enacting firearms prohibition in response to high crime rates.

      I don’t think gun restrictions reduced crime rates in any of these cases. Rather, politicians enacted gun restrictions because doing so was politically expedient as compared to dealing with the real causes of the increased crime rates (TangoMan touches on some of these, though I doubt that immigration per se is a problem so much as are the mores of immigrant social groups and lax law-enforcement). If crime actually declined subsequently it was generally due to factors unrelated to gun laws — e.g., in the USA, a trend to increased punishment of violent criminals. If, as has been much more typical, increased violent crime has followed gun restrictions, it does not necessarily mean that gun control causes crime (though I think it probably does on the margin) so much as it indicates that governments have failed to address the real causes of crime. As in the hijab controversy in France, legislators and bureaucrats always want to take the easy way out. It’s less risky to pass a flashy law against a symbol, like guns or clothing, than it is to crack down on violent criminals or reverse entrenched policies that encourage bad behavior by part of the population.

    32. A Scott Crawford Says:

      Chel,

      Here is a link to a good index of common informal logical fallacies.

      Your point above regarding firearm death statistics is a case of “argumentum ad consequentiam” if your intent is to use it as a supporting proposition for a claim regarding firearm restrictions. This is, as I understand it, James’ point: Not only are fallacious emotive appeals used by both sides of the debate, but other rhetorical abuses and fallacy is used too often as well.

      http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm

      1. An appeal to Consquences (argumentum ad consequentiam) vis a vis total annual deaths by firearms in the US is fallacious as a supporting premise for Federal firearm restrictions.

      2. The use of the NIH researchers as authorities for OTHER than their own related area is a fallacious argumentum ad verecundiam, and as such is not reasonable as a supporting premise.

      3. When you write “30,000 people a year in the US are killed by guns. This is a lot of people.” First, this is a fuzzy statement. A “Gun” is an inanimate object, and cannot act independently of a human agent. This makes the statement patently false. What I believe you meant to write was, “30,000 people a year in the US are either killed by other people with firearms, or kill themselves using firearms.” Please correct me if I am in error.

      Second. Of those people killed by other people using guns, this includes: a) those killed by law enforcement personal; b) those killed in what a jury might or might not determine is a case of legal self-defense; c) those killed due to misuse or accident on the part of the gun owner or victim; d) those killed due to mechanical malfunction of the gun itself; e) those killed by criminals with blackmarket weapons; f) etc.

      When suicide is added to the numbers (inappropriately, as suicide is a crime as far as I recall, independent of the means used), and the relevent categories and qualifications are included, then the statistic looks so fractured and dubious that a reasonable person might suspect the motive for it’s use. Knowing the logical flaws related to the use of such a figure, why use it in a rhetorical and fallacious manner?

      A wag might ask the following: Chel, do you suppose that policemen should use non-lethal ammunition when engaging in gunfights with crooks? Chel, do you imagine that gun owners purposely buy guns so that their children will accidently kill themselves or their playmates with them? Chel, do you believe that those who for whatever reason choose to kill themselves are incompetent or mentally ill by definition? If there is a rational reason to decide to take ones own life, and one is of sound mind, is there a reason they shouldn’t be allowed to use a gun, which is relatively quick and painless, to kill themselves? Chel, assuming you agree that Americans should be considered innocent of committing a crime until tried by a jury of their peers and proven guilty… what grounds are there to treat a citizen who desires to own a firearm legally differently?

      Has it occured to you that all of us are “potential criminals”, whether our hypothetical crimes will be committed with guns or cars or knives or etc. is quite beside the point.

    33. Sandy P Says:

      – I mean I could make the arguement that the reason why violent crime began to decline in 1994 was that Bill Clinton signed into law the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act at the end of 1993. —

      When did we start putting more people in jail?

    34. Sandy P Says:

      Japan also limits how long kitchen knives are and Britain is starting to think about it.

      I swear I heard or read that gun crime was down in NYC and they’re getting more people beaten by baseball bats.

      Where does it stop, chel?

    35. A Scott Crawford Says:

      Chel,

      One last thing. I once took a long road trip with a Swiss (physicist), and he thought that Americans were gun crazy. Yet because he knew Americans and had lived here for many years, we were able to have a rational debate on the subject. In the end, he thought the Swiss system was a good one, and that it was merely the American practice of poor training and abuse of their guns that was the problem. In a nutshell, he objected not to gun ownership, but to the habit of Americans to use the guns to kill each other and to fail to store their firearms in a responsible manner… although he conceded that my family (he’d been an exchange student years earlier) was an exception… “Practically Swiss” he said, which from a Swiss is high praise.

      I told him the anecdote of a Texan who was asked, “Why are there so many more shootings in Texas than elsewhere in the US?”. The Texan thought about it for a while, as Texans typically mull over a question before blurting out an answer like some arrogant Yankee know-it-all, and then answered with the following: “Well… I suppose there’s just more people in need of killin’ in Texas than in other places”.

      Metro Detroit has the highest “justifiable” homicide rate in the Country… meaning more Detroiters shoot each other in self-defense (legally), although there’s a lower murder rate than in Texas. Why? Well, there’s a lot of reasons, but I like to believe that unlike Texans, when Detroiters do something, we like the thing to stay done. (There’s no death penalty in Michigan).

      Later during that same trip with my Swiss pal, we stopped in a gun store in the UP to look around. There were more Canadians buying guns than Americans, a point which the stores owners thought very funny. They said they’d made more selling to Canadians that year than to Americans (who mostly bought ammo or low ticket items, rather than new hunting rifles).

    36. James R. Rummel Says:

      A. Scott Crawford has posted a comment. He has a lot to say and it’s worth the time to click and read, but I wanted to address this small statement.

      “Your point above regarding firearm death statistics is a case of “argumentum ad consequentiam” if your intent is to use it as a supporting proposition for a claim regarding firearm restrictions. This is, as I understand it, James’ point: Not only are fallacious emotive appeals used by both sides of the debate, but other rhetorical abuses and fallacy is used too often as well.”

      Actually, my point is that the gun control advocates are motivated by emotion and ignore any evidence that invalidates their position. Politicians pander to their prejudices by proposing more gun control laws even though they repeatedly fail in their stated purpose.

      I think this is pretty self evident. Gun control laws are supposed to reduce crime and risk to the public, yet crime has been seen to climb after the enactment of virtually every new law. Public access to guns is supposed to raise the risk to the public, yet violence and crime has fallen even though gun ownership is at a historical high.

      This isn’t to say that there is a correlation between gun ownership and falling crime rates, and I’m not even bothering to make that claim. What I am saying is that every real-world justification for stricter gun controls have been exploded over the past 30 years, yet gun control advocates continue to insist that their position has merit and politicians continue to try and garner votes by pandering to them.

      Those were the issues I addressed in the post. In the comments I took on the methods that gun control advocates use to try and sell their agenda. These include constructing straw men, moving the goal posts, trying to make inappropriate comparisons, citing debunked sources and studies, and uttering statements that are the opposite of obvious facts.

      To the best of my recollection I’ve taken part in a few hundred debates on this subject. Some of my opponents who had a high degree of integrity would examine the evidence and agree that their position had no merit, but none of them actually changed their mind.

      But you know what they say. Hope springs eternal.

      James

    37. Sandy P Says:

      This reminds me of the arsenic level debate from 2001.

    38. Sandy P Says:

      And I’m coming at this from someone whose ancestor was killed in a carriage-by shooting….

    39. Sandy P Says:

      Maybe I should have written buggy-by shooting.

    40. Andy Freeman Says:

      > 8.) There is some limited evidence that easy access to guns is associated with greater number of homicides and suicides at the population level.

      The relevant question is whether gun control produces the promised benefits. If we look at the experience with gun control laws, and there’s quite a lot, we don’t see the promised benefits. That fact trumps any theory that predicts otherwise.

      We also see that gun control advocates will promise “we’ll try {measure} and if it doesn’t work, it can be repealed” but when the measure doesn’t work, they fight to keep it. This well-poisoning demonstrates that they’re actually not interested in crime, they’re just looking to ban guns.

    41. Sandy P. Says:

      So, I’m wasting my day surfing around and I just ran across this at An Englishman’s Castle:

      A MELBOURNE resident has fought back against two armed intruders, killing one with a sword he seized from his attackers, police said.

      A second intruder fled with cuts to his hands and legs after the attempted armed burglary in Melbourne’s south-east early today.
      The woman, who was at home alone when the intruders entered the house about 12.30am (AEDT), was tied up.

      —-

      How timely and fun, takes chel’s side.

      So let’s read a little further/farther shall we??

      Police said intruders – one of whom was armed with a handgun and the other with a sword – demanded money.

      –one of whom was armed with a handgun—

      In Melbourne, Australia, land of no guns.

      I guess their gun laws aren’t as strict as we’ve been led to believe. Even after what Howard said about our laws and their laws this year.

    42. Sandy P Says:

      –Brooke said the attackers had switched off the electricity supply, and grabbed her when she went outside to investigate, Mr Piasentin said.

      “She got assaulted and that’s where it started,” he said. –

      inventive little scum. I never would have thought of that.