Gun Control Advocates Need to Be Careful: Intelligent People Do Not Allow Tragedy to Trump Facts

The data is pretty clear on mass murderers and preventive measures. Criminologist James Fox laid out ten myths and realities in today’s Globe regarding this type of behavior.

Basically all the crap we have heard over the past few days regarding preventability is all crap.

So, all I’m saying is when advocating a position never present an argument or a solution for which the data clearly supports the opposite view and little evidence is found favoring your point of view.

It never helps the cause. Especially when the other side has money and voices to showcase and contradict the many fraudulent assertions and half-truths. Like the NRA



25 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I thought Fox's post was interesting,

    but perhaps overly pessimistic. This is the key “myth/reality” in that post as far as gun control laws are concerned:

    Myth: Restoring the federal ban on assault weapons will prevent these horrible crimes.
    Reality: The overwhelming majority of mass murderers use firearms that would not be restricted by an assault-weapons ban. In fact, semiautomatic handguns are far more prevalent in mass shootings. Of course, limiting the size of ammunition clips would at least force a gunman to pause to reload or switch weapons.

    So, 2 points. One, dealing with ammunition and clips would help, and many people are already on board with that. Second, why not simply ban all semiautomatic weapons? Yes, that would go beyond what was previously enacted. But times have changed, and the laws need to change with them.

    Posts like Fox’s are informative, but only to a point. It would really be much more helpful if knowledgeable people like him would contribute some positive suggestions as well as negative “this won’t work, and that won’t work either” sorts of things.

    • Ban?

      Isn’t this constitutionally impossible? I believe it is, especially after recent SCOTUS decisions (Heller and McDonald, for example.) This also applies, through case law at least, to punitive ammunition taxes, selected ammunition bans, and most other work-arounds.

      Suggesting we abridge the 2nd Amendment is the quickest way for progressives to kill this debate.

      I have a better idea. Let’s expand the number of in-patient mental health beds nationwide from the 2010 estimate of 43,000 to a post-war level of 550,000. Let’s make it easier to involuntarily commit dangerously, mentally disturbed individuals like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner, and Seung-Hui Cho, to mention a few.

      These measures would be orders of magnitude more effective than reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban or anything similar.

      And if you all want to debate the issue with any credibility, PLEASE, PLEASE learn the nomenclature. MAGAZINES, not clips. Know the difference.

      • "Isn’t this constitutionally impossible? I believe it is, especially after recent SCOTUS decisions"

        Absolutely wrong. SCOTUS went out of its way to say that reasonable regulation of firearms was OK, and that it wasn’t deciding any specific gun control issue beyond the narrow ones presented in those cases. Nothing in those cases forecloses clamping down on semiautomatic weapons or ammunition.

        And your solution is to start locking up anyone who shows signs of mental illness? That’s going to go over really well. 20/20 hindsight confirms that the four individuals you mention were dangerous; how about the thousands if not millions who, right now, have a generally similar profile but no history of violence? Which ones would you lock up? As Mr. Fox very accurately states:

        While there are some common features in the profile of a mass murderer (depression, resentment, social isolation, tendency to blame others for their misfortunes, fascination with violence, and interest in weaponry), those characteristics are all fairly prevalent in the general population. Any attempt to predict would produce many false positives. Actually, the telltale warning signs come into clear focus only after the deadly deed.

        • Disagree

          If you look at the collective effects of Heller, McDonald, and the just rendered 7th Circuit’s ruling in Moore v. Madigan, the direction of the law, post-Heller, is towards a broader gun RIGHTS, including extension of the right to bear arms and self-defense OUTSIDE the home and workplace. The 7th’s ruling essentially upends Chicago’s gun laws.

          The operative word here, David, is “reasonable.” I have a feeling your definition wouldn’t pass constitutional scrutiny.

          For example, a $1.00 tax per bullet would be a blatant end run around an enumerated constitutional right…”you can have the gun but not the bullet.” On the other hand, restricting certain bullet types — incendiary, explosive, armor-piercing — seems reasonable as these are military uses. But restricting semi-jacketed hollowpoint bullets likely falls into the category of “you can have the gun but not the bullet,” especially when it comes to self-defense.

          Most weapons sold today are, by definition, semi-automatic: most handguns, many shotguns, and most rifles (at least by sales volume.) To ban “semiautomatic actions” would likely overstep the courts’ expanding body of decisions on gun rights by banning the manufacture of most modern civilian arms.

        • Mental illness

          Hello? 20/20 hindsight? Not predictable?

          Please be real. In each of my above-referenced mass killers, their actions were predictable…untreated, they were going to do harm to themselves, and possibly others.

          As we learn more, it’s clear Adam Lanza was a danger to himself and others having been previously diagnosed with autism, possibly Asperger’s syndrome, depression, and acute anti-social behavior. Reports claim his mother knew this, and was contemplating committing him. He killed others, then himself.

          James Holmes…his psych report is not yet public, but I’m guessing it will show he is severely mentally ill.

          Jared Lee Loughner’s doctor thought he was a big enough AND IMMEDIATE danger to break doctor-patient confidentiality and report him. He has been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and is undergoing psychiatric treatment in a prison psychiatric wing.

          Seung-Hui Cho had untreated schizophrenia, and a long history of mental illness treatment, including bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. He killed 32 of his classmates, then killed himself.

          Yes, David, start locking up individuals who are severely mentally ill: people with a combination of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, acute forms of autism and the severe forms of major depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a danger to themselves. And others.

          All the “assault weapons bans” in the word will not make us safe until these severely mentally ill are institutionalized. For their own safety. Any ours.

          • Something like 1 in 80 men have autism

            That’s a lot of people.

            Moreover, there is no statistical difference in a propensity to violence between those with autism and the general public. If anything, having autism or aspergers makes one much more likely to be a victim of violence.

            Lanza’s reported diagnosis of Aspergers wouldn’t have made him a ‘risk’ in an incident like this…. and I think it’s a danger if anyone starts to suggest that’s the case.

            Even more people have probably suffered from clinical depression, and are not a danger to anyone else in the vast majority of cases, but certainly do need help (though locking them up probably wouldn’t be the “help” they need).

            I completely agree we need a vast expansion of the number of beds in mental health institutions, but we don’t need to go all the way back to the days of institutionalization. There has to be a happy medium where we can identify the people who truly are a danger to themselves or others, then ensure they get the quality treatment, care and comfort they need, without just locking people up again because they have XYZ disease or illness, or because they’re an inconvenience.

            RyansTake   @   Thu 20 Dec 6:20 PM
    • david, not sure i agree

      with your sentiment. would love your reax to the following:

      my wife’s field is cancer. when they don’t have solutions, they tell you. straight up.

      however, in my field, k-12, i get asked about large scale ed policy solutions. often i don’t have ‘em. i am reasonably good at explaining why X or Y will not work — has been tried elsewhere, etc.

      the same standard should hold in medicine and policy. if an expert’s only contribution is “i don’t know what will work, but your idea will not,” that kind of truth-telling should be celebrated.

  2. Newtown was preventable: no military weaponry, no 20 dead six year olds and teachers

    The historical evidence from Australia and England is incontrovertible. So is the fact that none of the recent mass murders were committed with fully automatic machine guns, hand grenades, bombs, mortars, or other military weapons that are tightly and effectively controlled. That is what we need to do with the weapons used in CT. Fox isn’t thinking big enough: he’s trapped in the NRA’s terms of debate.

    • "Fox isn’t thinking big enough: he’s trapped in the NRA’s terms of debate."

      Yes, precisely – that’s maybe a better way of making the point I was after as well.

    • "...the NRA’s terms of debate."

      What might those terms be?

      • "Guns don't kill people, people do"

        Utter rubbish, as we all know. No military weapons in the civilian population, no 20 dead six years olds and their teachers. Uncontrolled new weapons technology in the general population is the reason mass killings have become a feature of our lives in the United States, not new people.

        This is about controlling dangerous technology, not about telling people how to live.

        • You keep mentioning Australian and UK gun prohibitions

          Those are not American options because of the 2nd Amendment, the 5th Amendment, and an entire body of case law. And I do not believe it would be politically acceptable to a majority even if it were legal.

          So, with 300+ million guns in circulation, hundreds of million of hi-cap magazines, what does reinstatement of an assault weapons ban accomplish?

  3. I also noticed...

    …that Fox does say in his final paragraph that gun laws and mental health care are likely to help. All he is doing is cautioning against the idea that there is a quick and simple fix, for which I doubt he would get much argument here.

    • his 'device' is completely unhelpful

      as others have stated, if he really wanted to contribute, then he should have contributed — offering ideas on sensible things we can do, instead of shooting down the ideas he thinks are on the table.

      (I say he thinks because in some cases I think he’s shooting down his own version of other people’s ideas, because that seems easier to do than the actual prevalent ideas out there.)

      RyansTake   @   Thu 20 Dec 6:23 PM
  4. Hey Bob and David, WTF?

    Bob, aren’t you at Columbia? David, didn’t you graduate from Michigan Law School?
    WTF fella?
    This guy Fox just regurgitated data and studies done in his line of work (academia) regarding mass murderers and murder suicides.

    Now you two challenge it with grade school shit. David is mad because Fox just gives information without solutions. WTF David. So don’t fire alarms. So didn’t the robot on Lost in Space. Remember “Danger Will Robinson, Danger.”
    That’s information, not solutions.
    It seems you don’t want information contradicting anything that gets in your way of the solution you desire.

    That’s called anti-intellectualism.

    Hey, are you two trying to get gigs in the main stream media? The Globe perhaps? Because they are good ignoring information that gets in the way of their personal goals.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Thu 20 Dec 9:20 AM
    • BTW I Don't Have a Strong Opinion on Gun Control One Way or Another

      I just like fair debate, that’s all.

      eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Thu 20 Dec 9:22 AM
      • Disagree

        How is the data not only failing to support gun control but in your own words “supports the opposing view”? Look at UK, look at Australia and the numbers of massacres they had since gun control passed. The number is zero. Now UK is different from the US but Australia has a similar Western/rugged individual gun culture and still passed this ban and its been successful. As has Canada, which in spite of its liberal reputation has nearly as many guns per capita than the US with far fewer incidents of mass violence. Bob has been emotional about this issue, as all of us should be since dead kids are involved. But his emotion has not blinded him from the data. This isn’t a solution begging for a problem-the problem has been staring us in the face for years and the solution is patently obvious and supported by facts.

        The anti-intellectual and “unfair and unbalanced” approach is coming from your distortion of the Globe piece.

    • Nonsense.

      “This thing that they tried in 1994 – it won’t work now.” That’s not an especially helpful contribution, IMHO. I’d love to hear from Fox about what he thinks would help; just being a nattering nabob of negativism doesn’t contribute much to the debate.

    • What data and studies?

      I didn’t see any referenced. He just spouted off a bunch of shit, much of it not even addressing actual ideas on the table, or making broad statements like ‘this won’t stop all mass shootings,’ even if the real goal of many is just to stop at least some of them, and mitigate the full extent of the damage they can do.

      You can take your anti-intellectualism and shove it in an email to Mr. Fox.

      RyansTake   @   Thu 20 Dec 6:26 PM
  5. Gun pollution.

    It makes the most sense to implement gun laws that will eventually impact the ecology of gun ownership in this country. There are so many guns available now, it will take some time before we reduce their number. Gun ownership in the United States is in irreversible decline. There’s nothing wrong with implementing laws that will make things better some time in the future. Guns are like pollution. It takes a long time to eliminate, but it is possible to show improvements.

    Fox is right in that you can’t prevent bad things from happening. Even if Lanza had not had semi-automatic weapons, he could have done a lot of damage with a sawed-off shot gun loaded with buckshot or slugs. He could have made bombs. He could have started fires. Where there is a will, there is usually a way. The changes we enact now may not change things today, tomorrow, or 5 years from now, but they are movement in the right direction. There is no cure for gun violence in the U.S., but there is a lot we can do to promote a safer, healthier atmosphere.

    I grew up with guns for hunting. I’m not afraid of or against guns, but we need to slow or stop senseless proliferation. Another Sandy Hook can happen again in spite of more restrictive laws, but we owe it to the memory of those victims to be a better, more rational society that does its best for its children.

    • Fox isn't quite right

      Of course someone could do the same amount of damage by other means – but we can make the bar higher for them to achieve it (it is harder to build bombs than to buy a gun and ammo at Wal-Mart) and we can make the bar higher for them to carry it out (sawed-off shotgun doesn’t fire as quickly and it takes time to reload it, giving someone the chance to subdue or at least distract the shooter).

      The point that needs to be driven home here is that guns such as the Bushmaster have no credible purpose. They aren’t useful for self-defense, and they aren’t useful for hunting. They are being pushed by the NRA, quite honestly, to get people to rise up against other people or the government. Bushmaster made a “Y2K” gun, for pete’s sake!

      We need to shame the people who believe that guns are to be used to protect the people from the government. That is absolutely false. We need to shame the people who stockpile guns. Once you take that out of the equation, guns are then only necessary for self-defense and hunting, and any gun that far exceeds what is necessary for either of those two things should be called out for what it is, a machine for hunting people.

  6. Need more details on mass shootings

    Fox asserts that “Over the past three decades, there has been an average of 20 mass shootings a year in the United States, each with at least four victims killed by gunfire.” I’d like more information on this. I’d also like to go back a little longer – why use 1972 as a benchmark? How about 1960?

    To be rationally informed, I want to know the characteristics of the weapons in each of the 20 mass shootings per year. I’d like to know the general circumstances surrounding each – for example, were any of them an instance of a parent killing his family? I’d discount those because those are much harder to prevent and because you don’t need a semi-automatic to do that. I’d give more weight to random people being shot by random strangers. I’d like to know the exact number of deaths in each of the cases too – because “mass killing” is defined as 4 or more victims. There’s a big difference between 4 and 26. Are the instances of 10+ victims on the rise? Do they correlate with a certain type of weapon?

    Things tend to get washed away in averaging, and in this case, more details are needed.

  7. I read his message as follows:

    There’s no quick fix for this. It’s complicated.

    I agree with that.

    Also with his conclusion about sensible gun laws and that even just “a nibble…would be reason enough” to take steps.

    I notice the author refrains from explaining why some other countries do not have this problem to the same degree. Perhaps the data are not there.

    I do think that had Adam Lanza not had access to automatic weapons and been trained in their use, his rampage would have taken a different and less deadly form.

    I can’t prove that counterfactual, but it is a reasonable inference.

  8. The 'facts' in his piece aren't all that fact-y.

    -The assault weapons ban that was previously in effective. I don’t know why on earth he’d intimate that it wasn’t. That it may not always stop mass shootings doesn’t mean it wasn’t saving lives. There are more than mass shootings, and we should be taking this opportunity to look at all the people who are being gunned down now, not just this incident in Newtown.

    -People are recognizing that today’s semi-automatic weapons are are as deadly as many of the assault weapons that are banned. Weeding out some of them would certainly save lives in these situations, especially when combined with a strict limit in magazine capacity, which he *very begrudgingly* admitted may be effective.

    -His bit on “enhanced background checks” is a complete straw man, when most people are focused on 1) having background checks on all gun sales, period, and 2) just making sure law enforcement bodies are notified when suddenly some random dude decides to buy dozens of military-grade weapons and thousands of rounds of bullets, out of the blue.

    -Expanding mental health care in this country would save lives, even if it wouldn’t have stopped all of these shootings. There are plenty of families out there who know if one of their kin is a danger to themselves or others, but aren’t able to intervene because of laws that are too strict, in which someone will be involuntarily committed only after they’ve committed a heinous crime, instead of before it, when the signs are there.

    A wider net won’t catch everyone, but certainly would have spared us a few of these tragedies, and even more importantly, would help thousands of families across the nation who have to live in fear or worry, depending on whether or not they’ve decided to keep their kin who’s mentally ill and dangerous in their house, or not.

    RyansTake   @   Thu 20 Dec 6:10 PM
    • First sentence correction

      I edited out something and forgot to put something else back in.

      It should read: “The assault weapons ban that was previously in effect was effective.”

      RyansTake   @   Thu 20 Dec 6:32 PM

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