Dan Ariely (courtesy foxbusiness.com)

“Dear Dan, I’m wondering what you make of gun control,” an alleged reader allegedly named Skyler allegedly asks The Wall Street Journal’s know-it-all Dan Ariely [above]. “Obviously, it is in everyone’s best interest to have a safer country where you’re less likely to be shot in public. But since the massacre in Oregon, gun sales have only gone up. Is there anything we can do to reduce gun violence?” Dan’s answer . . .

This all strikes me as a case of over-optimism. When we hear about gun violence, we tell ourselves, “If I didn’t have a gun, I might get attacked—but if I had a gun, I could protect myself.” We can imagine the benefits of gun ownership, but we can’t imagine the stress or panic we’d feel while being attacked. (In wartime, in fact, many guns never get fired because of the stress felt by people under fire.) We also can’t imagine ourselves as hotheaded attackers or imagine our new gun being used by people in our household to attack others.

After all, we’re such good, reasonable people, and those surrounding us are similarly upstanding and calm. So people buy guns, often with good intentions—but these guns make it easy for someone having a moment of anger, hate or weakness to do something truly devastating.

Since humanity will keep having emotional outbursts, what can we do to lessen gun violence? One approach would be to try to make it less likely that we will make mistakes under the influence of emotions. When we set rules for driving, we’re very clear about when and how cars can be used, which involves heeding the speed limit, obeying traffic rules and so on. Maybe we should also set up strict rules for guns that will make it clear when and under what conditions guns can be carried and used. And we could require gun owners to get licenses and training—again, on the model of car safety—with penalties for breaking the rules.

TTAG reader RN provides the analysis:

Skyler says that a safer country would be good. Sounds OK. But, apparently, only in public. Risks at home? Not his problem. He sees no possible positive correlation between increased gun sales and a mass shooting. Like maybe guns could be used to stop such an event. And the use of the media term “gun violence”? I’ll let that go. I’m pretty sure that Dan touched on all of the main anti-rights points in his answer.

Regular citizens can’t/won’t be able to defend with a firearm? Check.

Even Armed Forces members can’t properly use their guns (no citation)? Check.

“Regular” gun owners are powder kegs waiting to go boom? Check.

Gun owners are unable to control/secure their firearms? Check.

Good intentioned people buy guys vs. “someone” who could do “something”? Check.

“Gun violence” comes from emotional outbursts? Check.

Car driving has rules and gun ownership/use is unrestricted? Check.

There are no penalties for firearm misuse? Check.

With “information” like this being widely disseminated, I can see why we’re struggling in the culture and the battle will probably never be won.

Copy that.

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64 Responses to Wall Street Journal “Dear Dan” Response Ticks All the Wrong Boxes

  1. I thought the WSJ was generally thought to be a more conservative-leaning publication?

    RTKBA is a civil right, and the right to self defense is a God-given natural right that all human have by virtue of being born free.

    It’s a bitter pill, but occasional tragedy may be the price we pay as a society for our freedoms.

    Thomas Jefferson — ‘I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.’

    • The occasional tragedy happens all over the world, including nations where no RKBA is presumed, much less codified.

      The occasional tragedy is not a price we pay for liberty. It’s the inevitable result of evil.

    • WSJ is a conservative publication in the same manner Bloomberg is a conservative politician: Unlimited government is a-ok, if and only if it exists for the sole benefit of Wall Street welfare queens.

  2. Pablum. We already have “strict rules” about whjen and under what conditions we can use guns. You can’t use them to hunt deer in June ( and when you can hunt deer, you can’t use a rimfire-caliber rifle), you can’t use them to shoot blackbirds out of the trees in the city limits, you can’t use them to shoot your brother-in-law because he’s an ass, etc, etc, etc ad infinitum. “Dan” doesn’t really specify anything except a non-specific “training requirement”, which indeed is in place in many if not most jurisdictions for some if not all types of handgun carry. Just another half-fast PC columnist breaking wind.

  3. “In wartime, in fact, many guns never get fired because of the stress felt by people under fire.”

    As an OIF vet I can say that he should have to apply for a license to use his 1st Amendment right (provided to him by apparently a bunch of people too stressed to move there safety selector…. /sarcasm).

    • What’s a safety selector? is it that thing I disconnected because my booger hook stays of my bang stick until ready to fire

      j/k

    • I have heard this comment about soldiers unwilling or unable to fire their weapons in the stress of combat for some time, mostly related to the Second World War, but have yet to see valid statistical proof that it actually happened to any great degree. It is certainly possible that in large unit maneuvers such as assaulting beaches or cities/towns individual soldiers might participate in the assault without firing their weapons (“The Bid Red One” comes to mind) and the lack would go un-noticed by most. It is much less likely that in the more small-unit type tactics in place since the Korean War that individual members of the unit could survive long among their compatriots if they refused to actively participate in the battle by effectively using their weapon when required to accomplish the mission or protect their team mates.

      • Read Dave Grossman’s “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.” He covers the history of the difficulty of training soldiers to kill in combat going all the way back to the time of muzzle loaders, referencing military reports and other sources. It was a problem for Napoleon and it stayed a problem through WWI, but by the time WWII rolled around, training had improved to the extent that it was not a major problem. Training continued to improve through Korea, and Vietnam, and no one considers it to be an issue anymore.

        • Grossman is a liar. Humanity has never had a problem with killing; a cursory glance at history proves that. But specifically, there is this:
          http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo9/no2/16-engen-eng.asp

          “It would appear, then, that Lieutenant Colonel Grossman’s appeals to biology and psychology are flawed, and that the bulwark of his historical evidence – S.L.A. Marshall’s assertion that soldiers do not fire their weapons – can be verifiably disproven. The theory of an innate, biological resistance to killing has little support in either evolutionary biology or in what we know about psychology, and, discounting Marshall’s claims, there is little basis in military history for such a theory either.”

  4. “Alleged reader”….yes, there are many alleged readers writing/posting scripted material online…..but not here…..

  5. There is a well-known dichotomy at the WSJ: the senior editorial staff is conservative and the lower-level writers are liberal hacks. You can’t blame them: they come from J-school, which means they have no education, no training in critical thinking, and no moral compass.

    • Which is exactly why I dropped my Journalism major in favor of something just as bad: Advertising.

      Hey, it was during the Vietnam thing.

  6. The comment about the military not using their weapons is accurate for 100+ years ago… It’s documented in the excellent book “On Killing”, which discusses the psychological aspect of military training and service.

    • Debunked.

      http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo9/no2/16-engen-eng.asp

      “It would appear, then, that Lieutenant Colonel Grossman’s appeals to biology and psychology are flawed, and that the bulwark of his historical evidence – S.L.A. Marshall’s assertion that soldiers do not fire their weapons – can be verifiably disproven. The theory of an innate, biological resistance to killing has little support in either evolutionary biology or in what we know about psychology, and, discounting Marshall’s claims, there is little basis in military history for such a theory either.”

  7. Mr. Ariely,
    We already have strict rules about who may buy and poses a firearm. We already have strict rules for where and under what circumstances a firearm may be used. We already have strict penalties for breaking these rules. Since you insist on repeating the false automobile/gun analogy, let me point out that over the last several decades both the retirement for training for a drivers license and and rules governing the operation of vehicles (Federal speed limit) have been loosed. Also, there are no license and background checks for vehicle purchases.

    I propose as an alternate that for certain people, the desire for greater regulation of firearms stems from the inability to accept the proposition that humans, humans, relations, and human society are not perfect, can not be perfected, and that there will always be an eliminate of chance and chaos.

    Former WSJ reader

    • Besides no nics check there are a few other ways guns are more regulated than cars

      1 you don’t need a tax stamp and special permission for a muffler
      2 you can buy a compact car without a tax stamp (compact as in sbr)
      3 you can buy an automatic with no tax stamp (transmition)
      4 you can actually buy an automatic made after 86 (transmition)

      I’m sure there’s a relevant automotive equivalent to aow as well I just can’t think of it right now.

      • >>Kevin76 says:
        November 2, 2015 at 16:11
        Besides no nics check there are a few other ways guns are more regulated than cars

        1 you don’t need a tax stamp and special permission for a muffler
        2 you can buy a compact car without a tax stamp (compact as in sbr)
        3 you can buy an automatic with no tax stamp (transmition)
        4 you can actually buy an automatic made after 86 (transmition)

        I’m sure there’s a relevant automotive equivalent to aow as well I just can’t think of it right now.<<

        Kevin, you simultaneously get a +1 for giving me a great idea for a 2A promotional video but get dinged on the poor spelling of "transmission". I'ma gonna make my first uTube video now.

        • Yeah I was counting on spellchecker too much but still it’s not it’s vs its or to vs too…I must not have been paying enough attention

    • “Eliminate”? Sigh… a verb. Writer meant the noun, “element”. The two words share absolutely no common genesis.

  8. Well I’ve been carrying guns for over 2 decades now and the only detriments I’ve encountered are a lighter wallet and the occasional argument with my wife regarding why I need another gun. So I bought my wife a gun she really likes and now I only have the first problem.

    As to “expert” gun ownership and self defense advice, I don’t accept it from non-gun owning pansies who lack the intestinal fortitude to fight. I’ve used guns to defend my life and it’s worked out rather well. The best way to stop a violent attack with a deadly weapon is with the immediate application of lethal force or the legitimate threat thereof.

    • “As to “expert” gun ownership and self defense advice, I don’t accept it from non-gun owning pansies who lack the intestinal fortitude to fight.”

      Well, said. I’ve been having just this kind of conversation with a friend in Europe who is struggling to understand how Americans can be so different from Europeans regarding gun rights. As our conversation progressed I realized that he can’t imagine a situation where he might have to take personal initiative to actually defend himself or his family, much less do so with a firearm. I’m still processing this.

      • I’ve dealt with this as well; the “I can’t imagine a situation where I would have to defend myself or my family with deadly force”. Usually if you provide a scenario (home invasion, armed robbery or whatever) they can’t process that either and usually say 1) I can’t imagine having a gun would help, it would just make the bad guys angry(er) or 2) I wouldn’t know how to use a gun and would wind up shooting myself or something, LOL.

        With people like that – they are so indoctrinated with the idea that the “state” will take care of them, there’s no hope. They are the proverbial sheep and I refer them to Sam Adams, “May your chains set lightly upon you..”

    • I’m sure you’ve mentioned this somewhere, but what did you buy the wife that did the trick? Other than fine jewelry, of course. . .

  9. I think I’m missing something.. How is driving a car and gun ownership similar?

    Is it because when you’re driving you’re directing a 3-7,000lb missile and when you’re shooting you’re directing a 1/4oz missile???? Then that makes a car 12-28 thousand times more dangerous. Right??

    • Well, you would need to account for velocity somehow. The question is, are you going to use kinetic energy or momentum in your comparison? And what of the chemical energy of a 20 gallon fuel tank as opposed to 30 rounds of .223?

      Good luck with your math. The results will be as useful as Mr. Ariely’s brain.

  10. I would also like to mention that despite all the rules and regulations, training and licensing requirements, mandated safety features and enforcement associated with American Car Culture, tens of thousands of people are still killed yearly in vehicular violence (commonly termed traffic accidents).

    • I like that. Even with all of the safety requirements, licensing, training, etc., cars kill as many people as are shot with guns (including suicides) and they aren’t even designed for it!

      Why guns are only designed for killing and not for driving our lazy behinds around and they can barely keep up with cars that seem to be slaughtering innocents just as a side effect! My God, cars are great at killing and they haven’t even put their minds to it! Think of the children!

      Guns must be very poor at the only thing they are designed to do!

  11. As long as (the people that make up) government is vulnerable to the weapons of its citizens, its citizens are less vulnerable to their government.

  12. The car analogy always falls apart when you demand the right to own a machine gun with no license as long as you keep it on your property. Like how you can have an F1 car so long as you just do donuts in your field.

    “Don’t…. wha…. but…. that would mean you’d have MORE rights! Don’t be crazy!”

  13. A good source on the subject matter of the difficulty of killing another person: On Killing by Dave Grossman.

    I’ve read it, and it’s good. He explains the psychology that goes into military training that has to break down people’s inhibitions towards killing, and the history of the difficulty people had in killing.

    http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Psychological-Cost-Learning-Society/dp/0316040932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446501859&sr=8-1&keywords=david+grossman+on+killing

    • I’ve read it and would say that his information is dated. Plus, he goes off on a tangent about the sexual-like euphoria experienced by some when they killed another human. Most in the military today won’t shoot their weapons in combat due to over-restrictive ROE, a lack of positive ID on their aggressor, or the complexity of engaging an enemy during a counterinsurgency campaign. More troops (OIF/OEF) have been killed or injured by IEDs (including VBIEDs and suicide bombers) than small arms fire. It fluctuates from year-to-year, but insurgents found it to be extremely effective. Shooting your weapon in these events is generally worthless (unless it is accompanied by an ambush) since they were planted the night before.

      • I agree, how wars are fought changes, and this was written before OIF/OEF, but I don’t think OIF/OEF automatically make his arguments invalid. Look at your example of the IED attacks, and Grossman’s argument about distance making killing easier. How close does a terrorist have to be set off an IED? In regards to suicide bombers, they’re already mentally conditioned, their psychological barriers broken done, and then promised eternal reward in paradise for killing infidels. I don’t see how that invalidates his arguments on the psychological cost of getting someone to kill. What do I know though? I’m not a psychiatrist.

        • Yes, there is a psychological and physiological cost to training a person to kill. When they transitioned from bull’s eye targets to silhouette targets, they increased the likelihood of an infantryman to kill their enemy. But they also increased other conditioning responses (simulating battle sights and sounds, dehumanizing their enemy, and pushing the stress levels up). I’m not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, but I’ve studied this particular piece quite a bit. The distances to the target remain the same for the USMC KD course of fire. However, we have increased the amount of Enhanced and Combat Marksmanship Program training prior to deployments for closer engagements (7-50 yds). The lessons learned have become more institutionalized and a CMP range is now standard part of any pre-deployment training program (PTP). It’s generally an annual requirement for most division units within their PTP cycle and for supporting units that are likely to ship out on a MEU.

    • I’ve seen similar scars on recovering alcoholics; maybe lacerations from steering wheel, sustained during crash. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

  14. “When we set rules for driving, we’re very clear about when and how cars can be used, which involves heeding the speed limit, obeying traffic rules and so on.”

    And those rules are aggressively ignored by a certain percentage of drivers out there, just as whatever rules you care to make about guns will be ignored by the very small number of criminals that manage to generate most of the “gun violence” numbers.

    The car analogy would work better if, whenever there was a 10-car pileup on the expressway, Dan and his cohorts were screaming that only government employees should be allowed to drive. But no, everyone seems to be okay with a certain amount of “collateral damage” when it comes to cars. For some reason, when you are killed by someone with a gun, these people think you’re deader than if you get run over by an SUV.

  15. know-it-all Dan Ariely [above].
    So why is this guy so knowledgeable?
    Any credentials?
    Gun expert?
    Navy SEAL?
    Cop on the street?

  16. Dear Mr. Ariely

    I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Wall Street Journal, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus, or do you get your presents from Michael Bloomberg and George Soros?

    Virginia O’Hanlon

  17. What happened to his chin? Tricycle accident, when his dad let him ride one, against the frightened warnings of his mother?

  18. I think the psycho in Oregon made everybody realize that their own protection is up to them, and they need to stop assigning it to police who are minutes away. But with Bloomberg buying politicians and reporters to sell his dogma, I am suspect of Dan Ariely. Knowing that most of the good reporters were fired by the 4 news corporations that control our media, and that only hacks remain, well…

  19. I want to put some perspective on this comment: (In wartime, in fact, many guns never get fired because of the stress felt by people under fire.)

    Simply not true. If you are not trained in the modern way of fire arms use; (circa 1960) then only about 1 in 5 soldiers will fire their weapon at the enemy. Its not because of stress or being scared; its because they don’t want to kill another person. When Vietnam hit; soldiers had a 99% fire rate. Being shot at had little to do with it.

    This number applies to small arms only. Its very different when you are 30000ft doping bombs or in a ship shooting over the horizon or working crew severed weapons.

    See On Killing : The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” by Dave Grossman for reference information.

    When I first read the comment, I was expecting it to be a reference to some of the studies done after WWII. Reading it again, I can not justify where this is coming from.

  20. Dear Dan, I know you have a bunch of fancy degrees from Duke, but excuse me if I don’t bow down to the intellectual might of a guy who blew his own face off. Open flame control perhaps?

  21. the automobile example shows the lack of nderstanding that he has. Yes, we have licenses, insurance, limitations, speed laws, DUI laws, police…
    However, we lose the same number of people as we do to the flu and due to guns.
    How often do we read of accidents where a driver is drunk, has a suspended license and no insurance. What happened? Why didn’t the laws stop this?

  22. When will people stop using the car analogy. It’s factually incorrect and makes people look really vapid.

    Anyone at all regardless of age or criminal history can own a car without restriction or even registration in any state. They’re just property. Buy one for cash and ship it home on a flatbed trailer if you want, just don’t drive it on a public road. The thing you need a license for it to use it in public on a public road. The lack of a drivers license or vehicle registration does NOT prohibit you using that car you bought at all nor prohibit doing so unnoticed by the government. It simply means you can’t use the property you own in a common space designated for that use. It is a bit closer to CCW (or open carry in some states) permitting. Once licensed for public carry of a firearm you are permitted to possess it with the intent of using it in that public space when a lawful and necessary case for its use arises but that analogy is still flawed because the streets of the country, unlike roads for cars, is not a designated and specially constructed area where it was intended that guns might be used regularly. It was however acknowledged by the founding fathers in the 2nd amendment that men in civilized society will occasion to find themselves in a situation where murderous criminals may decide to exercise their skills. Skills which civilized society is not designed or intended to be the practice ground for and that civilized men may need to get very uncivilized from time to time so that such negative behaviour does not seem to become acceptable. Chicago has completely denied this fact for its whole existence and shows us every day with a new headline exactly what happens when you forget history and put polemics and wishy-thinky in its place.

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