Scene of carbon monoxide poisoning December 18, 1950 (courtesy Foteka Los Angeles)

I’m not very good at math. My SAT math score was 220 points lower than my English score. So when I encounter studies that seem to prove that gun control is a good thing, I defer to former DHS number cruncher Nick Leghorn and former Navy submariner Bruce Krafft. They inevitably show that the studies are skewed, flawed, biased, massaged and otherwise manipulated to reach the desired conclusion. That said, I’m pretty good at spotting lack of context. For example . . .

Gun control advocates admit that a large percentage of firearms-related deaths are suicide-related, but cling to the belief that curtailing access to guns (i.e. gun control) is the answer there, too. What doesn’t get mentioned: it’s nearly impossible to kill yourself with automotive carbon monoxide anymore. There isn’t enough of the gas in a modern car’s emissions. So…gun. Who’d a thunk it?

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94 Responses to Gun Fact: There Are Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

  1. A guy killed himself recently by jumping off a radio tower…… in Long Branch, New Joisey….

    To paraphrased Archie Bunker: “Would it make you feel better, little goil, if they was to jump outta windas?…” (or off bridges … or in the path of trains…)

      • Interestingly enough, I just ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and there are signs pointing out that it is illegal to knowingly let anything go over the bridge. So, since they banned jumping, the problem *must* be solved. 🙂 Or it’s just a pack of lies, like Harry Reid says…

        • That sign is not a jumping ban, but are a recognition that it is twenty stories down to the water, and with a lot of traffic under that bridge, there is a very high probability of injury or death to those below. Interestingly enough, you cannot be arrested for attempting suicide in California (it is not, unlike most states, a crime here to attempt to kill yourself), only “detained” for “evaluation and treatment” as a “danger to yourself or others.” (Welfare & Institutions Code section 5150.)

      • If they can figure out how to put up suicide nets the entire length of the bridge, they eventually will. Somebody smarter would restrict pedestrian traffic, and it would cost next to nothing.

        Which is why they’ll never do it. If it doesn’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s out the window.

        Well, there’s always BART trains.

        • WB, I’m not sure if you realize it or not, but they probably ARE going to spend $70mm on a suicide prevention net for the GG Bridge. It was a big deal when I was living in SF a couple years ago. The hilarious thing is how much it costs and that it’s only covering a small portion of the bridge. Well… as of 2-3 years ago the plan was only to put a net up on the walking sidewalk side only out to like 1/5 of the way down the bridge since that’s where almost everyone jumps. Wow.

          I’m not reading it because I don’t care anymore, but here’s an article on the project as of last week: http://gizmodo.com/the-plan-to-keep-people-from-jumping-off-the-golden-gat-1563950392

        • You’re too late. They have figured it out and should start the multi-million dollar project soon. But first they have to make it earthquake safe (sarc).

  2. There’s only one fact that really matters to those afraid of gun violence: a disarmed person can’t shoot you.

    • Well, as the Brazilians have demonstrated – time and time and time again, that never stopped anybody…….

    • They have focused on “gun violence” to a point where they fail to recognize any other form of violence, or consider it to be of only minor importance.
      For example, the fact that so-called “assault rifles” are used in fewer homicides than “hands and feet” does not get through the wall of “reasoning by emotion” they have constructed around their heart-felt beliefs.

  3. Well it’s been my experience that the really strident proponents of gun control just do not care if the data is legit or not. Seems to be that to them they’re doing the right thing by opposing our rights. And if they have to ‘massage’ the data to get it work for them they’re just fine with that.

    • “It’s just common sense.” Who needs data when it is “obvious” that more guns means more gun violence. Data interferes with their preconceived nonevidentiary notions. I hope the Supreme Court realizes this, and the fact that gun control laws are political and not based on evidence when they rule on the issue of carry outside the home.

  4. 3 statisticians go deer hunting. #1 shoots 3 feet behind a deer. #2 shoots 3 feet ahead of the deer. #3 starts jumping up and down yelling “we got him! We got him!”

  5. I think it would take me all off 0.3766677 seconds to Google a more interesting painless way to off myself.

  6. As I started reading, I thought this was going to be a word problem.
    If Johns math SAT was 220 points lower than his English SAT, and his English SAT was double what his history SAT was and his history SAT was on a train to Chicago from St. Louis traveling at a speed of…

        • King Arthur: We found them.

          1st soldier: Found them? In Mercia? The coconut’s tropical!

          King Arthur: What do you mean?

          1st soldier: Well, this is a temperate zone

          King Arthur: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?

          1st soldier: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

          King Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.

          1st soldier: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?

          King Arthur: It could grip it by the husk!

          1st soldier: It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.

          King Arthur: Well, it doesn’t matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?

          1st soldier: Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?

          King Arthur: Please!

        • Your choice. Also, may be either NBA or ABA regulation. The same answer will be correct in all cases.

        • Roughly 1670 inflated, give or take.

          If I won, why does it feel like I still lost…

        • Good answer, but highly subjective. A lot of us have more guns than we “need”.
          Some of us even admit to that excess — then go buy another.

        • I won’t keep you in suspense.

          The answer is “All of them”.

          Now, tell me why that answer is correct.

        • Because however many will fit is “All of them.” ? Just the first thing that came to mind.

        • You can never have too many guns.

          Always remember Rule 37. There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload.”

        • Every NBA or ABA regulation ball, inflated or not, is small enough to fit in a room which has 8′ as its smallest dimension, and a total volume of 960 cubic feet.
          The question was not “How many can be stored in that room”. There is no requirement that more than one ball at a time be in the room.

          I came across a similar problem posed on-line, “How many ping-pong balls will fit in a school bus?” One poor sufferin’ bastard of an engineer attacked the problem with meticulous care, adjusting for the volume of the seats, and performing all sorts of mathematical magic. He was ready to calculate the interstitial wasted space between the ping-pong balls “for extra credit” when the solution was announced.

        • If anyone actually has an official ABA basketball, that’s a big-ticket item. Signed by Ralph Samson and George Irvine? Priceless.

        • As far as I know more than you need does not require stopping. Of course I have more toes than I need, but I darn sure ain’t cutting one of them off.

        • As far as word play goes, that’s pretty lame, because “what quantity of x” is arguably the more common interpretation of “how many x” than “how many examples of x“. In real life, when people ask “how many fit” questions, it’s pretty much always the “what quantity” kind and pretty much never the “how many examples” kind.

        • Your mind automatically made some assumptions of limitations and restrictions not in the question. You assumed that all the balls had to be “fit” into the room at the same time, when that was not stated as necessary. You put limitations and conditions on the solution that were not part of the problem statement.

          Consider the question “How many cars can fit in an 8′ wide, 15′ long garage with a door 6′ wide and 6′ high?”

          Do you assume that it is a question about how many cars may be crammed into that garage at the same time? I think answers like “Smart Car”, “Morris Minor”, “MG”, etc. automatically come to mind, while vehicles like “Hummer” and “Dodge Maxi-van” are mentally dismissed. No thought whatever about putting any cars on top of one another in that garage.

          Perhaps we see the same false assumption of restrictions in the wrongful “interpretation” of the 2nd Amendment as the “right of the Militia”, merely because the Militia was mentioned in a prefatory comment about a benefit to the Government derived from the existence of that “right of the people”.

  7. A lot of people credit Mark Twain for the ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ quote, but he actually borrowed that line from Benjamin Disraeli.

  8. I was once “discussing” guns with someone. They cited the number of people killed each year by firearms, to which I pointed out how many were suicides (you know the drill). At that point they declared, that I may be interested to know that suicide by firearm was higher than all other methods combined (its not its equal to, but fair point). To which I asked, given that suicide numbers are near constant, regardless of method, which methods would they prefer people used? Conversation abruptly ended.

  9. actually, so…. pills. Guns are falling out of fashion as a suicide tool. Prior to around 1968, other methods were more common than guns. 1968 they surpassed 50%. In fact, before WWII the firearms share of suicide methods was under 40% (30-38% in the 1930s).

    Now, thank’s to the internet there are entire sites devoted to suicide instructions. I’m sure we would not want to restrict the 1st amendment now would we.

  10. In the immortal words of Eric Cartman, “Frickin’ hybrids, man. They just don’t do the job anymore.”

  11. People also forget that unless you have your cleaning kit out, it’ll be pretty obvious that a person used their gun to commit suicide. A person who jumps off a bridge, overdoses on pills, drives his car into a concrete barrier, or just flat out drinks themselves to death will all be labeled accidental deaths unless they wrote a note.

    If I ever decide to go nuts and off myself, I’m doing it by jumping off a cliff with a bunch of rubber ducks and a set of fake wings. 😀

    • I’ll jump out of an airplane, without a parachute, in a Superman costume over a heavily populated city.

      • holy Cr@p im in tears over here from that one AND wiping up coffee from the keyboard and lcd screen

        ^^ +100

      • Well! I highly recommend keyboard covers. They should use me in a commercial for one. Shiraz, no problem. Rinses right off!

      • “OK then, was this a case of `suicide by cop’?”

        “Must have been. He was wearing a dog costume & frolicking around in somebody’s front yard. The homeowner naturally called 911, and, well…….you see what happened.”

        “The officer who shot him is terribly disappointed and feels cheated.”

        • “…And the three who missed him were really upset until they found the dead collie in the next yard. Now they’re arguing over credit for that one….”

      • To add to the disguise, sniff at a fire plug, then lift your leg and wet it down.

        If that doesn’t get a cop’s attention, you could always hump his leg.

  12. You really can’t go the carbon monoxide route anymore? I wonder how many people try and fail. Boy, are their faces red.

  13. I got a car you can kill yourself with. It’s a 1974 Cutlass with a beefed up 455.
    Breath that cars exhaust and make Kevorkian proud!

  14. Don’t feel bad, my SAT math score was also 220 less than my verbal, though my verbal was in the upper 700’s.

  15. Mr. Krafft is man of the fin? Never knew… Bruce, what was your rate, brother? Glad to know we’re not *quite* as rare as unicorn farts, and A-ganger’s that aren’t miserable.

  16. Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

    Mark Twain

  17. My Stats Prof at the U of Wis actually had a end of class segment by that name.
    Where he would give examples.
    My favorite graph lie:
    to show volatility, stretch vertical, compress horizontal
    to show stability do the opposite.
    Same data for the graphs visually implies the opposite conclusion.
    With the same data you could make Colorado look like Kansas.

    • There is no discernible difference between eastern Colorado and any part of Kansas. Even the highest place in Kansas, Mt. Sunflower, is impossible to discern from the surrounding terrain.

    • Your prof’s point was that it is not statistics itself that is “lying,” but the misuse of the statistics that’s the problem.

      Such misuse and manipulation only works on those that don’t understand the math. Unfortunately, that’s a huge percentage of our population.

      I’ve tried to teach my children that “Math is a weapon that people will use to try to manipulate you. They believe you do not, or worse, CAN NOT understand it, so they misrepresent the math in hopes you’ll never notice.”

      Properly used statistics (as is generally found in refereed hard science and medical papers) is not, and cannot be a lie.

    • Yes, and she is remembered far more for the manner of her death than for her literary output. Tried reading one of her autobiographies disguised as fiction. It was terribly depressing; I had just turned thirty myself & was not having a good year. I turned toward the kitchen stove & opened the oven door then realized I lived in an all electric home.

  18. I’ve stopped accepting statistics as a valid argument in politics. If you can’t make your case in logical terms, it’s probably not worth listening to.

    • Pure statistics is nothing but mathematical logic.

      The word “statistics” has been diluted in pop culture. It’s like the word “normal.”

      Just because the word (like many others) has been co-opted by those seeking to manipulate does not make the field any less intellectually rigorous.

      The problem lies entirely with the fact that most people do not understand what stats really IS and those that seek to exploit that ignorance.

      Weather men with the way they word their “forecasts” don’t help.

      • Statistics is a discipline that is all too often perverted to deceptive purposes.
        Rather than say
        “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”,

        perhaps it would be better to say
        “Figures don’t lie, but liars know how to figure”.

  19. Whilst waiting for my comment above to be moderated (whats up with that? no more links allowed?)…

    Let me substitute just a couple words- this helpful bit of advice probably comes right out of Ms Watts former Monsanto PR playbook, and the touching concern for Mommies and their feelings ought to be easily applied, logic-wise, to Everytown…

    The (food and biotech) gun rights industry should take notice that, rather than just reacting to misleading information from (radical environmentalist) anti-gun groups, they need to do a better job of explaining to moms about the safety of (GMO) guns. This is more than just good business: Women deserve to hear the good news about the studies confirming the safety of (GMOs) guns — and the bad news about the costs of needless regulation. Busy moms have enough to worry about and will welcome getting (GMOs) guns off their already-long list of concerns.

  20. if for some odd reason the comment above the preview doesnt go thru moderation –
    just google national review biotechs mommy issue julie gunlock…

    more good commentary on the value of statistics in National Reviews comments section.

  21. You could poke fun at “news” media prog-tards and their parasites for hire in the PR industry
    (Ms Watts are you here, dear?)

    and their sheeple/low info voter host creatures all day…

    But its just too easy and doesnt pay the bills, sadly.

  22. Remember too, that badly worded poll questions results are often call “statistics”.
    How many deaths of a certain kind per 1,000 is different than 79% of respondants feel that background checks would make us safer.
    Deaths per 1,000 is a hard number while background checks have not been shown to make us safer.
    As JR pointed out above, they hope since both are numbers that you will not realize the difference and then assume that “feelings” somehow make things so.

  23. “it’s nearly impossible to kill yourself with automotive carbon monoxide anymore. There isn’t enough of the gas in a modern car’s emissions.”

    How modern?? My girlfriend did just that about 15 years ago. She planned it all out. She was alone in a closed garage with sleeping pills and alcohol. She never woke up.

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