Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Guns are Bad News for Women?" Huh ... - Part I

There is a blog that I have begun commenting on regularly after being directed there from another blog that I read. The author takes a strong stand for gun control for the safety of society as a whole. In spite of having facts presented to him which show his theories are wrong, he refuses to believe them and rarely provides any facts to back it up.

Recently he wrote a post about how "guns are bad news for women". You'll have to read his post to make some sense of the rest of this blog, as I don't want to re-post it here. As part of it he includes a table from David Hemenway's book "Private Guns Public Health." This table he cites as the proof to show that guns are bad for women. Since I am on a business trip with nothing to do in the evening, I thought I would take some time to dispute the position that he has taken. First let me make some objections to his conclusions.

"But what it [the table] shows is that where there are guns, there are more incidents of gun violence"
Actually, what this table shows is that the same tool (a firearm) can be used to create death in a variety of ways. And that when there are more of that tool, then there are more of those deaths.

"It's a sad fact that in America, women are brutalized by men too often, but what this chart shows is that when there's a gun in the house, it becomes lethal."
1) America isn't the only place in the world where men brutalize women. It's a sad fact everywhere. 2) If one women is brutalized it is too many. 3) This chart doesn't have anything to do with a gun in the home. The data set used does not take into account whether the gun that was used in the incident was in the home.

"The total figures on suicides indicate that the gun is especially effective."
This is actually a well known fact, guns are much more effective for committing suicide than many (not all) other means. What that tells me is that if someone wants to kill themselves, they use a gun; if someone wants to cry for help/get attention, they use a less lethal means.

The problem that Hemenway and mikb have is that they assume that guns are the cause of three problems with very different causal factors and then advocate removing the guns to solve the problem. So let's go through some logic.

Guns are inanimate objects. They can cause nothing. If left alone (even loaded), they will remain in that position until they have deteriorated away. I have a bed in my house, almost every time I lay down on it I go to sleep. Most Americans have the same issue, yet we would be absolutely foolish to say that the bed causes us to sleep. Our bodies cause us to sleep. Likewise we wouldn't even suggest that people without beds don't sleep.

Guns are tools. They have been specifically designed to propel a small piece of lead at high velocities in a mostly straight line (neglecting gravity). Like many other tools they have been used to provide food, entertainment, relaxation, and mayhem. People's fists have too.

So lets briefly go over the three areas that are in this table. Homicide is where one person kills another person. This is an act of anger or rage. Biologists have found that most species on the planet are reluctant to kill one of their own. Studies by the US military found the same thing and have spent decades conditioning soldiers to override this innate programming. We have become very effective.

Suicide is when someone kills themselves. Almost 75% more people die from suicide than die from homicide. More than 90% of people who attempted suicide or committed suicide had a mental illness (this includes depression).

Accidents happen. Sometimes it is from lack of knowledge, sometimes it is from carelessness. The more of something there is that are involved in accidents (cars, guns, matches, etc) without the corresponding training (notice that qualifier), the more accidents there will be.

If guns were the cause of all three of these, or even a major contributor, then the simple removal of guns would drastically decrease or eliminate these problems. It is obvious to state that removing all guns would eliminate all gun murders, gun suicides, and gun accidents. If gun murders, suicides, and accidents are much more nefarious than other types of murders, suicides, and accidents then eliminating them might (notice the qualifier) be advantageous. However, if the problem does not lie with the inanimate object, but the person wielding that object than all elimination would do is change the object. The problem still remains.

More in Part II.

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