Sunday, December 16, 2012

Further thoughts on Newtown

Since yesterday' post I came across two other interesting items. One is an article that appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy:

The burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra. To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world.

And, lest we not forget shortly before the Newton massacre another shooting occurred at a mall in Oregon where the shooter took his own life, just as the Newtown shooter did. However, there is an interesting twist that kept the Oregon incident from becoming as awful as the one in Newton: an armed citizen. According to The Examiner:

The shooter … was confronted with an armed citizen, at which time he ran away and shot himself. By the time police arrived on the scene, [the shooter] was already dead.

Interesting that this fact has managed to not surface in the media coverage, isn’t it? The paper above has the following in its last paragraph that touches on this tendency to bury inconvenient facts.

Over a decade ago, Professor Brandon Centerwall of the University of Washington undertook an extensive, statistically sophisticated study comparing areas in the United States and Canada to determine whether Canada’s more restrictive policies had better contained criminal violence. When he published his results it was with the admonition:
If you are surprised by [our] finding[s], so [are we]. [We] did not begin this research with any intent to “exonerate” handguns, but there it is—a negative finding, to be sure, but a negative finding is nevertheless a positive contribution. It directs us where not to aim public health resources.

Why do I bring this up in light of the Newtown tragedy? Am I committing the same error as those who immediately use the victims as fodder for a political cause? To be fair both sides of the gun control debate think they’re defending the best interests of everyone. I believe the “solution” proposed would not prevent other tragedies. We’re treating a symptom as opposed to trying to figure out the root cause and coming up with a solution (if there is one) that treats the source. To me banning guns is like removing mercury from a thermometer in hopes that it will make the fever go away. Banning guns will only make tragedies like Newtown more likely, as the evidence in the Kates-Mauser paper shows. And that in itself is a tragedy.

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