Monday, December 24, 2012

How can we believe anything?

Mother Jones Magazine
In the wake of the slaughters this summer at a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 62 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.

Ann Coulter
This will come as a shock to people who know something about the subject.

The magazine reaches its conclusion by simply excluding all cases where an armed civilian stopped the shooter: They looked only at public shootings where four or more people were killed, i.e., the ones where the shooter wasn't stopped.
Now how is the average person supposed to know who to believe?  One is clearly full of sh*t, but how can someone tell which one?

Similar examples can be pulled from any subject and any issue, so how are we supposed to know who to believe?


On any issue?

Every time someone uses any data to back their claim we need to question it.

John Lott was a guest on Piers Morgan's CNN show recently.  Here is a quote from Morgan:
I'm sorry, but that's just a complete lie. It's a complete lie. The gun murder rate in Britain is 35 a year, average. You need to stop repeating a blatant lie, about what happens in other countries.  [cross talk]  No, you're not going to get away with this. You lied about it the other day. Thirty-five gun murders a year in Britain, eleven to twelve thousand in America. Stop lying, because what you say drives Americans to defend themselves.
Here we have a CNN show host calling a guest a liar, and then claiming that average number of murders in Britain is 35 a year.  Here is the data from the UK government:


Can you point to a year when the number of murders in Britain was ever as low as 35 in a year?  And that doesn't take into account the fact that the number of all murders, not just those that involved guns, went up dramatically since they banned guns.

A supposedly unbiased CNN news host calls a guest a liar and then makes numbers up.

How are we supposed to believe anything?

(It would be nice if journalists were non-partisan fact finders, but I doubt that many of those exist anymore.  If they ever did.)

And you need to remember to look out for the data that lists "gun incidents," or similar.  Those studies often include all incidents involving guns, even those where the gun saved the day.  If a mugger with a knife threatens some guy and the guy draws a gun and scares the mugger away, then that incident will often be included in the number of gun incidents, and will make the data look like there is more gun crime then there actually is.

How can we trust anything?  How can we believe anybody?


I may be too partisan, and too pro-gun, to impartially decide a winner from between the two quotes that opened this post, but I find it hard to argue with the rest of what Ann said:
If we care about reducing the number of people killed in mass shootings, shouldn't we pay particular attention to the cases where the aspiring mass murderer was prevented from getting off more than a couple rounds?

It would be like testing the effectiveness of weed killers, but refusing to consider any cases where the weeds died.

In addition to the Portland mall case, here are a few more examples excluded by the Mother Jones' methodology:

-- Mayan Palace Theater, San Antonio, Texas, this week: Jesus Manuel Garcia shoots at a movie theater, a police car and bystanders from the nearby China Garden restaurant; as he enters the movie theater, guns blazing, an armed off-duty cop shoots Garcia four times, stopping the attack. Total dead: Zero.

-- Winnemucca, Nev., 2008: Ernesto Villagomez opens fire in a crowded restaurant; concealed carry permit-holder shoots him dead. Total dead: Two. (I'm excluding the shooters' deaths in these examples.)

-- Appalachian School of Law, 2002: Crazed immigrant shoots the dean and a professor, then begins shooting students; as he goes for more ammunition, two armed students point their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: Three.

-- Santee, Calif., 2001: Student begins shooting his classmates -- as well as the "trained campus supervisor"; an off-duty cop who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day points his gun at the shooter, holding him until more police arrive. Total dead: Two.

-- Pearl High School, Mississippi, 1997: After shooting several people at his high school, student heads for the junior high school; assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieves a .45 pistol from his car and points it at the gunman's head, ending the murder spree. Total dead: Two.

-- Edinboro, Pa., 1998: A student shoots up a junior high school dance being held at a restaurant; restaurant owner pulls out his shotgun and stops the gunman. Total dead: One.

By contrast, the shootings in gun-free zones invariably result in far higher casualty figures -- Sikh temple, Oak Creek, Wis. (six dead); Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (32 dead); Columbine High School, Columbine, Colo. (12 dead); Amish school, Lancaster County, Pa. (five little girls killed); public school, Craighead County, Ark. (five killed, including four little girls).

All these took place in gun-free zones, resulting in lots of people getting killed -- and thereby warranting inclusion in the Mother Jones study.
If what we care about is saving the lives of innocent human beings by reducing the number of mass public shootings and the deaths they cause, only one policy has ever been shown to work: concealed-carry laws. On the other hand, if what we care about is self-indulgent grandstanding, and to hell with dozens of innocent children being murdered in cold blood, try the other policies.


  1. I was once like you. Read my experience:

    It's a big waste of time trying to track down facts and figures. Just assume the MSM is lying. Just assume a feminist with a new study "proving" this or that and a gun control advocate citing stats which "prove" this or that are all liars, because they are. They have proven it with their words for decades.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. An interesting article. I'm sure that we could add to your list of known liars, global warming enthusiasts for example.

      Merry Christmas to you too.