Gary Stein of the Florida SunSentinel.com casts aspersions at the logical ability of some of his correspondents. He throws out some examples from Republicans, conservatives and members of the Florida Legislature before bringing up his favorite: “I have heard all those above arguments and conspiracy theories and other attempts at logic in the past couple of weeks. They were emailed or phoned in, along with dozens of others. With all the idiotic attempts at logic, however, my favorite came from my absolute favorite people — gun lovers. Why am I not surprised?” Maybe it’s because . . .

Civil rights tend to excite peoples’ passions and passionate people can often make errors in logic. Or, possibly, its because you are trying to perpetuate the stereotype of ignorant gun-owners. You know those stereotypes: the unshaven, camo-clad ignoramuses, the strident, biased ignoramuses, and the just plain lunatics. The types of attitudes that led John Aquilino to comment that “Gun owners are the new niggers … of society.” But I’m sure that you weren’t deliberately playing into an invidious shibboleth.

But putting all that aside, what is this leap of illogic the tickles Gary’s fancy?

But my favorite argument and attempt at logic — and I’ve heard this one before — came from a gun afficionado [sic] and conspiracy theorist in Central Florida who figures we need to control cars more than we need to control guns.

He said there are many more guns in the U.S. than there are cars, yet there are more car accidents than gun incidents. Cars kill more people than guns, he said. Guns thus aren’t as dangerous as cars, he said.

You know I actually addressed this issue the other day in my reply to some Washington State antis. To recap:

Between 1999 and 2009, car accidents caused 475,223 deaths or 43,202 deaths annually. In the same time period there were 7,733 accidental firearm related deaths or 703 annually. In 2006 there were 203 million licensed drivers giving us 21.28 deaths per 100,000 drivers. Now according to MSNBC there are more than 6 million permit holders in the US which gives us 11.72 accidental deaths per 100,000 permit holders.

And that’s just counting concealed carry permit holders, if we look at all gun owners we have a rate that’s closer to 0.62 accidental firearm fatalities per 100,000 gun owners.

Oh, but Gary doesn’t dispute the fact that cars are more dangerous than guns. He explains (again, with gratuitous insults directed at gunnies’ intelligence):

Because I am a nice guy and I don’t want to make this too complicated for the gun lovers out there, I will keep this real simple.

Yes, we have accidents with cars. Deadly accidents. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. …

The purpose of cars is to make life a little easier and more bearable for people, despite the accidents and the nut cases on the road.

Yes, we have accidents with cars. Deadly accidents. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. …

The purpose of cars is to make life a little easier and more bearable for people, despite the accidents and the nut cases on the road.

I think you went a little too simple there Gary. The purpose of cars is to move things in an efficient fashion. Their effect is to make life easier for people.

Guns, on the other hand, have one purpose. To hurt people. Or to kill people.

Again, Gary, you went a little too simple. Guns are tools for applying force from a distance. Yes they can be used to hurt and kill, but they can also be used to deter those who would try to hurt or kill others. Unless you are going to also try to tell me that the only purpose of police officers is to hurt or kill? Like their guns (and in part because of them) cops have a deterrent effect. Often the mere presence of a police officer can defuse a situation.

I’ll even make it simpler. Cars — a necessity. Guns — used to kill.

And I try to make it simple for you Gary, but there will be some math involved: Guns – used in about 12,750 homicides and accidental killings annually. I guess that’s a pretty big number, isn’t it. But let’s look at an even bigger number, shall we? 25,000. That is a very conservative estimate of the number of lives saved in DGUs every year. Here’s the math part:

According to the Kleck-Gertz study from the early 1990s there are between 2.1 and 2.5 million DGUs annually. Now there are a lot of people out there who deride this number as ludicrous, unable or (more likely) unwilling to accept that Dr. Kleck is not some sort of shill for the Gun Lobby™. This, despite the good doctor disclosing in his 1997 book Targeting Guns (quote from GunCite.com):

The author is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Independent Action, Democrats 2000, and Common Cause, among other politically liberal organizations He is a lifelong registered Democrat, as well as a contributor to liberal Democratic candidates. He is not now, nor has he ever been, a member of, or contributor to, the National Rifle Association, Handgun Control, Inc. nor any other advocacy organization, nor has he received funding for research from any such organization.

But skeptics will always be skeptical and antis will always prefer their own “reality” so (without questioning its validity) let’s go ahead and throw the K-G number out in favor of a more conservative one. Let’s use the numbers from the study which was commissioned by the Clinton DoJ shortly after the K-G study came out (to refute the K-G numbers maybe? If so: Oops!). That study, conducted by Dr.s Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig (very strong proponents of very strict gun control) concluded that there were 1.46 million DGUs per year.

Now, I imagine that some may find even this lower number dubious, probably preferring to rely on the numbers from the National Crime Victimization Surveys which show between 50,000 and 100,000 DGUs per year. Unfortunately for those hopeful doubters, the way the NCVS is structured means that it seriously undercounts the number of DGUs. I’ll let Tom Smith explain:

First, it appears that the estimates of the NCVSs are too low. There are two chief reasons for this. First, only DGUs that are reported as part of a victim’s response to a specified crime are potentially covered. While most major felonies are covered by the NCVSs, a number of crimes such as trespassing, vandalism, and malicious mischief are not. DGUs in response to these and other events beyond the scope of the NCVSs are missed.

Second, the NCVSs do not directly inquire about DGUs. After a covered crime has been reported, the victim is asked if he or she “did or tried to do [anything] about the incident while it was going on.” Indirect questions that rely on a respondent volunteering a specific element as part of a broad and unfocused inquiry uniformly lead to undercounts of the particular of interest.

There is another problem with the failure to directly inquire about DGUs; to wit, the DGU question is only triggered by someone saying they were the victim of a crime. Now if someone came towards me with a knife saying “Gimme your wallet” and I put my hand on my weapon and replied “I don’t think so, Skippy” causing the assailant to retreat, was I actually the victim of a crime?

Before I started researching these issues I would have told the NCVS interviewer that no, I hadn’t been the victim of a crime so they never would have learned of my DGU.

So to try and figure out how many lives were saved I turn once again to Kleck and Gertz’s article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun[1]. They found that 15.7% of people involved in a DGU believed that they “almost certainly” saved their life of someone else’s.

Now that might strike some people as being an awfully large percentage, but if you take into account the fact that most states regard pulling a gun as using deadly force and combine it with the fact that most states also require someone to be in “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm” before you can lawfully use deadly force, the number seems more feasible. In addition to the “almost certainly” pool, The K-G study also found that 14.6% of respondents believed that someone “probably would have” been killed if not for their DGU.

Because I want my numbers to be distinctly conservative let’s say that 9 out of 10 of the “almost certainly” folks were wrong, and lets say that 99 out of 100 of the “probably” people were also incorrect. That means we can state with a fair degree of certainty that at least 1.716% of the 1.46 million DGUs saved a life. Doing the math that translates to over 25,000 lives that are saved annually by guns.

Gary finishes up with:

I know it’s hard for some gun lovers to understand that. Logic always is.

And no, Gary, the fact that 25,000 lives are saved by guns annually is not hard for me to understand. What’s hard for me to understand is how you seem to mistake hoplophobia and ignorance with logic.



[1] Northwestern University School of Law, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 86, issue 1, 1995

 

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37 Responses to Journalists Living In Glass Preconceptions Shouldn’t Throw Stones

  1. Thank Dog I made it through college without turning into such a self-righteous, smug, elitist, self-satisfied, acrimonious prick of a man as Gary Stein. Anyone so willing to publicly display his absolute failure to understand the principles of logic while demeaning an entire segment of the population deserves whatever vitriol that may be lobbed in his general direction.

  2. Great article, very detailed with several legitimate reports to back your claims. It seems the antis are the ones who consitently need to be fact checked and fail to provide any substantial statistical evidence to their claims. Scare tactics and ghost stories is all they have going for them.

    I wonder why anti-gun articles never seem to allow comments…hmmm.

  3. I didn’t own a car for about 5 years, yet owned several guns. I must be flawed in some way according to Mr. Stein.

  4. 12 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD OWN A FIREARM

    1. Because You Own a Fire Extinguisher. Bad things happen. You can still call 911, but when seconds count, you need to act quickly to save your life and the life of those you love.

    2. Because Shooting Is An Olympic Sport. Shooting is an Olympic sport and the United States holds more gold medals than any other nation.

    3. Because Most Americans Own Guns. You’ll be in good company as a gun owner; nearly fifty percent of households in the U.S. own a firearm.

    4. Because You Respect The U.S. Constitution. Sometimes you won’t like it when people exercise fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution, such as freedom of speech. But that simply doesn’t matter: The Supreme Court ruled that every person has a constitutional right to own guns. So respecting the Constitution means respecting the right of others to exercise those constitutional rights.

    5. Because You Are More Likely to Die By Falling. There were 613 fatal firearms accidents in 2007, one-half of one percent of all fatal accidents. You’re more likely to die by driving, poisoning, drowning or falling than by a gun accident.

    6. Because Guns Stop Burglars. Last year, the CDC estimated that Americans used guns about 498,000 times to frighten away intruders attempting to break into homes.

    7. Because Gun Bans Increase Murder Rates. After D.C. banned handguns in 1984, the average murder rate jumped 73 percent while the U.S. murder rate fell 11 percent.

    8. Because Guns Don’t Cause Murder. A New York Times study of 1,662 murders in the city found that 90 percent of the killers had criminal records. Murderers are not ordinary, law abiding adults. Instead, virtually all murderers are extremely aberrant individuals with life histories of violence, psychopatholoy, and substance abuse.

    9. Because Gun Owners Win Political Battles. Gun rights groups have donated $22 million in political campaigns over the last decade, while gun control groups gave $1.8 million.

    10. Because Ignorance is Dangerous. At current homicide rates, 1 in 240 Americans will be murdered this year. You need to know how to operate a tool that will immediately stop a threat and save your life and the life of those in your household.

    11. Because Guns Don’t Make Countries More Dangerous. Switzerland has one of the world’s highest gun ownership rates and also one of the lowest homicide rates. In contrast, the countries with the world’s worst homicide rates—South Africa, Columbia, Brazil, Mexico, Filipines, Taiwain—also prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning guns. Compare the 20 per 100,000 homicide rate in Russia, which bans guns, with the 2 per 100,000 rate in neighboring Poland. Compare gun-free Luxembourg’s 9 per 100,000 murder rate with Germany and France with rates of 0.93 and 1.65.

    12. Because Gun Control Laws Don’t Increase Safety. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences failed to identify even one gun control measure that had a statistically significant reduction in violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents. The Center for Disease Control reached the same conclusion in 2003.

  5. I agree with you that the condescension towards pro-2a folks is very annoying.

    But, as a skeptic with a decent knowledge of statistics, comparing cars and guns is a very weak leg to stand on. Cars are used, all of the time, every day, by nearly every segment of our population. They have an extremely high utilization rate.
    Guns are used in two scenarios: recreation (in environmentally optimal settings such as target ranges or hunting), or emergency defense. Its the equivalent of people only using their cars at racetracks or off road events, or to run over a burglar. If that was the usage pattern for cars, I’m betting you’d see a huge decrease in automotive fatalities.
    IMHO you’re trying to compare apples and oranges..
    I’ve said it before on this blog, but we need to get away from trying to compare guns to other stuff. Its never accurate and sometimes comes off as just plain smug. Of course guns can be dangerous.. they are guns. But we have a right to them, and a right to protect ourselves. End of point.

    • Josh is correct IMHO.

      To me our strongest arguments are

      1) It is a right

      2) how much has the murder rate risen in states that have gone to CCW in the last 25 years?

      NukemJim

    • Josh, you are statistically correct. But here’s the thing. If one is made to kill and the other to make life easier, how come the killer one doesn’t kill all that much and the non-killer one does?

    • The common argument of the antis is it is all about saving lives which makes the car comparison relevant. When it comes to the baseline of saving lives aside from disease the time and effort are better utilized towards drunk drivers (and drunks in general) who kill far more folks than guns. Deflection? Call it that if you want but the numbers don’t lie. If a person or group’s mantra is saving lives then going after guns is a waste of resources. Death by firearms isn’t even on the CDC’s top 15 leading causes of death. The bottom line is it is infinitely easier to gain political traction trying to ban guns than deal with the world’s favorite and ultimately most destructive imbibe – alcohol. A politician can find thousands of anti-gunners to one who’ll stand by prohibition.

    • “Its the equivalent of people only using their cars at racetracks or off road events, or to run over a burglar.”

      Just to stick my two cents in….

      What are the statistics of Deaths at said racing events, on track and off, compared to Deaths during recreational gun use?

      Admittedly this would not cover DGU but some of these laws also affect recreational gun use as well as DGU. Just a thought.

  6. “Guns, on the other hand, have one purpose. To hurt people. Or to kill people.”

    I trust he’s never gone into bear country or anywhere in the wilderness with large predators, or snake country or anywhere with feral pigs or groundhogs…

  7. I’m not too surprised to see such opinions from someone who freely admits he finds logic hard to understand.

  8. I wonder if I showed my Mensa membership card to this prick if it would even make a dent in his skewed condescending viewpoint regarding the nature of gun-owners’ intelligence levels. Probably not. Baseless, irrational elitism is the only leg these fools have to stand on, and no one’s buying what they’re selling anymore.

    Keep snubbing your noses from your ivory towers, antis…it worked very well for Marie Antoinette.

    • I’m surprised that you’re a member of Mensa, not about the IQ part, but because you despise elitism… so why join an org that is all about being elite?

      • Really? I dunno, maybe it’s the few people I’ve gotten to know in it it, but I don’t find them elitist. I don’t participate in any major gatherings or events, just got to know some local people through it, so maybe I just haven’t gotten to know it all yet.

        I can’t speak for the organization as a whole, but the people I’ve met so far have been fine. Certainly not like this guy, at least not that I know of. I didn’t join it to feel “elite,” and neither did they, just another possible social hub amongst others, like my local gun club.

  9. The numbers for intentional homicides can be found here by region and by country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    The rate for North America as a whole is quite similar to the rate for Europe as a whole. Western Europe has a much lower rate, but they killed each other at such an alarming rate per capita 70 years ago that it’s unsurprising. They’re resting on their laurels.

    The argument that guns for self-defense are unnecessary is silly. Stein et al really mean this: “Guns are necessary to provide security for our office buildings, politicians, hospital staff, but anyone living outside our urban’corporate money collective doesn’t need them. Sure. Tell Stein’s relatives in heaven, who could have used a gun or two 70 years ago.

    Urban people do not need cars. They have mass transit and should use it to reduce their carbon footprint, Stein included. These same people often do need effective self-defense in their own neighborhoods to avoid being knifed, clubbed, or kicked to death. That’s reality.

  10. we need to control cars more than we need to control guns.

    Actually, I have sustained a lot more injuries due to cars, than guns. Being in a high speed rear and front end collision was like being a frog in a blender.

  11. He is a lifelong registered Democrat, as well as a contributor to liberal Democratic candidates. Uh-huh.
    author is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Independent Action, Democrats 2000, and Common Cause,
    Yeah, and without the 2A, you can kiss a lot of those organizations good-bye.
    The sap cannot see the contradiction of his ideology.

    • That was all in reference to Gary Kleck, a criminologist who’s done some of the most comprehensive work on defensive gun use. He went where the evidence led and the evidence led him to the fact that gun control doesn’t work. Go read his work and you can see he’s no opponent of the Second Amendment.

  12. I’m willing to bet he’s never had to stand behind a locked door at three a.m. while five guys try to bust down the door. With guests in the house, and your roommate frantically calling 911 while I posted up against the hallway across from the door. 33 round mag in a 9mm carbine praying the deadbolt holds until the cops arrive.

  13. This guy would get no time from me in a conversation, because of his condescending bullshit. I would simply walk away.

    I’ve never once been engaged in a discussion with someone who started out with that level of elitism and had the conversation go anywhere productive. If someone disagrees with your opinion but respects your intelligence, you can have a conversation. If they’re operating under the assumption that you’re too dumb to know any better, the conversation is doomed from the start.

    • I’m always left wondering why people refer the the Gary Steins of the world as ‘elite.’ What’s elite about him? Is writing drivel for a modest wage elite these days? Smug, yes. I could be accused of that too. I smugly reflect that Stein doesn’t understand the world, and has retreated with friends into a fairy-tale. I’d also say the only elite people I know, in any meaningful sense of the word, seem to have some guns or other, long, short, skeet, trap, whatever. They may not use them that often. So?

  14. I had professors like this guy in College. Smug, self-styled elites who believed that they were intelligent purely by virtue of being a liberal.

    Despicable.

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