Vox is Wrong, No One is Debating, The Data is Old, and Technology, More than Policy is the Answer: Gun Violence and Laws in America and How You Can Finally Start Talking About it in a Civilized Way

CT Senate Democrats, Flickr (http://bit.ly/1hH9HA3)

In light of America’s ever sensitive outlook on all things controversial we’ve paralyzed ourselves from talking through the most important and dire conversations our Nation should be having. Take, for instance, gun violence and regulations. A sure way to ensure nothing good happens is to let nothing happen. And, what major changes has a country ever made without much discussion? Currently I know few humans who can discuss gun violence. Everyone else just shouts. The few people I know are both humble and wizzes: they want to listen to every fact and are able to admit when they’re wrong. I can’t help the latter but I can begin a discourse with the former. Here is an aggregate piece of thoughtful or important (because of their reach)articles I’ve found in my search to understand the state of America’s gun culture and laws. The sources, you’ll soon find, are messy. So, before you bury yourself under 30 opened tabs investigating mass data sets, gander at the editorial snippets, opinions — and facts — of each article. Only the informed can speak with reason and for reason alone we should seek information, only then can our speech supplement society.

Disclaimer: I’m an infantry Marine. My job requires a great skill and comfortability with firearms that’d be asinine for any regular civilian to legally possess. Namely, rocket launchers and explosives. Further, I think the second ammendment should remain, though I believe ammendments should be made.

Without further ado, here are a few of the most educational, insightful, and thoughtful articles about gun violence and laws in America on the web. Please, read these at a pace slow enough where reflection can occur. Also, please, add your own articles you’ve found I didn’t mention and tell us why they’re so great.

Few, If Any, Of Us are Actually Debating About Guns

In a poignant and otherwise hopeless conclusion to his article, “The gun-control “debate” is not a debate but a conflict, and those have different rules,” Gideon Lichfield says all we can do is “just wait.” And though I agree with him we’re conflicting, not debating, I don’t believe the best thing to do in any debate or conflict is to just wait. Sure, wait your turn in a debate or pause in a conflict to tactically gain superiority to an enemy but in neither circumstance is the wait the end-state. It is important to know the difference between being in a conflict and being in a debate. And it’s safe to say conflict happens at the fringes of compromise, when we no longer want to give anymore. So before we — you — continue, what is this thing, a conflict or a debate? If we’re conflict, can we debate? If not, why? If so, why not?

Originally post: http://bit.ly/1K99Anu

We are Uninformed

Central to any reasonable argument is data. So, why is it data on legal permit holders is, in every state but North Carolina, locked up? As of now data about permit holders is not public information.

Certainly permit holders have a right to have personal information privatized. But, there’s a different and much more important set of data lurking within the information state’s are withholding. In 2011 Michael Luo investigated the permit system and found “law abiding” permit holders weren’t at all law abiding. In the state of North Carolina, at the time of his reporting, there were 200 people with valid carry permits who had been convicted of a felony, 10 whom had been tried for manslaughter or murder.

Guns fall into the hands of the wrong people not because they get them illegally but also because they get them legally. There’s no policing who has what and that’s because not the public, nor the journalists know. It’s inexcusable states would sponsor — allow — citizens with the most violent felonies to retain their rights to gun ownership. So yes, gun laws, or laws about the laws, need to change and until it does any changes we make will be blind swings at a piñata after Uncle Joel set you facing the wrong way .

Original articles by Michael Luo at the New York Times:
http://nyti.ms/1K95f3L -Updated information, 2015
http://nyti.ms/1K95ifT -Original investigation, 2011

Data is Outdated, Large, and Skewed

National statistics on this year’s gun homicides, suicides, and usage landscapes won’t be available until late 2016, if that. Look deeper into any article concerning guns in the U.S and odds are it’s citing a statistic by The Pew or The CDC from 2011, 2012, or at best 2013. That’s not to say past data has no relevance. Yet, it’s a proclamation to data’s role in our discussion about gun violence and laws. Ultimately, both sides of the fence, those for drastic or minor changes in gun laws (is there really anyone who believes the laws should have no change?), want our laws to effectively keep the “good” people safe and the “bad” people accountable. How we do it is our divide.

So, reasonably, we turn to the numbers to speak for us but the numbers are so large they’re hard to make sense of. For example, Vox found a correlation between the U.S’s capita of gun ownership and gun homicide. Yet, looking globally the same correlation doesn’t exist. So, for a cause to work in one nation but not others, is it still a cause? The data, for it to make sense, is of global proportions. Let’s take a closer look.

According to Max Fisher, current content editor at Vox, the U.S has the most number of privately owned guns per 100 people out of any country in the world. German Lopez then cites a chart the Guardian made public about gun homicide rates per 100,00o in nearly every nation in the world. This chart is prefaced with this claim.

No other developed country in the world has nearly the same rate of gun violence as does America

And, then we’re shown this.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

Pop quiz time. Does any developed country have a higher rate of homicides by guns than the U.S? Yes. What? You don’t agree. Perhaps you missed the word “nearly” in the preface. I did.

South Africa is the developed country with the most number of homicides by guns, not America. The numbers, if you’re curious, have the U.S at 2.97 homicides by gun for every 100,000 people. South Africa, 17.03. Vox, a media organization with great respect, decided to skew it’s reporting. They were one word away from a bold faced lie. Here’s a deeper look into the numbers they deliberately avoided to include.

The correlation Vox hinted at in the beginning, that more guns means more violence isn’t true. Belgium, third on Vox’s graph for homicides per capita is ranked 19th for ownership. Finland is third in ownership and seventh in homicides. And the five countries leading Finland in homicides, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and Ireland aren’t even graphed on the ownership chart. Which is either another case of omitted information or a hint at how ridiculous the claim gun ownership means more violence is. In fact, our friends at Harvard did a study in 2007 and came to the same conclusion, primarily, gun control laws are counterproductive. Damn Harvard Education. Always ahead of their time.

Data is crucial to finding correlations and causations of increased gun violence. But, as long as journalists provide impartial reports or agenda heavy numbers the public won’t be equipped with the right amount of information to decide how best to prevent future gun violence. The media has a responsibility to frame the numbers appropriately. Numbers provide insight but the public has a right to the source of these numbers; what would our numbers be like without gang violence, what would our numbers look like excluding areas of poverty, what would our numbers look like excluding any sort of variable? Until we have variables we’ll continue to blindly guess what truly is the cause.

Digression: Contrast this scenario to heart disease, our number one cause of death in the U.S at 821.5 per 100,000, according to the CDC. Further, we’re number one in the world in obesity. Not 28, one. And, the only major legislation taken towards protecting citizens from an obvious cause of obesity and heart disease — by banning enormous sugary drinks in New York City — was shot down by the highest courts of the state because the proposal “exceeded the scope of regulatory authority.” Perhaps if the internal organs externalized, or death by heart disease was visually more gruesome, we’d be more apt at caring for the laws regarding our foods too.

Vox: http://bit.ly/1VSRMUt
The Guardian: http://bit.ly/1VSRQUl

The Best Platform for Gun News is The Trace

What’s The Trace? From their own words:

The Trace is an independent, nonprofit media organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States. We bring an admitted bias to our beat: We believe that this country’s rates of firearm-related deaths and injuries — an average of 88 lives lost per day, with another 196 people suffering nonfatal bullet wounds — are far too high. But as journalists, our work is focused on a second, related problem. There is a relative shortage of information on the issue, a shortage caused in part by the gun lobby’s efforts to squash gun-violence research and limit law-enforcement data. We take it as our mission to address that information deficit through daily reporting, investigations, analysis, and commentary on the policy, politics, culture, and business of guns in America.

The Trace goes on to declare its commitment to accuracy, fairness, empathy, and doggedness. Follow them across all your social media accounts or subscribe to their newsletter for deep-analysis and a variety of op-eds concerning gun laws in the United States.

Our Solution May be Technology, Not Policy

Technology has the potential to eliminate the majority of deaths by guns. According to data from 2013 19,392 people committed suicide by firearm whereas 11,078 committed homicide. Implementing technology like RFID chips, where something like a users ring must be within two inches of the gun for it to activate could almost eliminate suicides by teens or members of a household where the gun isn’t theirs.

Gun technology is a bi-partisan solution to a bi-partisan divide. Not just in the instance of suicides but in accidents, homicides, and mass-shootings, technology could make the gun industry safer and smarter. The reality of a technology allowing complete accountability for a specific weapon’s location from the time it leaves the manufacturer is very real. Technology preventing a misfire through RFID chips is already in beta. Answers to our greatest issues with guns are found in an innovative and fearless field of tech. Though, policy on the technology will be just as important.

Talking about gun rights and violence isn’t even but it’s certainly necessary. If the public isn’t engaged and if the private industries and government remain unaccountable it’ll be their voice, not the public’s, that decides what should happen to guns and the second amendment. To start the conversation let’s understand our differences and cling to the — very few — things we can all agree on. There are solutions to our problems. Now, let’s talk about those things.

Have a particular article or piece of media you think needs seen, share it in your comments and I’d happily add it to this piece, or if there are enough, I’ll include your input in a part two.

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