I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, drawing on my experience at FiveThirtyEight researching gun deaths in America.
By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.
Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.
Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.
Excellent article that demonstrates that real change will only come when we intervene in a life or relationship that has the potential of committing gun violence and we change the perspective of the individual to one of violence is not the answer. It is time to depoliticize the issue of gun control and to start personalizing it maybe then we can make meaningful changes that save lives.
You stated in the article that “it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference” but in March 2016 a BU led study published in the lancet stated that “three laws implemented in some states could reduce gun deaths by more than 80 percent if they were adopted nationwide.” Specifically. laws requiring firearm identification through ballistic imprinting or microstamping, ammunition background checks, and universal background checks for all gun purchases. Does your data refute their findings or are there other factors not mentioned at play here? Thanks!
Some criticism of the study in the Lancet you mention is that the premise of the study was flawed. Murder rates were falling all over the US in the period they were looking at and the authors assumed that any effect not caused by poverty or unemployment rate must have been caused by new gun laws. As you know correlation is not causation. During the same time period many states expanded concealed carry laws and crime fell. Again though, correlation is not causation. Texas relaxed firearm restrictions at the same time that California was tightening them and both states had similar reductions in crime. As Libresco discovered in her research, the relationship between gun laws and crime rates is extremely weak if existent at all. This should be obvious when nobody will compare countries with similar gun laws because other factors easily overwhelm any gun law effects. El Salvador has a similar firearm laws and civilian firearm ownership rate to England.
I’m sorry I missed being able to comment on your Op-Ed back when it was written. You did a great job of restating many of the NRA’s propaganda against gun control. You claim to have done all this research, but research and statistics can be manipulated.
You used a key phrase when describing the impact of gun control in Britain and Australia. You did not say that they saw a decrease in gun related deaths, but rather that they couldn’t be attributed to buybacks and bans. As a researcher, why would you not show the hard facts of mass shootings? Also, why was there no mention of mass shootings instigated by outside terrorists and/or organized crime. Both of which gun control laws are not intended to protect against. But at the end of the day, mass shootings in England are extremely rare.
And you are wrong, many gun owners walk into a shop to by an Assault Weapon. The only difference between an AR-15 and an M-16 is that it only fires one bullet per trigger pull. Both weapons have the exact same rate of sustained fire, both use the same ammo, and both support the exact same accessories. Interestingly enough, the US military are trained to shoot in semi-automatic mode. It is substantially more accurate and doesn’t waste ammo. Then we can discuss how the AR-15 was designed for the military, but was replaced by the M-16. And while I agree guns are modular and people can modify their weapons easily enough. people can also make explosives and bombs easily enough (e.g. molotov cocktail).
There have been several mass shootings in this country where the shooting specifically chose the AR-15 as the weapon of choice. We can look at the Florida nightclub shooting or the Las Vegas Massacre (he purchased Twelve of these type weapons in one year).
As for silencers or suppressors, again you are wrong!! In real life suppressors, when used with subsonic ammo, are extremely quiet. You might want to ask our special forces as to why they use them. Very misleading and half-truths.
And finally we get to magazine capacities. Again, for a researcher, who attempts to represent herself as an unbiased person, you fail. First, there have been multiple mass shootings where the shooter was stopped while he was changing magazines (e.g. Fort Hood shooting). So guess what, having to change magazines more often would make a huge difference. Secondly, limiting magazine size means that the shooter has to be able to carry that many more magazines and be able to access them in a timely fashion. One thirty round mag vs 3 ten round mags, meaningless? Seriously? Facts indicate otherwise.
As for suicides, you might want to read the New England Journal of Medicine’s study on Suicide and Guns.
And lastly, as a supposed statistician, it’s fascinating that you don’t compare the per capita gun ownership in this country to gun related deaths versus ANY other Industrialized or developed countries. Or the number of gun related deaths in states that have the most lax gun control laws.
Bottom line, firearms are the only tools designed to kill and the least regulated in this country. There is no one magic law that will eliminate gun related deaths or shootings, just like there was no one law that stopped motor vehicle deaths or injuries, but mandatory seat belts made a huge difference, so did airbags, so did crumple zones, mandatory training and licensing, better enforcement, speed limits, and so many more. We now see half the number of auto related deaths than we did in the 80’s. Far from perfect but a huge difference.
“One thirty round mag vs 3 ten round mags, meaningless? Seriously? Facts indicate otherwise.”
Yes, meaningless. I can change a handgun magazine in exactly .74 seconds. It takes me about twice that to change and AR mag. The Sandy Hook shooter had “high-capacity” magazines, but didn’t expend them, rather he did “tactical reloads”, putting a full mag into the gun without depleting the ammo from the mag already in the gun. This supplied more “opportunities to disrupt the shooter” than otherwise, yet he was not disrupted, nor did he require high-capacity magazines to accomplish his evil deed. He could have just shot entire, lower-capacity magazines. It wouldn’t have made a difference. Considering the large number of mass shooters cited by journalists, exceedingly few are disrupted during magazine changes. Many mass shooters also carry more than one firearm (often having a handgun or two in addition to a long gun). I guess you’ve never heard of a “New York reload”, in which a shooter doesn’t have to reload when a gun runs dry, he can just use another gun.
Guns are, by definition, potentially dangerous. Making them “less dangerous” reduces their utility, not only to the mass shooter, but also to the citizen defending his family, home, and self. You can’t make people safer by making them more vulnerable/less able to defend themselves. It is impossible.
“Yesterday, 100 million American gun owners killed no one” is a headline you will never see. We do not have a “gun” or “gun owner” problem. We have a mental health problem, that fortunately didn’t exist when guns could be mail-ordered by anyone, when “silencers” were marketed in outdoor magazines to teenagers, and when school children brought firearms to school to hunt on their ways home.
Just discovering your blog, enjoying it. About women who are endangered needing to be prioritized by police, isn’t that an unrealistic and naive solution? If that woman was wealthy she would just hire a private bodyguard who would, of course, be armed. Doesn’t each person have an inherent right to defend themselves? Isn’t the hypocrisy of many on the anti-gun side a testimony against their position? The stereotype is Michael Bloomberg with two armed bodyguards.
I think the point of police is that they are intended to do things that it would be unusual and unreasonable to expect people to hire others to to or do themselves. (Just as we have the FDA police tainted food, rather than thinking people should hire tasters!)
While you write “I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits,” I think you are engaged in the faulty generalization fallacy. In a home where the rules of gun safety are well known and followed 100% by every person in the home, the risk is essentially zero (except for suicide, obviously, see below). Knowing and following gun safety rules like a religion, along with high-quality training, is key to eliminating the risk from guns in one’s home. This applies to children as well as adults. You may live in a safe high-trust community where there is little crime, neighbors look out for one another, and police response is excellent while the police are both competent and caring. If so, not having a way to protect yourself and your family in the one-in-a-million chance some drug-addled criminal breaks into your house at 2am might very well be the right decision for you. You, of course, have to decide on your own risks based on your own circumstances. But as a statistician, you know you can’t replace a specific risk assessment for a specific individual with a society-wide average, even if the average is not completely bogus (which this particular average [people are at more risk in homes with guns] undoubtedly is–but that’s another argument). Risk from guns in your home is almost entirely controllable by your own actions and is thus not subject to society-wide stupidity.
On the issue of older white male suicide (with or without guns), suicide has been found to be primarily associated with loneliness and lack of hope. And, a paper published the other day showed that another key component is, of all things, lack of sunshine (Vitamin D). So my suggestion to you if you have an older white male in your family is to pay attention to him, get him out of the house, give him purpose in his life, love him and care for him. Then he can have an arsenal worthy of a small Central American country in his home, but not think once about committing suicide.