# Correlations

Spend much time debating gun rights on-line, and you’ll be told that “stronger” gun laws correlate to better outcomes in terms of deaths.

All right, let’s find out. I’m drawing data from the following sources:

1. Homicide rates by state, 2013: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

Numbers are homicides per 100,000.

2. Suicide rates by state, 2012: http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/suicide

Numbers are suicides per 100,000.

Their methods are their own, but since they are opposed to gun rights, I presume that their scoring favors gun control over loose gun laws.

Both graphs use an X axis with values from 0 to 4 and a Y axis from 0 to 30. The X values are keyed to a four-point grade scale:

A: 4
A-: 3.75
B+: 3.25
B: 3
B-: 2.75
C+: 2.25
C: 2
C-: 1.75
D+: 1.25
D: 1
D-: 0.75
F: 0

The Y numbers are suicides or homicides per 100,000.

First the homicide numbers compared to the Brady score:

Notice the lack of a pattern, other than groups of states with the same gun laws having homicide rates at wild variance from each other? If the Brady Bunch were correct, there should be a strong correlation, not nothing.

Now let’s consider the suicide numbers:

Here, there is a low negative correlation, though as with homicide rates, the large grouping at X = 0 is significant.

Of course, as any student of statistics knows, correlation doesn’t imply causation. But if there is causation, there must be correlation. The lack of correlation in homicide rates and the weak correlation in suicide rates demonstrates that we cannot claim that the strictness of gun laws determines lives saved.

Feel free to share this next time you’re dealing with someone promoting gun control.

# Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

In marketing, the term, F.U.D., shows up from time to time. Those letters stand for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It’s a strategy used to keep people from accepting a new product or proposal by making people afraid to change from some old and settled way of doing things. But these days, this concept is used more generally to discuss attempts in a debate to sow F.U.D. against an idea without bothering to show any actual errors in facts and logic.

One example of this can be found in debates on-line about gun rights:

### 1.  What are you afraid of?

Say that you carry a handgun for self-defense, and someone will ask you what you’re afraid of. It’s an inevitability, just like questions about penis size and other silly examples of ad hominem fallacies. But in addition to mocking a supporter of rights, the purpose of the question is to create fear in the minds of undecided people about those of us who are exercising our rights. The insinuation is that you wouldn’t want fearful and thus unstable people running around in public, now would you.

But let’s consider the data. Violent crime certainly does occur. The rate is down from years gone by, but attacks on good citizens do still occur. Preparing for a potential bad event is not fear. It’s a rational calculation.

On the other hand, carry license holders commit crimes at rates much lower than the average population. Consider these numbers on people who legally carry in Texas. Year after year, license holders represent a fraction of one percent of convictions. These data match reporting across the whole nation.

### 2.  But how can we know?

How can we know that a person with a gun is a good person and not a bad person? We can spend endless hours debating epistemology, but specifically on this question, the essence of American values is the belief that human beings are good until proved otherwise. Asking how can we trust someone with the exercise of basic rights betrays the kind of attitude found in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, a view that we must be strictly controlled to restrain our evil natures. That is a reasonable view to hold–one that I certainly don’t accept, though–but it is fundamentally contrary to the principle underlying a free society.

### 3.  What if I don’t believe you?

In many discussions, there comes a point at which someone rejects not only interpretations based on judgements but facts as well. The facts about guns in the United States are mixed, leaving both sides the opportunity to have valid positions derived from their values–freedom or safety–without being compelled to choose one answer or another to be intellectually honest. For example, some 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshots, while something like 80,000 suffer non-fatal injuries. At the same time, hundred of thousands use firearms to defend their lives annually. But facts have an unyielding quality that creates cognitive dissonance in the minds of people not willing to ground their beliefs in reality.

So what do we do? We have to admit that we can’t reach everyone, but we can persuade those who are undecided, and we might persuade some who haven’t thought things through. My choice is to advocate for basic rights, a view I call eleutherianism.

# That Chewing Sensation…

Life occasionally offers us delicious examples of comeuppances to our enemies. Recent events have provided two in quick succession:

I hope you weren’t eating. But we need a reminder. This is Dianne Feinstein, U. S. senator from the State of California. Those of us who care about rights are well versed in her dedication to tyranny, but just in case some of my readers have missed the memo, here’s what she told 60 Minutes:

More recently, she’s taken time off from pushing gun control to criticize the actions of Edward Snowden, accusing him of treason. She has no problem with the NSA spying on American citizens.

But in the last few days, she’s swung around so fast that I’m surprised her hair isn’t on backward. It seems that the CIA had the nerve to spy on the Senate. And that’s too much for her highness. Has she become a born-again good citizen, ready to protect our rights? I doubt it. But it is pleasant to see her cooked in her own sauces.

This story recalls the tale of the frog and the scorpion. The scorpion asks the frog for a ride across a river, and though the frog is suspicious, he allows the scorpion on his back. The scorpion stings the frog in midstream, explaining that such an act is in its nature. The characteristic of spy agencies is that they spy. It’s the job of legislators to provide oversight, not carte blanche, but when someone like Feinstein falls down in her duty, she has only herself to blame when she is on the receiving end of violations.

She’s not alone, though, in experiencing a comeuppance. Blowhard British loudmouth, Piers Morgan–this fellow:

is set to have his show, Piers Morgan Live, cancelled by CNN. Morgan developed a reputation for telling Americans how we should run our country and for shouting over his guests who didn’t meekly agree with his every comment. And lo! his ratings plummeted.

Now he’s welcome to express himself however he chooses, but at the same time, we’re not under any obligation to listen to him.

These two deserve each other:

With any luck, they can buy an island and inhabit it together, monitoring each other’s activities and explaining to each other how they are superior to the rest of us.

Barring that, we can enjoy seeing them wake up to the chomping sensation in their bums. Feinstein and Morgan, what you’re feeling is called life biting you in the arse. Since sitting will be difficult for you, how about joining us in standing up for our rights?

# What to Do

In discussions about gun violence on news sites and gun control blogs, I’m often asked what my solution to the problem is.

The incident at Newtown, Connecticut brings particular poignancy to this question.

First, let’s put this problem into perspective. The current U.S. population is somewhat over 318,000,000, according to the Census. Adding in non-resident visitors and uncounted aliens and rounding for ease of calculation, I’m calling it 320,000,000. Of that number, roughly 30,000 die per annum from gunshot, of which deaths two-thirds are suicides. That works out to 4.7 / 100,000, a rate that we hadn’t seen since the early 1960s.

The chart here shows data from 1976 on.

This means that your chances of dying by gunfire in America in raw numbers are one in about 10,600. If you don’t shoot yourself, your chances improve to one in 32,000. The numbers vary from city to city, but in our centers of population, murder victims tend in large percentages to be people with criminal records themselves, so if you’re not a criminal, your odds get even better.

But certainly, 30,000 is too many. The answer to this problem in the eyes of some is gun control, but as regular readers know, that is something that I regard as a violation of the rights of good people. Is there another answer?

Submitted for your consideration are my suggestions for reducing violence of all types, including firearms violence, in this country:

1. End the War on Drugs.

We’ve had a number of efforts at prohibition of substances, going all the way back to attempts at drying up the nation in the nineteenth century, but our current efforts at banning classes of entertaining drugs other than tobacco and alcohol got going for serious in the 1970s. In the forty years since, we’ve wasted a trillion dollars, and half of all federal prisoners are in for drug crimes.

As we saw in the 1920s during the Prohibition of alcohol, we are seeing again: Banning a substance only encourages criminal smuggling, gang warfare, collateral damage, and the ruining of lives of many who merely possess the forbidden fruit. Addiction should be treated as an illness, not a crime, and all recreational substances should be regulated in the manner that our two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, are. All who were convicted for mere possession should be immediately released and pardoned to remove the stigma of a criminal record.

2. Incarcerate violent offenders for longer terms.

Once drugs cease to be a criminal matter, we will solve the problem of overcrowded prisons. This will create room for violent offenders. Criminals who use a firearm in the commission of a crime can have extra time added to their sentences.

3. Improve schools.

As a teacher, I’ve gone on at length here about education reform. To sum up, we need to spend more money to pay teachers what they’re worth, to reduce class sizes, to repair and upgrade facilities, and to offer a wider selection of classes. The goal here is to provide all students with a chance to succeed. It seems obvious, but the more educated a population is, the less crime that population commits.

4. Improve access to mental health services–with the caveat that privacy must be protected.

In these incidents of mass shootings, some shooters are seeking revenge against those whom they perceive as having wronged them, but the typical case is a young, white, male, loner with mental health problems. Unfortunately, such individuals don’t often see themselves as needing treatment. I suspect that part of their reluctance involves a fear of being reported, so making privacy a guarantee is important. Of course, young men who head down the road to becoming a mass shooter reach a point of no return. That leads me to the next two points.

5. Stop making these shooters stars.

As author and space scientist, David Brin, argues, we should treat these mass shooters in the same manner as the Ephesians wished to treat the arsonist who burned down the Temple of Artemis. His name was to be erased and never recalled again. This, of course, will require the voluntary cooperation of news organizations, since we cannot do right by violating rights. But as long as America has a love affair with wacko killers, those nutcases will have motivation.

Here in America, the intellectual loner is not a popular type. But a core value of our nation is that we all should be free to express our own individuality. That is one of the key messages that should be taught until the concept is absorbed. We can be ourselves without demeaning others. At the least, it should be clear that attacking others will not be tolerated.

But there’s more. We’ve created a culture in schools where someone who acts in self-defense is treated the same way as the person who started the fight. One solution to this is to teach martial arts–Krav Maga, for example, since it’s free of the religious overtones of Eastern systems–and make it clear that human beings, even students, have the right to stop physical violence used against them.

These are my answers to the problem, realistically assessed, of violence in our society. We will not eliminate all of it. Violence is in human nature, and Americans are more violent as a culture than other societies, but we can go a long way along reducing it. And we can do so without violating our rights.

# How Many Do You Need?

One common meme among the gun control freaks is the idea that a gun’s magazine should be allowed to hold no more than ten rounds. (Or seven, if you have the misfortune to live in New York.) Things like this:

send them the vapors. And if you have the temerity to say that round limits make no sense, they will sneer that you must be a bad shot if you need more than ten rounds to drop a deer.

There are many things wrong with this point of view:

1. Hunting

In many states, hunters are limited to five rounds, not ten, indicating what the control freaks would like to see, perhaps–on their way to banning everything, that is. But the constant reference to deer shows a lack of awareness about what firearms are for. Yes, hunting is one purpose. Self-defense is another. To bring hunting into every discussion implies that this use is the only acceptable purpose to which a firearm may be put. However, people defend their lives with firearms, and that needs to be considered.

2. Power

Not all cartridges are equal, and handgun rounds are much less powerful than rifle rounds. In fact, while a handgun can be used to good effect, unlike what Hollywood wants us to believe, one shot is unlikely to get the job done. A woman in Atlanta, for example, fired six shots at a home invader, five of which hit the man in the face and neck, and he was able to get away, only to be caught later when the cops finally arrived in the area. The woman’s revolver was a .38 Special, a common and worthy self-defense piece. Whatever the typical effect of X rounds of Y caliber happens to be, in this case, five weren’t enough. Had there been a second invader, even more would have been needed.

3. Defense

The attacker chooses the time and place of the attack. But we as good citizens are obliged to wait. This gives the attacker a tactical advantage. The gun control freaks ask me how many rounds I need. A good answer to that is that I don’t know. That’s precisely the condition that a defender is in. Before the action starts, there is often no way to anticipate how many attackers there will be or how many rounds will be required. The reports that I’ve seen suggest that a gunfight will be over most of the time after three or four shots, which is why I accept necessity and carry only one gun and a spare magazine, typically, but that is not a guarantee. While we all make concessions to what’s practical, I see no reason to tell you how many rounds you may have.

4. Rights

When gun control freaks ask me why I need X number of rounds, my answer is that the question is wrong-headed. I don’t have to justify to the government why I want so many of whatever. It’s the government’s job to explain what need it has for requesting me to limit myself and beg my permission to enact such a limit.

But since some people are obsessed with limiting magazines to ten rounds, I have a proposal: Let’s make it a separate crime to use a magazine of more than ten rounds in the commission of another crime and apply an extra ten-year sentence for using such a magazine in a criminal act. That way, we all may have as many rounds as we find appropriate, but those who misuse a firearm will receive additional punishment for their evil ways.

# Rules for Thee, But Not for Me

On my favorite gun control blog, Mikeb302000, I ran across an article on the latest abuse of power by a mayor in New York. And no, it’s not Michael Bloomberg.

Apparently, the mayor of Rochester, one Lovely Warren:

has decided that she needs two armed bodyguards, including one who is her uncle. This, of course, is what she needs, but she supported the New York SAFE Act, a gun control measure that places new infringements on the already violated rights of New Yorkers to own and carry guns.

Hypocrisy, much? Abuse of power, perhaps?

And so, with apologies to Alan Jay Lerner, I present to you, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”

All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the unwashed air
In my mayorial chair.
Oh, wouldnâ€™t it be loverly?

Lots of chocolates for me to eat,
Bodyguards all packing heat,
Including Uncle Reggie sweet.
Oh, wouldnâ€™t it be loverly?

Oh, my people abso-blooming-lutely disarmed,
And I wonâ€™t ever budge to help
No matter how much theyâ€™re harmed.

The peopleâ€™s rights resting in my hands,
My oath of office flows away like sand,
Corrupted power makes me feel so grand.
Oh. wouldnâ€™t it be loverly?

Loverly, loverly, wouldnâ€™t it be loverly?

# Freedom!

Two reports from NPR caught my attention this year. We are told that 2013 was both the gayest year ever and the year that gun control freaks lost big.

With that in mind, I post the logo of the Pink Pistols:

As a straight man, that image and motto please me no end. I talk about gun rights and gay rights a good deal on this weblog. That’s because I favor the freedom of the individual.

Another beautiful result of this year is that marijuana is becoming more and more legal in this country and elsewhere.

While I’m pessimistic by nature, these victories of freedom give me hope. We’re learning more and more that letting people make their own choices is fundamentally a good idea. If those choices harm innocents, we have laws to deal with that, but otherwise, the wisdom of a free society is that when people are making decisions on their own, they come up with solutions to problems that a rigid society can’t produce.

Next year promises to be an opportunity for new victories for freedom. But as we’ve seen in places like Egypt, people must keep the pressure on governments to do the right thing, to defend the freedom of us all. Take heart, and stand up.

# First or Second?

The Huffington Post continues its several-weeks-long rant against gun rights today in an article titled, “Protecting Second Amendment While Trampling the First.” The author, one Ken Toltz, claims that those of us who defend gun rights are violating the free speech and free press rights of those who are against us.

His argument is that we gun-rights supporters have been too loud in our opposition to gun control. He reminds us that Dick Metcalf, once of Guns & Ammo was let go because he pushed gun restrictions in an editorial, and he brings up the open carry protest that was organized outside a restaurant that some Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America whiners were visiting.

Really? That’s all?

Metcalf wrote an article in a magazine devoted to guns and gun owners. Should it come as a surprise to him that the readers didn’t appreciate his support for gun control? But in what way has he been prevented from expressing his opinion? His story has been told by the news media again and again, and he remains free to speak his mind on blogs, in magazines that will have him, and anywhere else that he cares to speak. All that he was denied is the one outlet where his views don’t match the readership.

Regarding the Moms for Gun Bans, if you can’t stand a counterprotest, too bad. The attitude of gun control freaks, one that I have observed repeatedly in debates with them, is that anyone who disagrees with their position is either too stupid for consideration or a bully. It’s the same kind of thing that gets stereotyped in movies about Southern mamas. Whenever someone says something that mama doesn’t like, she gasps and faints. Fortunately, we do not live in that matriarchal tyranny any more. Moms have to provide the same facts and logic that everyone else must offer to win a debate.

But the strangest claim of all of Toltz’s screed is that gun-rights supporters are shutting down the debate. Seriously? Has the media been silent about gun control? Have gun control blogs disappeared? Has The Huffington Post been prevented from advocacy? A short survey will show you that the answer to these questions is no.

Over the years of writing this weblog, I’ve declared my love of both the right of free expression and free speech and of gun rights. I find it bizarre for someone to use one right to call for the violation of another, but that’s what you must be able to do in a free society.

And that’s the limit of what you should be able to do. When it comes to making laws that violate the rights of others, talk is all you have a right to. We who support gun rights will talk. Some of us, myself included, more than others. But action, when it is correct, defends rights.

# So Much Effort for So Much Failure

There’s been a lively discussion going on at The Huffington Post on the subject of gun control. It is encouraging to note that even at a left-leaning site such as the HuffnPuff, a large number of the commenters are in favor of gun rights.

But the magazine presses on, posting one article after another to stir up its readers to support violating our rights. As readers of this weblog know, I am strongly on the side of the right of all good citizens to own and carry firearms. With that in mind, I want to explain why gun control can never work in America.

1. The number of guns

A variety of sources say that there are some 300,000,000 guns in private hands in this country, perhaps more. That’s about one gun for every person here. The favorite example of gun control freaks is Great Britain, but the British history with gun control is vastly different from ours. The Land of Hope and Glory became the land of gun control at the time when semiautomatic firearms were being introduced to the public in large numbers. Whether you like gun control or not (I don’t), you have to admit that restricting things from the start is much more effective than trying to close up the gun warehouse after we’ve got ours out the door. Given the number of guns and their durability, gun control is impractical here.

2. Our long borders

The United States has long borders. Some 1,900 miles with Mexico, and many more miles of sea coast. The flood of contraband that crosses those borders is unstoppable. As was pointed out in the film, Countdown to Zero, if a terrorist wanted to bring nuclear material into this country, all he’d have to do is hide it in bags of cocaine. But drugs can be sniffed by dogs, and radioactive material detected by Geiger counters. Guns, especially when taken apart, are metal machines with no distinct signature, unless each part gets inspected. Even if all our guns could be removed in a day or in a hundred years, more will quickly fill the void. The first to get new guns would then be the worst people to have them.

3. Technological maturity

Firearms designs are widely available and easy to follow by anyone with mechanical skill and a machine shop. These days, even plastic guns can be made by using 3-D printers.

4. The Second Amendment

Given the text of that amendment and the rulings of the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald, the only way to achieve the full measure of gun control that advocates desire is a repeal through an additional amendment. That requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states or a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures. Given that the gun laws of forty out of the fifty states are basically the same and basically favorable to gun rights, repealing the Second Amendment is unlikely. Yes, future courts could overrule the two gun-rights rulings, but the precedent has been established, so judicial changes are also improbable.

5. Americans

America is a gun culture. And we don’t take well to outsiders telling us what to do–especially when those outsiders are politicians. Consider the effect of Obamacare in the 2010 election. The Affordable Care Act was a poorly conceived attempt at bringing healthcare to everyone. There were better solutions. But it was an example of politicians having their wishes in the right place. Imagine the furor that would arise over an attempt to violate our gun rights. Actually, we don’t have to imagine. The fact that background checks failed and two Colorado state senators were recalled while a third resigned after supporting gun control shows the mood of Americans.

None of this means that we can relax our vigilance. But it should give courage to those who support the rights of Americans. This is a battle that we can win, that we are winning, and that we must win.

# Rights Are Rights

Recently, I watched the Ken Burns documentary, Prohibition. It was typical for Burns’s work, quotations from ordinary people about their lives, talking heads one after another to tell us what it’s all about, and a heavy dose of earnestness. But one thing stood out for me–namely, the link between the prohibition of alcohol and the women’s suffrage movement.

Now, I’d known about that before, but in thinking about it while watching the film, I was struck by how the push for recognizing one type of right

was tied to the denial of another.

In fact, votes for women were delayed in part because women’s suffrage and temperance leagues were so closely related.

But that wasn’t the only questionable link. The Ku Klux Klan also supported votes for women, given their common interest in banning alcohol.

But why should that matter? Unsavory characters sometimes endorse good candidates and good ideas, and politics is the mother of strange bedfellows, as the saying goes. The problem, though, is the expansion of one kind of freedom at the expense of another.

Pay attention to that last sentence. By no means am I saying that women should be denied the right to vote. It is the right of all citizens to participate in the running of their country. At the same time, there is a basic dissonance in demanding your own rights be recognized while seeking to deny rights to others.

Is drinking alcohol a right? I’ve discussed the subject of rights many times before. Regular readers will have seen my discussion of gun rights in particular. But on what basis can we ground a given right?

The old answer was that God gives us our rights, though that answer no longer satisfies the modern world. A more recent model is that society grants us rights by consensus, but this is especially insufficient, since whatever society decides to give, society can also take away, as the twentieth century reminded us all too often.

My solution to this question is to say that rights are an expression of our power to choose. As an individual, I am able to make decisions for myself. I can act autonomously. As long as I am not harming innocent others, I must be free to do as I wish, and the same goes for you, Dear Reader. This is why many things ought not to be subject to a vote. We have no business directing the private choices of others, and we must employ the lightest of touches when guiding actions in public.

An example of how this is forgotten is found in Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fund and frequent author on The Huffington Post. She advocates for protection and aid of children, and in that, she has a noble cause. When she ventures into pushing gun control, however, she commits the same error that the suffragists did a century ago in wanting to curtail some rights to support others.

Better it is to seek to do good unmixed than to mingle good with evil. We do not defend one right by violating another. We do not breathe life into one right by strangling a different right. And when we permit one right to be denied, we deny them all.

Enough seriousness. Lift a glass, and celebrate freedom.