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October 04, 2017

538 Statistician: "I Used to Think Gun Control Was the Answer. My Research Told Me Otherwise."

America's Garbage Pile newspaper, the Washington Post, only lets you view a few of their dreck stories every month. Which is fine, because there are so few worth reading.

However, this is a new month, and you probably have a few free reads to your credit. If so, use one to read the only worthwhile story they're likely to publish this month.

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies Iíd lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didnít prove much about what America's policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an "assault weapon." Itís an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

As for silencers -- they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but donít make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference.

She talks about some "interventions" she think could work. For example: 2/3rds of all gun deaths are actually suicides; if you want to reduce suicide by guns, you should just increase suicide prevention efforts.

Another large swath of gun deaths are to young males involved in street crime. If you want to reduce that, you beef up programs to reduce street crime and intervene with at-risk youth and you identify gangsters and you target them for gun-checks. Or that kind of thing.

What progressives mean when they talk about "common sense gun safety laws" is simple widespread gun confiscation. They claim they don't want that, and yet, every time this issue comes up, they point to Australian and Britain as models of what we should do -- countries in which there was a state-enforced near-complete involuntary disarmament of the population.

So which is it, progs? Do you want full-on confiscation or not?


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posted by Ace at 08:38 PM

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