Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The OSU incident and jumping to conclusions

Just a quick post, since we know very little.  Of course, that didn't stop people from stock posts at other sites!

The initial reports were that the Ohio State attack was an "active shooter" incident.  Nope.  Guy with a car and a knife.  What kind of knife?  I actually care about that, as a knife aficionado.  A kitchen knife, from what I have read, which makes an important point about the stupidity of Ohio knife laws, which essentially make both everything and nothing legal, depending on the whims of a cop deciding whether or not to harass/arrest the person in question.  (Take a wild guess what determines that...).

Basically, the deal in Ohio is this.  It is legal to own any kind of knife, even an "automatic" knife (switchblade type things).  However, it is only legal to carry weapons that are guns.  You can openly carry guns in Ohio (not on campus, though!), but not lethal weapons that are not guns.  So, if a cop decides that your knife is a lethal weapon, you are a crook.  What makes a knife a lethal weapon rather than a handy-dandy tool?  That's entirely up to the cop.  There are also local laws that vary across the state, but at the state-level, see how problematic that is?

Anyway, in the immediate confusion, when initial reports were of an active shooter, left-leaning sites immediately put up their "we need gun control NOW NOW NOW" posts.  Of course, with no information about the individual in question, the gun in question, how he acquired it, etc., there was no way to assess whether or not those proposals would have any connection to the incident.

Right-leaning sites either went for paranoia about the government coming for your guns (yeah right, particularly now), or for fantasies about how everything would have been resolved faster if everyone had guns, not even knowing the circumstances, which could have been such that everyone pulling out guns would have just left a hail of bullets and lots of casualties.

Ah, gun control.  The issue that makes everybody lose at least 20 IQ points.

Hey, everyone!  Let's not jump to conclusions and immediately make our stock arguments every time guns possibly come into the picture.  Sometimes, there isn't even a gun involved!

It was a knife anyway.  And remember, Freddie Gray was arrested and died because the cops falsely accused him of having a switchblade.  It was an assisted-open knife, which was legal in Maryland.  Just sayin'...


  1. My condolences go out to all those this crazy person with a weapon killed.

    1. I know you well enough to read the subtext, but a vehicle is a serious weapon, as those who remember the Nice attack will attest. This could have had a much higher body count if he had been smarter. The same is true for shooters, bomb-makers, etc. To my knowledge, nobody is proposing criminal background checks to rent a U-Haul. What was that death toll again in Nice? Yes, a vehicle is a weapon. Just because you aren't as irrationally afraid of them doesn't make them not dangerous.

    2. Damn. If only there was some way to regulate who had legal access to those weapons. Maybe test them in some way? Maybe require them to carry insurance in case their weapon accidentally hurts or kills someone? Maybe have courses training people how to use them properly?

      Guess this problem is simply intractable.

    3. Was the Nice attacker a licensed driver? It never occurred to me to check, cuz' damn, that would have solved the whole thing right there! Stricter drivers' licenses!

    4. More to the point, you suffer from the liberal fallacy-- that all problems are tractable, and have a government solution.
      Solve stupidity. Not illiteracy, not ignorance. Stupidity. Go for it.

    5. Guess you're right.

      I mean, you have a PhD and can't seem to understand the difference between reduction in a societal ill and elimination of it.

      I guess it's all hopeless.

    6. I notice you didn't address the question of whether or not the Nice attacker had a driver's license.

      You posed licenses and insurance as a check against the use of vehicles as weapons, which happened at OSU too. How, precisely, does the exam process or insurance process stop a driver from plowing into a crowd, Nice-style? Alternatively, what in that process catches would-be Nice-style attackers from doing the deed, or getting access to a vehicle?

      I pose this as one of many intractable problems. If you disagree, then explain how drivers' licenses and insurance have anything to do with preventing Nice-style attacks.

    7. Don't have to, since its a distraction, but will anyway.

      It wouldn't.

      Just as banning/regulating guns wouldn't necessarily have stopped any particular crime. For example, Newtown. Stricter gun licensing wouldn't have stopped Lanza from taking mom's guns and killing kids. But it WOULD have stopped any number of the smaller, less-reported-on shootings that year. Trigger lock? Few hundred people might have rethought suicide. Background checks? A few thousand women in abusive relationships would have regrets instead of coffins.

      You want my evidence? How many old people plow into farmer's markets every year? Not a lot. It's news when they do. Why? Because many old people who can't drive lose their licenses. Because we regulate this.

      You know, like militias are supposed to be?

      Tens of thousands die in car accidents every year. Of course, we--the 95% of us that own cars--drive 3.2 TRILLION miles every year, so that's not so risky. In fact, the death rate per mile traveled has been steadily decreasing for decades. (You'll note that we regulate this activity)

      Whereas the 32% of us that own guns manage to kill almost exactly one third of the number cars kill. Despite guns not being used 3.2 trillion times a year.

      So, yeah, call me crazy, but seeing as regulation of automobiles seems to reduce traffic deaths, I'm kinda curious what would happen if we tried that with guns.

    8. I discussed the danger of vehicles being used as weapons. You responded that they must be regulated because they are weapons. Therefore, if you care at all about logic, you must respond to my question about how the licensing you mention can accomplish the task to which you set it. At least you have finally admitted what you really want to say.

      You want to talk about guns, not automobiles. Shocker. You are making the point of my original post for me, and you don't even realize it.

      Let me get this straight: testing for basic road competency demonstrates that background checks reduce domestic violence? Seriously? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! If policy A works to reduce accidents, then policy B must work to reduce intentional crime when the policies don't in any way resemble each other, either at the implementation level or in terms of goals? Really? That's where you're going?

      If you want to argue that requiring gun safety classes would accomplish some good by reducing accidents because drivers' licenses do, then you have some evidence. But, arguing that drivers' licenses demonstrate the potential for background checks to prevent domestic violence? There isn't even the vaguest semblance of logic to that.

      Besides which, we do have very similar testing. There is no test required to own a gun. There is a test required for concealed carry. There is no test required to own a car. There is a test required to drive. If you want to argue that more strict testing should be required for concealed carry or open carry to reduce accidents, you have an empirical basis for it. That is ALL you have an empirical basis to argue on the grounds of traffic safety. Anything more than that, and you are bullshitting on the grounds of an analogy that liberals mindlessly and reflexively use cuz' government is always the answer to every problem.

      Yet, the fact that you finally admitted what this is about makes my point for me. You are so obsessed, irrationally so, with the tiny, tiny probability of dying by gunshot wound that you must steer everything that way, even when the discussion is not about that.

      There is no government policy that can ever stop drivers from intentionally plowing into crowds. That fact, indisputable though it is, makes you uncomfortable. The reason it really gets your hackles up, though, is that you don't want to acknowledge the fact that this has implications for other things. Though shit. It does.

    9. Wait, what?

      YOUR post uses the word "gun" 10 times. For a person to respond to that with a discussion of gun control is...umm, wait a minute, there's a word for this...relevant? On-topic? Related? Germane?

      Damn it. I'll figure it out sometime.

      As to the argument, I'm really surprised that you of all people don't appreciate the basic logic of a "sin tax" on guns. Regulations, insurance, treating them like cars, etc....all of it works to reduce the number and/or availability of guns to people. Some of those reductions (background checks) are targetted to certain people; some of them (trigger locks, insurance for gun owners, etc.) are broad. But, at the end of the day, they all work for a guy like me who simply wants to get rid of all guns. Fewer guns > more guns.

      The empirical basis for gun control working is that it has worked. Plenty of studies show this. Guns per capita are strongly correlated to gun deaths per capita. Countries that have banned guns have seen a mixture of results on gun homicides (it should be noted that none of them are even in our ballpark on gun homicides, so we're outside the observed data range), but the evidence on suicides is very clear: fewer guns -> fewer suicides. Doesn't eliminate suicide, no, but it reduces it.

      To your last point: there IS a governmental policy that stops people plowing into crowds. Ban cars. Like any policy, there would be tradeoffs. In the case of cars, a lot of them, and they're consequential.

      Guns are used in 69% of homicides and 57% of suicides. Homicide and suicide, each, are in the top 5 (ok, homicide is #6 for kids under 14) causes of death for people under age 45. After that, our frail bodies start being subject to the ravages of time and a wide variety of maladies take over. But, we have a whole industry devoted to those problems...takes up nearly 1/5 of our economy.

      ANYONE's chances of death are small at any given point, but being intentionally killed by a human (either self or other) is the number one cause of death before age 45. And guns are the number one tool in that. And death is kinda a big deal. So, yeah, guns are a problem.

    10. 1) I used the word "gun" to point out how everyone was itching to use prefabricated arguments, without waiting to see whether or not they applied to the case at hand, and they didn't! That was my point. Note that you are using prefabricated arguments! And you had been just... dying to use them even though they had nothing to do with OSU! You just keep making my point for me!

      2) You are changing your argument again. You tried to make the ridiculous argument that the efficacy of drivers' licenses for traffic safety demonstrated that background checks would reduce domestic violence. I called bullshit. Now, you are making completely different arguments. I'm not letting you forget the absurdity of the nonsense you tried to argue...

      3) Your argument is now confusing safety regulations, like trigger locks, with attempts at crime prevention, like background checks. You are trying to treat them like they are similar. They aren't even close. They are nothing alike. They don't act on the same issues, they don't work, legally, the same way, and the economic principles behind them aren't even remotely similar. Trigger locks, for example, are supposed to prevent kids from accidentally shooting themselves or others. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the "sin tax" argument you are trying to make. Nothing at all. It is as though you have thought through none of this and simply think that "gun control=gun control=good!" All gun control is the same, and it must all be good because guns are bad. In fact, you almost said that with your "fewer guns > more guns" inequality, except that your policy positions are even more muddled because you can't recognize the difference between safety regulations and crime prevention attempts. That's... a problem.

      4) The actual research-- the scholarly stuff rather than the hackish cross-tabs that lefties like to float around, is far more muddled than you pretend. Time series cross-sectional analysis is hard, as you should remember from Henry Brady's class.

      5) If you actually want to make the "sin tax" argument, you need to look up the concept of "demand elasticity." When you restrict a good, you push the price up. How much does that reduce consumption? That depends on demand elasticity. If demand for a good is inelastic, consumption doesn't go down. How inelastic is demand for guns? Particularly among those you don't want to have guns? Depends on their propensity to reoffend. If only we could measure that. Oh, wait! We can! Recidivism rates! Aren't they, like, way high, or something? Elasticity of demand. You don't get to ignore it.

      6) Once you start commenting on banning cars, you abandon the right to be taken seriously. But, the inability of the government to carry out the policy makes my point. There's no way it could actually happen in practice.

    11. 1) OK. I concede the point. The theme of your post is about jumping to conclusions. The data you used for your argument is guns and violence. So, yeah, no sane person would talk about guns after the data used in a conversation were guns.

      2) Background checks wouldn't reduce domestic VIOLENCE much, but they would reduce DEATH from domestic violence. Crime of passion. The ready availability of deadly weapons would matter in such a situation. Previous history of violent crime is a major risk factor for domestic violence (particularly death), AND presence of gun is a major risk factor.

      3) Guns are bad, mm'ka

      4) Actual research? Like Lott? I can only rely on the actual research that I've read (or seen summarized--let's be honest). And what I've seen is pretty conclusive: definitely reduces suicides. On homicides, mixed findings, though on average, reduction seems more likely than not. Could this be my own confirmation bias? Yes. Could your perspective on this be yours? Yes.

      5) Wow. Wouldn't have pegged you as a pawn for the conservative "some people are CRIMINALS" argument. There are hardened, hard-core criminals. But a heck of a lot of crime is committed by people who, prior to that event, you wouldn't necessarily consider a "criminal." But a lot of shootings are not planned significantly in advance. Shit just happens. And when shit happens and someone has a gun, chances that someone ends up dead go up dramatically. Ammosexuals use that EXACT same logic to argue that they need a third howitzer at home to deter burglars. It's bullshit, because it presumes that "criminals" are rational actors weighing the odds rationally. They aren't. If they were, the death penalty would deter crime. It doesn't.

      6) It's a thought exercise and you know it. In the case of cars, for example, it's kinda ludicrous. They serve an important purpose in our world, so banning them would be stupid. However, could they be banned? Actually, yeah. On day 1, would there be a lot of cars? Yes. But cars, especially if they get used, are easy to see. So, over time, the number of cars would dwindle quite substantially. Would people still get access to guns if we banned them? Yes. Would fewer people have guns? Also yes. Would Jimbo, the regular guy who just drinks a bit too much and has a handgun under the bed, have a gun handy when Wanda gets a bit "lippy?" Or when Billy gets up in his face at the bar because the Yankees won?

    12. “Guns are bad, mm’ka”

      You gave away everything. You approach guns the way Republicans approach taxes. Taxes are bad, m’kay? To a Republican, taxes are presumptively bad, so all arguments against taxes are correct, regardless of how badly structured. That is why your arguments are so muddled.


      1) I didn’t use data on guns and violence. You did. My original post was about an incident involving a car and a knife, falsely reported to involve a gun, and how people like you immediately use prefabricated arguments regardless of the facts of the case, and in this case, the facts involved no guns at all, making the whole thing absurd. And, your insistence on shifting the conversation from vehicles to guns makes my point for me. And you’re still doing it!

      2) You are STILL ducking the point. Claim a) Trump won’t pick Romney because Trump is a vindictive bastard, as demonstrated by his obsession with Rosie O’Donnell. Claim b) Trump won’t pick Romney because it rained today in Cleveland. It is possible that Trump won’t pick Romney. Even if Trump doesn’t pick Romney, though, Claim b is idiotic because the argument is badly structured. Claim a, while perhaps wrong, is well-structured. You don’t know how to assess the strength of an argument on gun control because all you know is that you are terrified of guns, so you support all gun control, so you consider all arguments in favor of gun control to be good. You argued, in a previous comment, that the success of drivers’ licenses improving traffic safety demonstrates that background checks must work. That’s a badly structured argument. You also argued that trigger locks work like sin taxes. That's similarly stupid. It is possible for background checks to work, but the argument about drivers’ licenses is still fucking ridiculous, and I’m going to make fun of you for making it. Probably for years.

      3) See above.

      4) One of my advisees did a senior thesis a few years ago. I can probably send you the bibliography, if you want. It’s one of those things like campaign finance, where you and I know that contributions don’t buy votes in Congress, but that never filters past those of us who do the research because of the biases of the field. No, it’s not clear-cut.

      5) I’m not the one making the “some people are criminals” argument. You are. That’s the whole point of background checks. What did you think they were checking in a person’s background? They’re checking for a criminal record. The whole point is to say that someone with a criminal record shouldn’t get a gun. If you are advocating background checks, then YOU are saying that those people are bad people and shouldn’t get guns because “some people are CRIMINALS.” Again, you haven’t thought through your own argument. If you don’t like recidivism rates as a demonstration of inelasticity of demand for guns among criminals, how would you measure demand elasticity? Oh, you won’t have a measure, because you don’t care. You just want gun control because you treat gun control the way Republicans treat tax cuts. The argument doesn’t matter to you.

      6) If you seriously think that people would comply with a ban on cars and not overthrow the fucking government rather than go along with it, then you are completely missing the point. And banning guns? Really? What happens when the feds show up and try to confiscate rednecks’ guns? Ruby fucking Ridge. National ban on guns? National level Ruby Ridge. If you don’t understand that, again, the problem is that you haven’t thought any of this through.

      Randy Weaver was a redneck fuckwit to you. To gun lovers, he was Crispus fucking Attucks. Your inability to understand this stuff is fascinating. Much like Republicans who cannot comprehend taxation. Republicans hate taxes so much that they cannot comprehend the mentality of anyone who doesn’t hate taxes. It must be a punishment. They cannot understand that liberals just want to tax in order to pay for stuff. Your mindset on guns is SO much like a Republican it is scary…