Scientific American’s Unscientific, Poorly Researched Anti-Gun Article

 

I like SciAm. It’s a great science-related magazine, and does the nerdy stuff very well. But it starts to fall apart when it tries to enter the political realm. For example, they published an article yesterday called The Science of Guns Proves Arming Untrained Citizens Is a Bad Idea, in which they don’t actually use any, you know, science and fall back on the same tired cherry-picked studies that we’ve debunked time and again. As I’ve never before had an opportunity to point out inaccuracies and lies in a ‘Scientific American’ article before, please excuse me as I indulge in a little point-by-point rebuttal . . .

The article opens with a completely useless comparison:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31,672 people died by guns in 2010 (the most recent year for which U.S. figures are available), a staggering number that is orders of magnitude higher than that of comparable Western democracies.

Well, yes, that seems like a big number. Keep in mind that the entire country of France can fit inside the state of Texas and the fact that the raw number of homicides is larger than those of other countries is meaningless. The valid comparison is the homicide rate, which is the number of homicides per hundred thousand people and a more accurate representation of the probability of being murdered. That’s the normally quoted number, one that any high school statistics student would use.

But the author (Michael Shermer) doesn’t care about accurate comparisons, he’s out to strike an emotional note right off the bat. So he chose a number intended to shock people while having no logical bearing to the discussion at hand. Good job, SciAm.

By the way, in terms of the murder rate, the United States is running right around 4.8 per 100,000. Which puts us about in the middle of the pack worldwide. And if you want to get all scientific about it the real driver behind murder rates is the number of large urban centers, which the United States has more of than any other “Western” country. So the best comparison would be murder rate by urban centers. Bet you dollars to doughnuts we’re on the bottom of that comparison.

What can we do about it? National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre believes he knows: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” If LaPierre means professionally trained police and military who routinely practice shooting at ranges, this observation would at least be partially true. If he means armed private citizens with little to no training, he could not be more wrong.

Um, actually, once again, Shermer is completely wrong. And thankfully, we just had an infographic with properly cited sources that we can use to debunk his main argument.

Police Civilians
Error Rate 11% 2%
Criminals Killed 606 1527

That seems pretty cut-and-dried to me. Civilian gun owners kill more criminals every year than do cops. And they do so while killing fewer innocent bystanders. Which eviscerates the argument that only “highly trained police officers” are capable of taking down a criminal without hitting innocents.

In other words, Michael Shermer, you are the one who couldn’t be more wrong. Something you would have realized if you’d actually done a little basic math. Something readers have a right to expect since this article was written for, you know, friggin’ ‘Scientific American’ and not some conspiracy theory rag. But instead of actually looking at the statistics and drawing conclusions from data, you decided to use your “common sense” reasoning to make assumptions based on your personal biases. And as any scientist can tell you, assumptions and bias are never a good thing.

Consider a 1998 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that found that “every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” Pistol owners’ fantasy of blowing away home-invading bad guys or street toughs holding up liquor stores is a myth debunked by the data showing that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense.

Ah, the old “you’re more likely to shoot yourself if you own a gun” argument. You’re also more likely to be in a car accident if you own a car. And more likely to be killed by a Komodo dragon if you own a Komodo dragon.

Let’s also keep in mind that this study which Michael Shermer cites only looks at legally justified shootings, those in which a law abiding citizen actually dropped the hammer on a bad guy. While interesting, that ignores the larger proportion of defensive gun uses where the gun was used simply as a show of force and no actual violence was required to diffuse the situation.

One of my friends here in south Texas was forced to draw his gun for the first time a couple weeks ago. He stopped the threat simply by showing the gun and didn’t need to pull the trigger. As soon as the bad guy realized that this scrawny white kid could actually ventilate him, he backed down and turned tail. Everyone walked away alive and in tact thanks to a gun. A situation that will never be included in a study.

It’s a classic case of cherry-picking the numbers. Shermer trots out the same old studies that “prove” how dangerous guns are. Also, note that the study he selects as his lead-off hitter was from 1998. You’d think he could do better than 20-year-old numbers.

I harbored this belief for the 20 years I owned a Ruger .357 Magnum with hollow-point bullets designed to shred the body of anyone who dared to break into my home, but when I learned about these statistics, I got rid of the gun.

That’s nice. He’s one of those Road to Damascus converts, someone who strayed from the true willing victim path, but ultimately saw the light, reforming his ways and rejecting the satanic allure of the firearm. Nice touch. I suppose he thinks that will impart some “cred” in the gun world.

More insights can be found in a 2013 book from Johns Hopkins University Press entitled Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, […]

This rather large paragraph is simply devoted to the total number of people killed in the United States, giving no other numbers to compare the statistics to and therefore making them useless and inflammatory. However, he does take a brief moment to note a rather important fact:

Of those 31,672 dead, 61 percent were suicides, and the vast majority of the rest were homicides by people who knew one another.

A brief moment of clarity and rational thought in the middle of a gun control polemic? A realization that perhaps the number of deaths being reported as “caused” by firearms is actually artificially inflated? Because, after all, people will always find a way to kill themselves, as our own Bruce Krafft has shown time and time again. But no, it’s simply a segue into an attempt to paint gun owners as prone to lapsing into a blind rage, being impulsive and unable to control their latent aggression, uncivilized beasts that they are.

For example, of the 1,082 women and 267 men killed in 2010 by their intimate partners, 54 percent were shot by guns. Over the past quarter of a century, guns were involved in greater number of intimate partner homicides than all other causes combined. When a woman is murdered, it is most likely by her intimate partner with a gun. Regardless of what really caused Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius to shoot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (whether he mistook her for an intruder or he snapped in a lover’s quarrel), her death is only the latest such headline. Recall, too, the fate of Nancy Lanza, killed by her own gun in her own home in Connecticut by her son, Adam Lanza, before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School to murder some two dozen children and adults.

So his argument is that those people wouldn’t have been killed if a gun wasn’t available? That an emotionally unstable person wouldn’t have just as easily snapped and murdered their partner with a kitchen knife, a bat or a car? That’s where Michael’s logical train of thought ends: he apparently believes that if the guns had disappeared, those people would be walking around today. That they wouldn’t have resorted to other means of murder, as the 46% of victims in that statistic were. No, everything would be just peachy if only we’d get rid of the guns. As he then suggests later in the same paragraph:

As an alternative to arming women against violent men, legislation can help: data show that in states that prohibit gun ownership by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order, gun-caused homicides of intimate female partners have been reduced by 25 percent.

Yeah, “gun-caused homicide” (perhaps “homicides committed using a gun” might be more accurate there, Michael?) dropped. But does that mean that homicides overall dropped? My bet is “no.” But Michael doesn’t provide enough data to let the reader draw their own conclusions, he’d rather draw the conclusions for you and then spoon feed you hand-picked stats and studies to make his case.

Inductive reasoning doesn’t go well with the scientific community, Michael Shermer.

Another myth to fall to the facts is that gun-control laws disarm good people and leave the crooks with weapons. Not so, say the Johns Hopkins authors: “Strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers—defined as having a state law that required state or local licensing of retail firearm sellers, mandatory record keeping by those sellers, law enforcement access to records for inspection, regular inspections of gun dealers, and mandated reporting of theft of loss of firearms—was associated with 64 percent less diversion of guns to criminals by in-state gun dealers.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most of the guns used in crimes are stolen. Which inconveniently conflicts with the narrative that Shermer is trying to present. He’d like you to think that criminals are getting their guns from gun dealers, licensed individuals under the scrutiny of the ATF and are required to keep meticulous records of each transaction.

Sure, those kinds of sales happen, but Shermer would have you believe that if we could just register every firearm and enter them into a national database, maybe we could then reduce “gun crime.” I’m not buying it. When theft is continuously the number one source of firearms for criminals, it doesn’t seem that tracing law abiding citizens’ firearms would be much of a deterrent. That’s me using my own “common sense,” by the way.

Finally, before we concede civilization and arm everyone to the teeth pace the NRA, consider the primary cause of the centuries-long decline of violence as documented by Steven Pinker in his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: the rule of law by states that turned over settlement of disputes to judicial courts and curtailed private self-help justice through legitimate use of force by police and military trained in the proper use of weapons.

I have my own book recommendation for Dr. Shermer: More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott. He can continue to enjoy reading his intellectual investigations of the “better angels of our nature” by ivory tower intellectuals, but facts and logic seem to be scarce in his piece. And that, for an article in ‘Scientific American’, is a mortal sin. One that their astute readership seems to have picked up on. I quote the very first comment under this article:

I was disappointed by the Shermer column for several reasons. First, he quotes Wayne LaPierre and then goes on twist that quote as follows: “If he means armed private citizens with little to no training, he could not be more wrong.” Yet, where is any citation provided by Shermer even remotely suggesting that LaPierre has taken such a peculiar position? It was years ago when I received NRA training in handling fire arms, but I have no reason to believe the organization doesn’t still today stress the need for thorough training in safety for all who handle fire arms.

Second, Shermer seems to argue that the fact that prohibiting gun ownership by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order reduces gun-caused homicides of females is proof that it is a myth that arming women would protect them against violent men. Shermer’s logic escapes me. The two issues are entirely separate.

Third, Shermer claims that it is “another myth” that gun-control laws disarm good people and leave crooks with weapons. To prove his point he cites a study showing that strong government regulation significantly reduces the “diversion of guns to criminals by in-state gun dealers.” The obvious mistake in logic is the failure by Shermer to understand that criminals have numerous opportunities to obtain guns aside from purchasing them from in-state gun dealers. Burglary is one common source. Another is the purchase of a gun from a fellow criminal.

Countries such as Mexico make the point unambiguously. Criminals who want guns will obtain them regardless of tough gun laws that effectively keep guns out of the possession of honest people. Mexico proves that the myth attacked by Shermer is, sadly, the true reality.

The Shermer article isn’t up to the standards set in the usual material I read in Scientific American.

But Shermer isn’t the real problem. Rather, the problem lies with the editors who for some reason suspend their editorial requirements when Shermer submits his columns. And, the only reason I can think for that lapse is politics.

Bruce Henderson

comments

  1. avatar William Burke says:

    SciAm? SERIOUSLY? How many people read Scientific American? They haven’t been relevant since the time of the $100 Sinclair Computer.

    1. avatar PK says:

      I read it, and apparently the author of this editorial does as well. That’s two from TTAG at the very least.

    2. avatar Bob2 says:

      I used to pick one up at the airport to read on flights. As of now, I do not read it anymore. I think I will start reading other magazines on flight, perhaps Guns and Ammo. 😀

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Garden and Gun. For real. My wife laughed out loud when I showed it to her. Now she reads it.
        Kinda high end, but what the heck…

      2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

        Just be careful you don’t get reported to the police for having obscene or offensive material! Don’t stay on any Ruger ads with their Nazi swastika style logo? /Sarc (remember the TTAG article on the idiot who was pulled off of a bus for watching Nutnfancy shoot a ruger).

    3. avatar Second Amendment says:

      I’ve had my subscription to SciAm since 1986. Still enjoy it for the science content, but in recent years they’ve occupied more pages with political opinion editorials that are hugely leftist.

      BTW, Nick Leghorn, please send your above article to SciAm as a Letter to the Editor.

        1. avatar Werewolf1021 says:

          Keep us up to date on any responses. FOAD or otherwise.

        2. avatar Darrell says:

          I anxiously await the upcoming edition of my SciAm to see if the editors have the balls to print this article rebuffing the Shermer piece of politial clap-trap.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Their loony left habits aren’t recent. If you have old issues OH review some of their stuff from 20yr ago.

      2. avatar George Hilbert says:

        “…but in recent years they’ve occupied more pages with political opinion editorials that are hugely leftist.”

        I have never heard such a thing, that an American publication would go leftist.

        Actually, a U.S. publication now that is not leftist is extremely rare and a good person should drop all of them they might have.

  2. avatar SkyMan77 says:

    What’s with the reflective poses these A**clowns seem to use more and more. This guys a mockery from head to toe…

    1. avatar Bob says:

      Until this, I used to like this guy. I first heard of him via atheist avenues. Until he enters the political zone, he’s quite rational. What he doesn’t realize as an atheist is that he is a fundamentalist worshiper of the state. He has one more religion to shed.

      1. avatar J says:

        I really like(d) Michael Shermer. His TED talks are very good. I would have thought that a man who is the founder of the Skeptics Society and editor of Skeptic would put more emphasis on facts than emotion, but he let his politics get in the way, and that is sad.

  3. avatar BLAMMO says:

    But the title of the article includes the words “Science” and “[proof]”!! Doesn’t that give the article credibility?

  4. avatar Arete13 says:

    It’s really a sad day for sciam. I love their magazine up to the point where they attempt to enter the political realm. I think a majority of their readers may agree too. If you follow their posts on facebook you will see people sounding off in the comments against biased articles.

  5. avatar Hal says:

    “a staggering number that is orders of magnitude higher than that of comparable Western democracies.”

    Comparable Western Democracies? What might THOSE be? What western democratic republic has a growing, largely unregistered armed citizenry whose RKBA is cemented by its foundational legal framework?

    Mr. Henderson I can think of a number of words to describe your work. Science is not among them.

    1. avatar Ropingdown says:

      Hendersen was the author of the sensible ‘reader’s comment.’ Shermer was the author of the absurd article.

      1. avatar Hal says:

        Sorry about that! I was in a rush! EDIT: Shermer, FOAD.

  6. avatar RockThisTown says:

    The title of the article is “The Science of Guns Proves Arming Untrained Citizens Is a Bad Idea.”

    What it should say: “The Science of People Proves the 2nd Amendment is a Good Idea.”

    1. avatar JuanCudz says:

      +1, I like!

  7. avatar Pulatso says:

    I met people who have degrees in the science field that swallow statistics part and parcel, no curiosity or skepticism. I had a teacher would believe the sky was green and purple if there was a study suggesting it. Still, if he rock stupid enough to get rid of a Ruger wheelgun because some statistics told him he’d hurt himself with it, I’d suggest he wasn’t wise enough to hurt himself with it. Sort of a self forfilling prophescy.

    1. avatar Pulatso says:

      *wasn’t wise enough to NOT hurt himself with it.

      1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

        Wise enough to hurt himself with it. Had he, he might not now be writing.

  8. avatar Vorpalis says:

    Nick, if you haven’t already you should submit this as a letter to the editor.

  9. avatar Billy Wardlaw says:

    I have read the Steven Pinker book cited in Shermer’s article, and Shermer’s use of this out of context quote to further his personal agenda is an abusive stretch, to say the least.

    Pinker in no way ever implies that an unarmed populace is the reason for a continued decline in violence. He was making the case that as population gain access to due process of law, a stable court system, the society as a whole benefits and is increasingly less prone to violence. Nowhere in the book is there a commentary on armed self-deffense inhibiting this process.

    Schemer is also ignoring the obvious – that while the continued trend in violence as whole goes down the number of privately held arms continues to go up. Schemer has turned a blind eye to the accelerating difference in the ratio between violent criminals and law abiding citizens (whether they own guns or not).

    1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

      Schumer – Schemer = shammer.

    2. avatar Ropingdown says:

      Agree, BW, that Shermer attempts to induce in his readers an inference that Pinker did not argue. Additionally, it might be said that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens having moderate training provides the same kind of inducement to peace that courts provide, an additional discouragement to the would-be offender. “You will be pursued in court by the duly constituted authorities…IF you live that long.”

    3. avatar CarlosT says:

      I was at a talk by Pinker and during the Q&A, I asked him, as violence becomes less and less legitimate in society, will there be any kinds of violence that will remain acceptable?

      His answer was “only violence to prevent greater violence.” In my opinion, that dovetails perfectly with private gun ownership, because other than recreational use, that’s exactly why good people have guns.

      1. avatar Ropingdown says:

        Agree. And Pinker’s writing on “hotheads,” the psychology and biology of violence, makes clear that he understands there is a violent remnant which will never get the message of respect for law.

  10. avatar rtempleton says:

    “That seems pretty cut-and-dried to me. Civilian gun owners kill more criminals every year than do cops. ”

    Now you’re being obtuse, Nick. Cops are (theoretically) supposed to use lethal force only as an absolute last resort. Private civilians (many of whom who get included in this statistic are trained CCW holders) don’t have the same burden.

    It also assumes that “number of people killed” is a good number to consider at all. Really, you’re just answering dishonesty with more dishonesty.

    1. avatar DaveL says:

      Cops are (theoretically) supposed to use lethal force only as an absolute last resort. Private civilians (many of whom who get included in this statistic are trained CCW holders) don’t have the same burden.

      I don’t think this is accurate. In most of the situations where cops are required to use non-lethal force, civilians would be barred from using any force whatsoever. A civilian must apprehend an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm – police preceiving the same level of threat are most certainly allowed to escalate directly to lethal force. If anything, the police have broader license to use force than civilians do.

    2. avatar Ropingdown says:

      I don’t agree with your ‘burden’ argument, simply because I don’t think that is the point Nick was making. He seemed to be pointing out that civilians, when they have to shoot a criminal to stop the aggression, take down innocents at a lower rate than police when police shoot. There are various reasons for this. Civilians have a worse burden than police in one respect: They are much more likely to be criminally prosecuted if the facts supporting their shooting are not overwhelmingly clear.

    3. avatar Brad says:

      rtempleton

      You are a simple minded ignoramus!

      IF, as you state, the cops can only use lethal force as a last resort AND the private citizen suffers under no such constraint THEN the fact that a highly trained population of gun users is more than 5 TIMES AS LIKELY to kill an innocent victim than the supposedly untrained population only bolsters the argument Nick makes.

      Further, the two populations are vastly out of proportion to one another, the supposedly untrained population positively DWARFING the trained population. This means the accidental gun death per person in each population is STAGGERINGLY higher among the trained population.

      Point, set and match!

      1. avatar EKM says:

        Brad:

        I don’t his position was as belligerent as you seem to think. He was merely pointing out a source of skew in the statistics.

        1. avatar Brad says:

          EKM

          Is he your son or something? Why are you defending him? He was being an ignorant asshole.
          He accused Nick of dishonesty and being obtuse all the while demonstrating, as so many in today’s America do, a complete inability to draw simple conclusions from the presented data, which I did!

          Sadly for him, the data not only supports Nick’s contention, I showed that Nick could have made an even stronger and more profound point along the same lines.

    4. avatar skh.pcola says:

      @rtempleton:

      “Private civilians (many of whom who get included in this statistic are trained CCW holders) don’t have the same burden. ”

      You act as if there is NO burden to the use of lethal force by private citizens. You are incorrect. When a private citizen uses unjustified lethal force, he can be charged with murder of various degrees, lose his freedom, and possibly his life. Is that a burden, in your opinion?

  11. Just a small point on the ” infographic with properly cited sources ” that was mentioned…it’s not particularly accurate in one large section. Or rather, not intellectually honest, let’s say.

    The problem with comparing US violence reports with UK is that the UK terms anything that’s a “crime against a person” as violent crime. So the number includes things like prostitution, verbal assault, and a whole host of other crimes in which no actual violence takes place. These combine to drastically over inflate their violent crime rate…and would do the same to ours if we were to include them in our reporting, putting us on par if not far above the UK for overall violent crime.

    I agree with the rest of this article wholeheartedly, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when gun ownership advocates use the same inaccurate comparison methods the gun grabbers do. I expect our side to be better.

    1. avatar Werewolf1021 says:

      If you take those “violent crimes” out of the equation, does it substantially lower the number to less than or equal to the US violent crime level?

    2. avatar Landbarger says:

      Can you help us out with better stats on the UK for comparison then, Cecil? Not sarcasm, I am certainly willing to admit that I for one was not aware that the “violent crime” definition in the UK were different than ours.

      I should have known better, I’m sure it’s similar to the “infant death rates” comparison damning US healthcare where every other country in the world starts counting at 14 days old or whatever…

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        It’s actually 48-72 hours before a live birth is counted in most of the world. The other medical reason for the higher US infant mortality rate is preemie care. Up until the age of ten premature births are associated with higher rates of childhood mortality. Since we have higher rates of preemie survival, we have higher mortality. Even in Europe a baby born at seven months is less likely to break the threshold for statistical purpose than in the US.

        Every wonder why places like Billings Montana has obstetrics facilities far above local needs? It’s for the Canadian who have problem pregnancies.

        And lets not forget all crack babies born to the same population that commits most of the violent crime in the US.

    3. avatar Jarhead1982 says:

      If one actually reviews the British data, one see’s that they have a basty habit of 1, not counting those being investigated in progress, only those that are closed 2) before 2002 they counted a triple homicde as 1 homicide 3) there are 23 columns of crimes, mostly sexual assault, of which they do not count as a violent crime in their totals, whereas the US does.

      When one adds up all the violent crimes, and validates they match what is considered as violent crime by the US FBI UCR, then a comparison is valid, and in 2011 their violent crime rate was 1,567 VCR per 100k people compared to the US 383.6 per 100k people.

      Dont believe me, here is the link.

      http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/historical-crime-data/?view=Standard&pubID=1056123

  12. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Sheesh.

  13. avatar AecDuck says:

    Excellent work. I thoroughly enjoy reading these point-by-point rebuttals… even if (for the most part) it’s preaching to the choir. Time for the choir to get out and share the good news perhaps.

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    Another fruitcake wistfully staring off into space after longingly gazing at his navel.

    Where do they find these schmucks?

    1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

      Feinkenstein grows them by the bushel in her basement brownhouse.

  15. avatar Jonathan says:

    The infographic is fully documented, as far as I can tell; but it isn’t what I’d consider, intellectually bulletproof. A number of the sources are quite old. The 4.8 deaths per 100,000 figure is a good decade old. The error rate figures of police and citizens comes from a 1993 Newsweek column; itself citing even older data.

    These are important to note not simply because they’re older citations in and of themselves; but because research methodologies, database mining capabilities, and the underlying firearms public policies have changed since then. Some of these citations go back to the 1980’s; which predates the modern concealed carry era. Seems disingenuous to submit data from another era to substantiate policies deployed today under different circumstances.

    1. avatar Jarhead1982 says:

      Actually going back to

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

      One see’s that the massive majority of data is actually closer to 2007.

      That and if one managed to dig out the dates of when said countries really cracked down on their gun control to todays date, we would see similar murder rates to England, and identical failures of gun control to reduce violence or murder rates.

      What is driving up the Wikipedia reference is that Eastern Europe, has a 6.4 murder rate per 100k people, and they have a significant popualtion impact on said rates.

      But feel free to do the digging yourself, wont find it much different than I just described!

  16. avatar Mk10108 says:

    I don’t care about stats. In the end the anti gun diatribe is about giving up your ability for lawful self defense. A deep question is why would one group want to impose this on another….answer….continued employment. Police, judges, prosecutors, defense, corrections, parole, bondsmen…the list is endless. Knowing 10% of our population just can’t shake the bad crap out of themselves, the incentive is to revolve this group through a system supported by tax dollars. The profit motive in keeping guns away from citizens.

  17. avatar tdiinva says:

    The basic flaw of almost all gun control literature is the basic assumption that violence is uniformly distributed across the population. We know this not to be true. For example if you have no history of depression or suicide in your family it is very unlikely that you will commit suicide. (Killing yourself at the end stage of a terminal illness does not count) If you don’t live in a community where there is a large percentage of people on welfare and most of the children are illegitimate, your chances of being a victim of violence is less than many European countries. If you are actually married to your partner your chances of being a victim of violence are very small.

    This is the difference between John Lott and his critics. Lott actually uses complex statistical analysis to arrive at his conclusions. Shermer article is representative of how gun control advocates use statistics.

  18. avatar Michael Kent says:

    Nick,

    I have to take issue with the “infographic” comparing error rates vis-a-vis “criminals killed” by civilians and criminals killed by police officers. Others have noted the data is stale and/or quesitonable in and of itself.

    The proper comparison, in my view, is between concealed carry permit holders intervening to stop the commission of crimes in public places and comparable law enforcement interventions. And, the comparison would need to be based on error RATES.

    That said, is there even a single documented instance of a concealed carry permit holder mistakenly shooting the wrong person while intervening to stop the commission of a crime in a public place? By “mistaken” I mean adjudicated to have unlawfully or negligently shot an innocent bystander on account of misidentifying the perpetrator or simply missing the intended target?

    Regards,

    mk

    1. avatar Jonathan says:

      Michael,

      I did a little research on this earlier this year, trying to answer that same question. For the CHL Good Samaritan-type case and mistakenly shooting an innocent bystander, I’ve only been able to find two possible candidates. Neither is conclusive, though:

      1.) Michigan, May 12, 2010, Geraldine Jackson, a 69-year-old Detroit
      grandmother, was unintentionally shot and killed by a stray bullet fired by concealed handgun permit holder Edward Bell, 65. The bullet—which “slammed through” the wall of her home—struck her in the chest, killing her as she was preparing dinner for her granddaughter and a close friend. According to police, Bell was working on a house in the neighborhood when he was robbed with a fake gun by 19-year-old Antwan Hall and Bell’s Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle was stolen. As the alleged thief drove away, Bell fired at him with a .45 handgun, resulting in the SUV crashing into a tree. In July 2010, Bell pleaded guilty to a felony charge of firing at a building and agreed to one year of probation, with the first four months in jail. A manslaughter charge was dismissed in exchange for testimony and cooperation in prosecuting the carjacking suspect, Antwan Hall.

      http://www.myfoxdetroit.com, May 13, 2010; “Stray bullet kills Detroit woman in her home,” Detroit News, May 13, 2010; “Woman, 69, Killed by Stray Bullet,” http://www.clickondetroit.com, May 12, 2010.

      Maybe this one shouldn’t count, because the original criminal was already fleeing the scene and the shooter was no longer in danger? However, Texas law allows such a shooting to protect property (see Joe Horn), so maybe yes?

      2.) Houston, TX, May 17, 2012, an unidentified concealed handgun permit holder allegedly shot store clerk Tyrza Smith, 26, during a robbery at a Family Dollar store. According to police, two masked men entered the store around 10:00 PM. As the men approached Smith and demanded money, a customer who was armed and had a concealed handgun permit, tried to flee the store through another door, but found it locked, then pulled his gun and exchanged gunfire with the robbers. Smith was shot in the chest and killed, and the two suspects fled in the customer’s rental car. One of the alleged robbers was later arrested, while a second suspect is still at large. According to police, the bullet that killed Tyrza Smith came from the concealed handgun permit holder’s gun.

      “Arrest made in deadly shooting at Family Dollar store,” abclocal.go.com, May 31, 2012; “Still no arrests after fatal gunfight at Family Dollar,” myfoxhouston.com, May 23, 2012; “HPD: Young, female Family Dollar clerk killed in gunfight between robbers, customer,” khou.com, May 18, 2012.

      Maybe this one shouldn’t count, either, since there hasn’t been any conviction of the CHL? I couldn’t find any further updates on this, despite the case going back almost a full year now, so I’m not sure if there was a conviction, dismissal, or still pending. In any event, this is all I’ve been able to find, including searching through the ultra-biased Violence Policy Center’s archives, too. Seems extremely rare, if ever it happens.

  19. avatar mediocrates says:

    we need to replace NRA firearms training with the New York Times “Criminal Subservience” training. Then, we can all just get along.

    This just reinforces my perception that people don’t say or do anything that doesn’t benefit them personally, and more often then not, they say it in the way that best fits their story.

  20. avatar CharlieKilo says:

    THIS article is one from Leghorn that I couldn’t find any fault with. While I have found critical talking points in previous subjects, this one walks the dog very well. Well done!

  21. avatar Chance says:

    You missed this article SciAm posted a few weeks ago. It includes such gems as suggesting the 19,766 people who killed themselves with guns in 2011 did so, “…[T]hrough no fault of their own.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=firearms-research-the-gun-fighter

  22. avatar dwb says:

    1. police are civilians in the eyes of the law.

    Suppose in the event of a robbery or home invasion, the police dept screws up the dispatch, only does a drive by peek and does not come in. Bad stuff happens. You can sue, right?

    No: the police under supreme court precedent have no duty to protect you and you cannot sue. True, I learned this just the other day. Silly me, I though they were there to protect and serve, but that is mostly marketing*.

    2. The beauty** of living in Maryland is that we now have at least 1 police corruption scandal per week. So, this guy, charged with pimping out his wife, is protecting you?

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bal-baltimore-cop-charged-in-human-trafficking-case-20130510,0,6727287.story

    * for more union jobs.
    ** irony.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Is his wife hot?

      1. avatar Ropingdown says:

        Probably just a surplus of ugly diseased johns.

    2. avatar JusBill says:

      It’s true; the “Free State” no longer is. Unless you’re in the Baltimore City lockup.
      http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/featured/stories/md-lawmakers-meet-jail-officials-1172.shtml

    3. avatar Ropingdown says:

      DWB: So you’re saying MD has managed to reduce the rate of police corruption scandals?

      1. avatar JusBill says:

        No, just the reporting. O’Malley’s gotta run for President, and it doesn’t make him look as good as Bloomburg.

  23. avatar KCK says:

    I have read Scientific American since I was in high School. Any particular issue I could follow 80% of the articles, really understand 30% but I would be able to refute 0%. I couldn’t even reach the pedestal on my tippy toes.
    One of two things has happened here, I am suddenly smarter or the pedestal on which I had perched SciAm has tipped over and has crashed at my feet.
    To add another metaphor;
    I am stunned and saddened that Superman has used his cape to wipe his ass.

  24. avatar prsTM says:

    SciAm hasn’t been an actual scientific magazine in over a decade, ever since they published a hit piece attacking a global warming skeptic. Like most media, they simply cannot be trusted on points of fact if there’s the slightest political implication.

  25. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’ve been down this road with SciAm back in the 90’s. They haven’t changed their stripes, they’ve just becomes “less science, more advocacy” over the decades.

    As a result, I’ve not taken anything therein seriously since the early 90’s.

  26. avatar littlegunguy says:

    What can you expect from an atheist moron

    1. avatar Chris says:

      Nonsense. A fairly high number of us atheists are actually avid gun enthusiasts. For a famous atheist who believes in the second amendment, one more popular than Shermer (who’s brilliant when he’s right, and utterly oblivious when he’s wrong), google “Sam Harris guns”.

      1. avatar Porcupine9 says:

        Well, to be fair, he did say “atheist morons.” You’re just an atheist, not a moron, so as I see it, he didn’t mean you. A religious moron (see Bob Beckel for one example) is no better than an atheist moron.

        It strikes me that the drift of Sci Am away from its raison d’etre is a lot like what is going on with cable tv stations. MTV used to be Music Television, but now it isn’t even about music anymore. TLC used to be The Learning Channel, but features no educational content now. The History Channel, a former favorite of mine, is all reality shows and Art Bell stuff (aliens, Nostradamus, hocus pocus stuff). Even The Weather Channel is drifting toward political advocacy, when it is not broadcasting reality shows about lifeguards (who seem to do a lot more hassling of beachgoers than lifeguarding), prospectors, truckers, arctic pilots, wind turbine mechanics, ironworkers, the Coast Guard, or electric company linesmen.

        Sad to see old favorites turn to garbage (by this I mean History and Weather; I never did care much for MTV or TLC), but everything is being dumbed-down for the idiot class now (Obama voters).

  27. avatar Daniel says:

    No person with a photo like that should have anything published in a scientific journal of any kind. Maybe “Drumming in a Circle,” by Joe Douchebag, would be a better article for him.

    1. avatar Herb says:

      Gee, somebody remembers the “Iron John” fad of drumming dorks?

      ;^)

  28. avatar Jarrod says:

    Dammit! Why are authors who I enjoy reading making such stupid claims lately? Actors too. Why must they all be so liberal and delusional?

  29. avatar PavePusher says:

    You missed one (or maybe I did, in your rebuttals)…

    They claim:
    Consider a 1998 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that found that “every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”

    By that statement, they limit their gun-defenses to only incidents where an attacker was actually shot, a tiny minority of self-defense incidents with firearms. This is called “lying by omission”, “cherry-picking data” and “excluding results that don’t support their bias”.

    1. avatar Ropingdown says:

      What can be said about that quote? If we take the Clinton administration’s solicited estimate that there are approx. 1.5 million defensive uses of a firearm each year(including mere presentation), and we assume a third of them were in the home, the statement implies millions of suicides, criminal assaults, and homicides with a gun (assumed) each year. The article is flaky.

      Publishing such confused writing reminds me of the New England Journal of Medicine: It only prints peer-reviewed articles by authors who make their data available, an exception being made for the writing of the infamous professor of anti-gun polemics, Heminway, whose skill at building bias into sample selection, and concealment of his data, is almost amusing.

  30. avatar Fred says:

    I agree with the premise of this article. Every gun owner should have more training. No matter how trained you are you need more. Beyond that I can’t find anything to agree with, nor do I see anything beyond a weak and assumed link between the arguments presented and the title.

    The section about women arming themselves against men is particularly alarming. He used data on *disarming men* as an argument against *arming women*. I can’t think of many things more preposterous. “Women don’t need to be armed because we can disarm their violent partners”, somewhat sexist as well. There was also an incident not too long ago where a violent partner violated the PPO, the courts did not confiscate his guns, and he killed his partner. You can’t trust your life to the enforcement of a law or the law enforcers.

  31. avatar PubliusII says:

    SciAm has become unreadable for me because of the leftist slant that runs through everything they publish with a public policy angle. Their treatment of Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist was a shameful case in point, and by no means atypical for the magazine in its current editorial form.

  32. avatar Tray says:

    Your dismissal of Pinker as an “ivory tower intellectual” betrays your anti-intellectualism slant. To be fair, Shermer implies a position that Pinker doesn’t actually hold. Pinker’s book is a good look at how our society has become less violent over time, often in spite of factors one might assume could cause an increase in violence.

    Look, I understand that sometimes smart people are wrong about guns, but that doesn’t mean EVERY smart person doesn’t have something good or informative to say. I highly recommend you read his book.

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