Vegas and history

“Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.” – Hillary Clinton Tweet, Oct.2nd I despise any individual that abuses our Second Amendment rights. It goes beyond the pain and devastation that affects individual lives to the violation of precious rights and liberties under whose umbrella such carnage is possible. The history of modern firearms is indeed violent, but a great majority of that violence (at least in America) has been used…

Mass shootings and missing white woman syndrome

I haven’t posted anything about gun control in the middle of this most recent medley of outrage. This is primarily because I haven’t seen anything that looks remotely like a rational debate in which I could participate. It’s also because I’ve written on this topic at great length already1, and there is not a whole lot new to add. It’s not that I’m opposed to considering new policies to solve the problems of widespread gun ownership.2 Nope, the problem is that I find most of the folks who are calling…

Mark Twain on the statistics of indiscriminate mass shootings in 2015

As the debate over how public policy should respond to mass shootings whips into a heated fury of facts, figures, statistics and memes, I can’t help but remember Mark Twain’s insight on the media: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” The last few days have seen a proliferation of examples of this. You’ve heard, repeated ad nauseam, that we’ve had more mass shootings this year than ever, more even than there are days in the year! If your internal BS radar doesn’t go off, then…

Blind Spot: The exaggerated risks of and solutions to mass shooting

Whenever there’s a high-profile mass shooting, there is no shortage of people demanding that we “do something.” While these demands are well-intentioned, they’re also equally ill-informed and ill-conceived. One of the immediate problems comes in the risk assessment. If you are overestimating the likelihood or severity of a given scenario, the prescribed solution is almost guaranteed to be a gross overreaction. FiveThirtyEight has done a great job at breaking down the numbers on this. Their conclusion? However mass shootings are defined, the deaths they cause represent a small proportion of…

Mass shootings and heroes

There was another school shooting yesterday, this time at a community college in Oregon. There are all kinds of rumors and arguments flying around Facebook. For the most part, that just makes me want to turn off my computer for the day. But there is one thing I want to share first. Almost exactly one year ago, Mother Jones published an article summarizing research concluding that “Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011.” I’ve read the research claiming that the rate has actually not increased and, after reading the article…