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View Diary: Statistics, Guns, and Wishful Thinking (106 comments)

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  •  Suicides are counted in gun control arguments (0+ / 0-)

    for the same reason homicides are.

    The suicidal impulse is often quite brief in duration, as is the homicidal impulse.

    It's a lot of work, to, say, hang yourself, and the success rate is mixed.   Likewise, beating somebody to death is hard physical work that gives you a lot of time to change your mind in the middle of it.

    The time period required for a suicide/homicide to pull a handgun from his holster and shoot himself/somebody else is measured in seconds.   Just a very brief impulse.

    If you have to go hunting for the gun,  you have a minute or three to change your mind.   So even a shotgun, loaded, in the garage will slow you down.

    If you have to load the gun, it slows things down.

    If you have to take off your shoe to shoot yourself with a shotgun (or rig up some other method) it slows things down.

    Ditto trigger locks, gun safes and all that.

    If someone with a suicidal/homicidal feeling has to go to the room with the safe, open the safe, remove the trigger lock, load the weapon and contort himself to shoot himself (or others) with a long arm, he has more time to reflect on his actions and have the impulse pass.

    Also guns are counted for suicides because the success rate is higher than most other both the chance of changing your mind is less, plus the chance of actually killing yourself or someone else is higher than with alternative methods.

    •  Asia proves you wrong. Suicide and the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theatre goon, oldpunk, KVoimakas, hagagaga

      availability of specific means to perform it are not correlated.

      Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

      by Robobagpiper on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 04:11:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And this correlation is assumed, not proven (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KVoimakas, hagagaga, theatre goon

      The only way to reasonably include suicides in message-neutral "hazard of firearm ownership" is to include only excess suicides.

      That is, if X% of the non-gun owning population commits suicide, total, and Y% of the gun-owning population does the same, only (Y-X)% can really be argued to measure an additional risk factor. Additionally, one has to discover as best as possible, was the gun specifically purchased for the suicide? If not, the incidental presence of the gun in the household was not a risk factor, since the suicide motivated the gun, not vice versa.

      The fact is, not all people who commit suicide in a household with a gun do so with a gun; nor do people without guns when the decision is made find it impossible to use one for suicide. The method of suicide apparently follows gender lines (men seem to prefer "quick", women "clean"), but even that isn't so simple.

      Either way, simply positing that the immediate presence of a means to commit suicide is a major contributing factor to the decision to do so belittles and patronizes those who commit suicide and their decision-making process.

      While it may well appear from the outside that suicides are sudden and come from nowhere (even to near relatives), this has more to do with the refusal of those experiencing suicidal thoughts to share them with friends and family than any suddenness of their onset. The notion that the suicidal are naifs who kill themselves on impulse, and thus could be stopped if their dangerous toys were taken away, is insulting to them, and unhelpful to the underlying conditions or circumstances that drive it.

      Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

      by Robobagpiper on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 06:02:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are correct in your main argument (0+ / 0-)

        Essentially somebody determined to commit suicide will likely find a way.  That would be the "Y" in your equation, although given that most methods are a bit slower and less certain, "Y" would be reduced slightly by the cases where they wake up in a hospital instead of dying and then respond to attempts to treat whatever the cause of their suicidal impulse was.

        While not all suicides are impulsive, indeed I'm willing to postulate that the majority are not, some are.  In particular people at the low end of bipolar, or who are suffering from acute (rather than chronic) depression or who are having a "this will show them" period of anger in response to a specific trauma, rather than an ongoing and intractable problem with their life.

        Those people, if they have a gun nearby, die nearly 100% of the time.   If they have to improvise some other method, the death rate is significantly lower.   Perhaps the numbers are small, it is very hard to get good statistics on this kind of thing.   Most of the case studies I've seen rely on anecdotal evidence of survivors or even people who gave up on the attempt because they changed their mind while setting up the means of the suicide (got out of the car in the garage, changed their mind while driving to the bridge, the rope broke, they called for help after cutting wrists or taking pills, etc)

        A primary argument for gun control, especially handgun control, is to limit the damage an immediate impulse can have, either on oneself (suicidal impulse) or others (homicidal impulse).   It's very hard to prove how much impact the lack of a handgun would have - even the best studies on handguns tend to ignore other causes of deaths  (so suicide by handgun is counted, but the counterfactual suicide by other method is not).

        What is known from gun studies is essentially:

        1.  Guns being around lead to more deaths from guns, from all causes.

        2.  Half of gun deaths are suicides (and only about 2% are accidents, the rest are homicides)

        3.  Handguns cause most suicide death by handgun.

        4.  Without guns, the number of assault with intent to kill is pretty much the same, but there are more survivors (it is both harder to kill with a knife, blunt object or fists, it also takes longer, so the attacker sometimes relents).

        You can see how you can go from #4 to consider that if some % of suicides are in fact impulsive, some of the same mitigation might occur if you don't have a convenient, very high success rate method right at hand.

        But as you say...not proven.  Merely implied.

        •  Even considering that some may indeed be (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KVoimakas, hagagaga

          impulsive, and correlated merely to presence, we now run into the issue:

          Do we treat citizens as children, or as adults. Do we presume impulsiveness of them, and put strong restraints on freedom as a result, or do we presume restraint on their part, accept that sometimes people will use their freedom badly, and tragedy will result?

          I refuse to live in the latter society. I don't need parents watching over my conduct with regards to my own body; I certainly don't need the State acting in that capacity to do so either.

          Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

          by Robobagpiper on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:55:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I personally don't have strong feelings either way (0+ / 0-)

            Pro or anti gun positions are mostly an intellectual exercise for me.  

            I can sympathize with the folks who consider guns tools for their family's survival and of course people in professions where the gun is a significant tool (police, military, etc)

            I can appreciate the position of treating adults as adults, although in my mind some competence should be proven before allowing gun use, similar to a driver's license.  This weeds out mentally ill, children, etc.   As a rule I support things like background checks, and gun safe/trigger lock type rules to keep ignorant visitors to the household or young children in the household away from the weapons when not supervised by a responsible adult.

            That said...I also sympathize with people who have dead friends/family that might not be dead if a gun had not been in the hands of the person who killed their loved one.

            To me the line is drawn on the "define responsible adult" page.   Educate, train, revoke gun licenses for people convicted of impulsive, violent behavior or who have used guns violently before.   Enforce what license laws there are across the board (including gun shows etc), holding the seller responsible for vetting the person who ends up with it, similar to how we hold convenience stores accountable if they sell liquor to a minor.    

            But that's my line.  I really don't know how my rational viewpoint would change if my wife got shot by some idiot.

            •  No, absolutely not. Fundamental rights are not (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KVoimakas, hagagaga

              predicated on prior restraint until competence is shown. There's a term for those, it's "privilege". I don't need to prove competence in right-speak before I can pontificate on politics, or in theology before I can pick a god.

              If it's a right, the burden is on the state to prove that you're unworthy to exercise it. This is precisely why "due process of law" is the only standard by which life or liberty may be deprived someone.

              Ultimately, you're starting from a purely authoritarian world-view. We had quite enough of that shit in the 20th century, and it led to untold human misery.

              Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

              by Robobagpiper on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 02:31:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

                Are you claiming it is a Fundamental Right to carry a weapon capable of killing yourself or others within seconds from birth to grave, regardless of mental capacity, unless the government proves via due process that you're incapable?

                Are you saying the only way we can stop a person from carrying a gun is to wait for him to use it to commit some other crime and/or by accident kill or injure somebody?

                I don't think it is authoritarian to want some restrictions on weapons that impair MY right to life if you aren't trained to use it responsibly.     I'd prefer not to be dead from some idiot who "didn't think the gun was loaded" before I can object.

                The Second Amendment did not describe an unrestricted, Fundamental Right to carry firearms.

                The Second Amendment describes a well regulated militia.  That implies REGULATION on who can bear arms and under what circumstances.

                In 1792, every adult male from 18-45 had to be trained and drilled in a militia.   Attendance in theory wasn't optional.

                What was unusual about America is you got to keep the gun when you were done with the Militia.  Indeed, the govt was so cheap you had to bring your own gun.  This is a throwback to early Roman Republic, where each legionary provided his own armor/weapons/mule.

                (IIRCs, the militias did poorly in their first test 2 years later, which started the concept of the draft for a national army)

                So I'd say that my concept of "you can have a gun if you can pass the equivalent of a driving test" is pretty damn close to the original intent.  Indeed it is a lower bar, as the training they're talking about is 19th century militia training, including drill, marching, etc.

                Modern interpretations of the 2nd amendment has the conservative justices implying that right to keep & carry are independent of the "well regulated militia" part, with the liberal dissent saying it is clearly tied to a "well regulated militia" - some state sponsored military force.

                Current law assumes everyone is allowed to carry arms, partly because the 18th century militia WAS every (adult male) person.   It assumes you're behaving in a lawful manner with your weapon (just as you aren't free to libel, even though you have freedom of speech).

                Concealed weapons and military grade weapons have survived court scrutiny.  You can make laws preventing those options, or allowing them.   The reason for this seems to be that "common use for lawful purposes" extends pretty much to normal things like hunting (you don't do that with a rocket launcher) or self-defense (a concealed weapon will not deter an attack, an obvious one might)

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