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While both sides of this debate seem intent on claiming direct cause/effect-based remedies to the issue of gun violence, they are missing two key math-based realities regarding gun-based violence in America. The first:

The math of gun violence is very similar in nature and size to the math of state-based lotteries, where small-pot winners are analogous to gun injuries and big jackpots are analogous to gun deaths.

In the math of lotteries, there is no direct cause-effect relationship to winning other than purchasing a ticket, which, by itself, has only an infinitesimal impact on either the chance of winning or the size of the jackpot. However, the Law of Large Numbers, guarantees both that there will be a regular "winner," and, with enough "tickets" sold, there will eventually be, with the gun lottery, another very nasty "super-lotto jackpot" like Newtown.

Yet, instead of focusing on the nature and quantity of the "tickets" sold, there is this search for the "holy grail" of The Cause. The Bismark Tribune asserts this in the one piece of the President's proposal that they could support:

The most promising element of the president’s gun control response is the push for more research into mass killings and other health-related aspects of gun use. If the country understands the root causes of horrific gun violence, then it might be possible to address that cause rather than treat the symptoms, as has been proposed. Better solutions might be found in mental health policies or the prescription and use of anti-depressants — we do not know because we haven’t done the research.

There is nothing wrong, per se, with researching the "causes" of gun violence, but we will surely just find more "tickets," each with individually-tiny relationships to gun violence. Even if we isolate mentally-ill assault weapon owners (and there are likely many), only a small number of these will kill somebody, and that somebody is most likely to be themselves.

In the U.S. for 2010, there were 31,513 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows by mode of death: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600. This makes firearms injuries one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S.
The state-run lotteries literally have this down to a science: sell more tickets, sell more types of tickets, and sell a range of tickets from small, frequent payoffs to high-payoff super-lottos. In short, this is the math of gun violence in the United States today.

Each gun sold is a "ticket," with assault weapons being potential "mega-winners." But each individual gun sale has only a tiny chance of being a big "winner." Likewise ammunition sales, with multi-round clips getting you a similar small-probability entry into the Newtown/Aurora "hall of fame" jackpot. Untreated mental illness is again a ticket, but the vast majority of mentally ill people will never harm anybody else.

So we have this perverse lottery going on, where individuals can cheaply purchase the "dream" of stopping a burglar in his tracks, or defending their home against the "jack-booted thugs" of the government. But in this lottery, real people die. Lots of them.

So Mister Beagle’s short answer: “Stop selling so many damn tickets!”

The second math-based reality has to do with the "unintended consequences" of purchasing that gun to protect yourself, and that diary will follow soon.

Mister Beagle
"The real world is tri-color."

Originally posted to MisterBeagle on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:50 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Useful analogy - suggests that public education (5+ / 0-)

    and gun buy backs are worth pursuing.



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:09:01 AM PST

    •  what's the point of buy-backs (2+ / 0-)

      As long as guns are still being manufactured? We spend money to buy guns, manufacturers sell more guns, and we're back where we started,only a bunch of our money has gone to the gun makers.

      •  Gun buy backs makes sense coupled to public (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DefendOurConstitution

        education - if a significant percentage of gun owners realize they are endangering themselves and their loved ones with their guns, the buy backs offer a way to take those guns out of circulation safely. Persumably there will be a reduced demand to buy guns as the public education effort becomes more effective.

        It has always been the case that public health measures do the most to improve life expectancy. Tuberculosis went away when we got most people to see spitting in public as disgusting and unsafe. If we exert pressure in the direction to depict guns as unsafe, instead of empowering, over time the public perception will become more realistic.



        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 07:23:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the reply (0+ / 0-)

          I can see that when people do change their minds about gun ownership, it's good to provide them with a safe opportunity to get rid of the guns. I hope you are right about the possibility of public education changing attitudes. Unfortunately, the more I read about increased gun sales in recent weeks, I feel very pessimistic about this.

  •  Why are sporting rifles "mega winners?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ancblu

    Oh, I have a number of other problems, from your uncritically favorable citation of a discredited study to confusing postdiction with the law of large numbers.  But for now, I'll settle for why modern sporting rifles are so special in this macabre setup of yours.

    •  Wail if you must, but Kellermann is still the best (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DefendOurConstitution, alain2112

      source of information we have on the scale of gun carnage in the U.S., and far more accurate than the completely vaporous and unsubstantiated assertions of 'defensive gun use' touted by gun lovers.

      Most revealing truth: the NRA and its toadies in Congress found the lessons of Kellermann so threatening, they didn't push for more accurate studies. No, they defunded all NIH gun research, and made it impossible for any further Federal level research to move forward.

      Shoot the messenger, so to speak.

      •  Best source of information? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ancblu

        Kellerman refused to release any of his data for four years, and what little he did not even account for whether the instrument of homicide was kept in the victim's home--you know, the central point of his paper.  On the other hand, NSDS was auditable, and to date the only complaint about it is an argument from incredulity: the unsubstantiated belief that respondents fabricated out of whole cloth the answers to 19 story questions.

    •  Kellerman's study (3+ / 0-)

      kellerman (and all co-authors) put their names on their study.  Who wrote that "analysis" you cite?  Why wouldn't the authors of that work want to identify themselves and their credentials?

      Kellerman's study was peer-reviewed and published in the New England J. of Medicine, one of the most critically rigourous and difficult of all scientific journals in which to get published.  Was the "analysis" you cited peer-reviewed?  Does the internet publication of this work commend the work's scientific rigor?

      Your approach to science seems to share much with the Tea Party.  Do you also think those studies of the warming earthly climate and the causal role humans have played in that warming are biased and/or fraudulent?

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:40:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup, they always claim to be reality/fact based, (0+ / 0-)

        except when the facts don't fit their paradigm, then they attack the studies/facts/messengers.

        HJB you are absolutely correct that the gun Cult acts very similar to the TP (or to any other religious entity created by a few powerful people to use the masses in order to get their way), in this case the NRA uses the gun Cult they created so that they can continue getting rich by enriching gun manufacturers.

        Here are some facts that are not in dispute: over 100,000 people are shot in the US every year and about 32,000 die.

        Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

        by DefendOurConstitution on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 07:55:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fact-free opinions sadly trump science (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DefendOurConstitution

          Sadly, most folks prefer their fact-free opinions to the methods and findings of empiric, observation-based scientific inquiry.

          Cigarette smokers love their cigarettes, even as they know cigarettes are slowly killing them.  But it is a rare smoker today who is so craven to say the medical facts of smoking-related health risks are based on unsound research.

          Gun enthusiasts do not suffer from the physiologic addiction that cigarette smoking engenders, yet appear to be utterly psychologically dependent on the totem of guns for feelings of safety and security.  From that dependence on guns for feelings of safety and security, gun enthusiasts have no qualms about claiming all sorts of unreality about scientific research into gun injuries.

          The scientific evidence, however, is quite clear: guns do not make one safer, but rather increase the liklihood of injury and death.

          "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

          by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:12:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "Gun enthusiasts"? (0+ / 0-)

            "Appear to be utterly psychologically dependent ...'

            And you, Hugh Jim Bissell, are bemoaning the absence of scientific method and integrity in discourse on the 2A debate?

            Did you ever take a course in irony, when earning your advanced degree in pseudoscience?

            •  Opinion vs. fact (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alain2112

              When I say guns do not make one safer, but rather confer an increased risk of injury or death, that is a medical fact established by repeated empiric studies.

              When I say that gun enthusiasts appear to be psychologically dependent on guns to attain a feeling of safety and comfort, that is an opinion of my own.

              I'm sorry, I should have identified my opinion as such.

              "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

              by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:59:50 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  too oblique, misterbeagle, in my opinion. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros

    you're not quite telling me what you're saying...

    you might be employing those "scare quotes" as if they're protective packaging, but it's sterilizing your point -- gotta get in there and get your hands dirty.

    as far as I can tell, the link between getting shot and the lottery has something to do with probability, but so does my choice in breakfast cereal.

    It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

    by Murphoney on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:14:49 AM PST

  •  I like the diary. I agree. Each item, each gun, (3+ / 0-)

    each human with one gun,
    each human with ten guns,
    each human with mental illness,
    each box of ammunition,
    each item is like one little ticket,
    none likely to cause anything big.

    Reduce them all,
    as much as we can,
    in any way we can.

    I predict it will take many years,
    but you must surely be correct.

    Seems to me you've answered everyone,
    those who say my gun won't hurt anyone,
    since I'm careful with it,
    your answer is,
    probably not,
    but it's one more little ticket.

    And so on,
    with large capacity clips,
    etc,
    you have the answer.

    I like it.

    Thanks for the diary.

  •  but (0+ / 0-)

    the analogy is weak because it's almost impossible to win the lottery without buying a ticket.

    In short, this is the math of gun violence in the United States today.
    No, it isn't.  The fantasy that normal people just wake up one day and become a murderer is a fantasy.
    So Mister Beagle’s short answer: “Stop selling so many damn tickets!”
    It doesn't bother you that you've written an entire diary presuming that human agency doesn't exist?  That we're just hunks of meat whose destiny is decided by chunks of metal with, apparently, devils inside of them?

    I always thought it was the conservatives who thought that people are basically evil and need to be restrained to keep them from doing evil.  Liberals are supposed to believe that people are basically good, and thus can be trusted with dangerous things like free speech and democracy.

    the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

    by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:07:40 AM PST

    •  If you are on the wrong end of the bullet, then (3+ / 0-)
      we're just hunks of meat whose destiny is decided by chunks of metal
      Seems you answered  your own question.
      •  so (0+ / 0-)

        given that more than half of "gun deaths" are suicides, you can choose not to.

        the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

        by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:21:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And the other half - expendable? eom (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DefendOurConstitution, alain2112
          •  what about them? (0+ / 0-)

            if you think it's much better to be dead by a knife than dead by a gun, I guess the argument makes sense.

            the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

            by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:49:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Statistics on guns vs. knives (2+ / 0-)

              www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0310.xls

              From 2000-2008 homicides by weapon:

              Firearms                                              86,112
              Knives & other cutting implements         16,547    
              Other                                                  27,082

              Firearms were used in 66% of all homicides for those nine years.  Knives were used in 16%.  Other (including poisoning, drowning, strangling, fire, etc.) were the remainder, 18%.

              Handguns, btw, accounted for 65,581 or slightly more than half of all homicides.  

              Regarding the statistics, they come from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program.  Here is the statement regarding what gets listed as a homicide under the UCR:

              The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines murder and nonnegligent manslaughter as the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. The classification of this offense is based
              solely on police investigation as opposed to the determination of a court, medical examiner, coroner, jury, or other judicial body. The UCR Program does not include the following situations in this offense classification: deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or accident; justifiable homicides; and attempts to murder ...

              "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

              by Steven D on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 07:41:51 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  and? (0+ / 0-)

                why wouldn't murderers choose the best method available?  If things change, they will change their methods, but they won't stop being murderers.

                the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

                by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:46:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's an assumption (0+ / 0-)

                  Not a fact.  In developed countries with stricter firearms laws murder rates are lower.

                  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/...

                  RESULTS:

                  In simple regressions (no control variables) across 26 high-income nations, there is a strong and statistically significant association between gun availability and homicide rates.
                  CONCLUSION:

                  Across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides.

                  Also see:

                  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/...

                  4. Across states, more guns = more homicide (2)

                  Using survey data on rates of household gun ownership, we examined the association between gun availability and homicide across states, 2001-2003. We found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty). There was no association between gun prevalence and non-firearm homicide.

                  Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. State-level homicide victimization rates in the U.S. in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003. Social Science and Medicine. 2007; 64:656-64.

                  "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

                  by Steven D on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:05:36 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Sure - see all the drive by knifings (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Steven D, alain2112

              Or the killing spree of the Washington knife thrower.

  •  Guns and second-hand smoke (3+ / 0-)

    I agree with your view on guns in general, but I think your analogy in particular does not hold.

    In order to collect lottery winnings, one must buy a ticket and enter the game.  In order to "win" the gun lottery by getting shot, one does not need to purchase a gun.  One need only walk into a classroom, go to the movies, or live with a jealous lover.

    Guns, like cigarettes, have negative consequences even for those people who are not using guns.  Guns have a "second-hand smoke" effect, causing health problems not only for the users, but also for those people who do nothing more than find themselves nearby.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:46:29 AM PST

    •  You really don't understand the concept of (0+ / 0-)

      controlling for independent variables, do you.

      More junk pseudoscience reminiscent of the climate change deniers who toss around unsupported verbiage and pretend that it has significance beyond their cramped ideological viewpoint.

      •  Oh, DO enlighten us!! (0+ / 0-)

        Please, I would love to hear you tell us how controlling for independent variables has anything to do with winning the lottery - either the powerball lottery or the get shot with a gun lottery.

        "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

        by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:07:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  something not mentioned here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pianogramma

    is that in most "lotteries" the number of "mega-winners" doesn't change with the number of tickets.  The "size" of the purse may (and there's no way to analogize that to "mass killings"), but the number doesn't.

    So if you cut the number of guns in half (buybacks, confiscation, whatever) the number of mass killings doesn't change at all.  By your analogy, anyway.

    Not sure that ls what you intended, but that's what is.

    It's quite likely that if the number of guns was reduced gun accidents would fall . . . probably in near-direct proportion.  And if that reduced the number of households with guns (rather than just the number of guns per household) there might be fewer "impulse" shootings (in multi-gun households the "impluse" would just grab whatever different gun was available).  But would cutting the total number of guns in half (or eliminating "assault rifles" completely) proportionately reduce gun crime?  No, probably not at all, unless the deliberate effort was made to specifically go after guns possessed and used by criminals (with assault rifles being . . . uncommon . . . in that catagory).

    It's a safe bet that cutting the number of cars in half would not have a proportional effect on the number of "drive-by" shootings.  Analogize that to guns . . .

    "Math" is good . . . knowing how to apply it to "real world" situations makes it better.  Applying it incorrectly, as done in this diary, leads to "fail" . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 07:14:44 AM PST

    •  Your lottery math is dead wrong (0+ / 0-)

      For any given lottery, mega or not, the number of winners, in the long run, is DIRECTLY correlated with the number of tickets sold.

      Most mega-jackpots wind up getting split between multiple winners, because the number of potential winners increases directly with the number of tickets sold.

      They wind up becoming "mega-jackpots" via the same math that any given coin flipper can well flip five heads in a row. With lotteries, a few weeks may go by without winner, but it is equally likely to have multiple winners in any given week.

      The point here is that many tiny elements, not one single "magic cause," directly dictate the odds of gun violence, from the one-off murder to the mass killing. The countries with less gun violence invariably have multiple conditions which reduce the probability of multiple "tiny causes."

      Mister Beagle "The real world is tri-color." beaglenotes.com

      by MisterBeagle on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:11:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A lottery with over 100,000 grand prizes - getting (0+ / 0-)

    shot.  Of those grand prizes, 32,000 are mega-winners and go straight to the grave, the other 70,000 plus go to the ER and are treated at a cost of billions every year (not even including the ongoing lifetime assistance many of them will need (e.g. Gabby Giffords).

    This lottery is pretty bad.  There are also minor prizes in this lottery, just ask the Newtown parents or anyone else that has lost a loved one to gun violence because we must keep firearms, not just legal, but easily convenient.

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:09:33 AM PST

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