Originally Posted by muppetry
This discussion is certainly following the standard progression. You have apparently moved on to the position that mass murder is not very common and no different from accidental death, and so we really don't need to worry about it.
Assuming that you know what the term "statistical outlier" means, you presumably are referring to the observation that if one plots the frequency of events as a function of number of deaths per event, one gets a distribution that exhibits a maximum at 1 and decreases monotonically, but non-linearly, with increasing number leading to a tailed distribution, and that we can state that mass murder events are out on the tail. That is correct. But there have been over 50 mass murder shootings (FBI definition) in the last 30 years, killing around 450 victims, or an average of 15 per year (not the 4 that you quoted), and that only works as an argument if (1) you are comfortable dismissing those events as rare and (2) one restricts the discussion to mass murder. Not that it needs to, but is there a reason why this discussion does not include all gun-related homicides, which, in the US, number around 15,000 per year (excluding suicides) and represent about 2/3 of all homicides?
And what point are you trying to make relating to auto deaths? That provided that guns are not the leading cause of death (even though the are the leading method of homicide) we don't need to worry about them. That we shouldn't try to control gun crime unless we also try to prevent drink-driving? QED.
First mass murder isn't that common. The point is, as always, to look at the big picture to consider policy, not an aberration or outlier. The point isn't to say it is the same as accidental death, the point is the say that there are limits on the returns you can get with certain actions and at some point, you become counter-productive. If there isn't a return for the additional actions then why undertake them?
On the second point, I wasn't claiming that there are only four victims per year. I was noting that the FBI considers four victims a mass murder event and that it is actually a small number. Normally we don't think of events affecting four people as a mass event. I'm providing context for how we see this. That is the point for comparing it to drunk driving. If we had one family murdered by drunk driving between Christmas and New Years Day using the same definition as we do for shootings, we would say we had a mass drunk driving murder spree. Yet it would only be one event with four victims. (Average this every three months for the year) The language would cause us to mentally paint a different picture than the numbers actually suggest. If someone suggested expensive changes to cars (say installing breathalyzers in every vehicle), confiscation of cars, or banning alcohol for everyone, it would make sense to question whether everyone forgoing their rights and undertaking expensive additional actions would actual drive that number to zero. That said the rate of death from vehicles is much, much higher than this and no one would ever dare be considered reasonable in asking for any of those measures mentioned because they would demand so much of everyone while providing so little statistically as a return. We make our trade-offs and yes, there is sadness if someone is shot and also if someone is killed while driving by someone else. However the sadness is outweighed by the benefit we all receive in being allowed to exercise our rights.
So you have taken the argument one step further; you have arbitrarily defined mass shootings as rare, and now posit that since mass murder using explosives is also rare, they should be regarded as equivalent. In contrast to the 50+ shooting events in the last 30 years, there has been one using explosives, ever, as far as I can tell. The gun homicide rate, as mentioned above, is currently running at ~ 15,000 per year, while the explosives homicide rate is, and has been since 1995, zero. So, yes - I'm relatively unconcerned about a recurrence of the Oklahoma City event.
Could you just clarify what trend you are not seeing here? Would you like to reconsider your statement that they are equally rare?
Consider also, aside from the actual occurrence rates, the prerequisites for the two kinds of event:
- Explosives: illegal possession without an ATF license, specialized knowledge, access to unavailable components, substantial expense and planning time;
- Guns: legal to buy with minimal regulation, readily available, easy to use, no preparation needed, inexpensive.
Which of those would you expect to be the problem, and which would you direct your efforts at reducing?
Explosives are a red herring, but even worse, you are still trying to use them to disguise a fundamentally flawed premise - that unless we can prove in advance that any particular regulatory mechanism will eliminate these events then we should not even attempt to try to reduce them. And then you top it all with a sanctimonious "we should address the root cause instead". What would that be then, and how might you propose to address it instead?
Look, I think we are both having a discussion here in good faith and we've had a habit of arguing past each other when we both are trying to make good points. Let's try a bit harder here to clarify. I'll start first.
It seems like you're getting a bit worked up about rare and common and the numbers associated with each. As you note, homicide is much more common than mass murder events. We end up arguing around law definitions because it is the law that defines whether it is a homicide versus a mass murder event. On the flip side we tend to take explosions and call them terrorist actions rather than just mass murder events. Oklahoma City was classified as a domestic terrorist event. If we are talking about explosive events I'd add the Atlanta Olympic Bombing, the first WTC bombing, the actual event of 9/11 to the mix just off the top of my head.
There are plenty of people, myself included among them, who assert we've given up far too many rights to try to fight the relatively rare bombing and in addition to giving them up, we really aren't any safer because crazy suicide driven folks just often aren't stopped by every day preventative measures nor do they stop what they are doing because a law says they can't do it.
Are homicides rare? Yes. They are profoundly rare. .004531722054% of the population will be involved in a homicide this year. When we talk about mass murder events like what happened in Connecticut, that number is several thousand times smaller, as you noted 50 events across 30 years resulting an average number of deaths of 15 per year. More people are going to be killed being struck by lightening every year than from mass murder events involving firearms. .000004531722% of the population will be involved with a mass shooting event and I do not believe there is any additional efforts that we can undertake that will push that number to zero or that are worth pursuing in terms of the trade-offs on how the other 331 million plus people have to live their daily lives that will yield a significant return because the number is already statistically insignificant.
Again speaking of red herrings, I have not declared we should get rid of any current gun laws or measures. In this instance they worked as intended and the shooter could not purchase a gun. I'm simply stating that short of confiscating the weapons and denying the rights of 331 million people, that additional legislation won't get us any lower than the average 15 deaths per year without causing massive inconvenience and denial of rights for those 331 million people and that the rights of those people outweigh the good intentions of those seeking additional legislation. Those making the case for additional legislation must show that the benefits outweigh the costs. I don't think given the numbers that a reasonable case can be made. The number will never be zero. It isn't even in countries where all fire arms are illegal. Are 15 deaths per year a reasonable trade-off for the rights of 331 million, I believe so. It sounds callous but we make this choice in all walks of life.
You haven't seen a decline? How do you know that with increasing population, changing culture and demographics, and more overall crime, that there would not otherwise have been an increase? See - I can do that too. There are many unknowns. One thing that is not unknown is that guns are the tool of choice for the majority of homicides.
The purpose of any additional legislation would be to create a positive change. If the case cannot be made that it will create a change then the right should prevail. I do look at the known numbers and I don't see actionable items. I do see numbers that seem large but are actually very small percentages of even more massive numbers. For example you mentioned 15,000 homicides per year. That looks like a terrible number until you look at the reports from the CDC and see that 25,562 died this year from falling. That isn't a red herring. Everyone dies at some point. When you saying something is preventable and it is already far below the rate of accidents or other unintentional actions, I'm not certain a strong case can be made.
I'm going to cut the gasoline discussion because of claims of red herrings related to explosions by you anyway so why not just focus the discussion back to firearms with regard to us.
Edited by trumptman - 12/24/12 at 4:29am