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December 28, 2012

Shocking No One, Initial Reports Of Body Armor In Newtown Were Incorrect

Just like in Aurora, the press heard that the shooter was wearing a vest and prepended "bulletproof" to it. I blame the demise of the three-piece suit.

[He] went into the Sandy Hook Elementary School wearing a utility vest, not a bullet proof vest, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Thursday.

It was a fishing type vest, a jacket with a lot of pockets; it was not a bullet-proof vest, Vance said.

Here's an example from Orvis, the well-known purveyor of Semiautomatic Assault Vests:

So. Scary.

Dwayne Harrison, a Bridgeport police officer and president of the National Association of Government Employees, R1-200, International Brotherhood of Police Officers in Bridgeport, noted the utility style vest that Lanza wore is readily available, and not something that would have aroused suspicion.

Ummm. Yeah.

But that doesn't keep super-geniuses like this guy in The Atlantic from thinking that all we need is some serious monitoring of every item everyone purchases to find a pattern that will lead us to the brave new world of pre-crime interdiction of the next mass killer.

Big data might have stopped the massacres in Newtown, Aurora, and Oak Creek. But it didn't, because there is no national database of gun owners, and no national record-keeping of firearm and ammunition purchases. Most states don't even require a license to buy or keep a gun.

That's a tragedy, because combining simple math and the power of crowds could give us the tools we need to red flag potential killers even without new restrictions on the guns anyone can buy. Privacy advocates may hate the idea, but an open national database of ammunition and gun purchases may be what America needs if we're ever going to get our mass shooting problem under control.

As Ben Domenech said in the Transom, which is where I got that link, marketing guy should learn the term "false positives". Hell, every time I go anywhere that sells ammo, I pick up a few boxes. Couple this with that dangerous accumulation of school backpacks for the kids from L.L. Bean, and data guy would have the cops camped out on my doorstep.

But, hey, what's a little invasion of privacy for such a laudable goal. And by little, I mean massive.

And all in an effort to solve a problem that appears to be a completely random event (again, from the Transom).

What does this mean? It suggests that there is no evidence of clustering beyond what you would expect from a random process. In other words, the occurrences of mass shootings from 1982-2012 are consistent with the assumption that shootings are independent events, occurring at an average rate of 2 per year.

Gee, maybe if people were also randomly allowed to be armed in the "gun free zones" where all these events seem to occur, they might have a fighting chance. Crazy talk, I know.


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posted by Andy at 09:58 AM

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