Gun Control Foolishness

OK, I am not a second amendment absolutist. (Or a first amendment absolutist, or any other amendment for that matter.) But I don't like stupid arguments wherever I find them, and here is one, courtesy of Jason Whitlock:
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
OK, so Belcher killed his girlfriend when they were at home together, as far as I understand it. If he meant to kill her, he couldn't have done so with a knife, or a baseball bat, or dozens and doezens of others deadly weapons? And then, when he went to kill himself, only a gun would do?!

Perhaps we need tighter gun control, or perhaps we don't. But jumping on the latest spectacular gun deaths to promote one's agenda on this topic is a rather unsavoury thing to do, Mr. Whitlock. (And, by the way, Daniel Kahneman describes this well: it is availability bias.)


  1. I disagree.

    I think we fail to have enough discussions of gun control in this country and I, for one, find no reason *not* to point out the absurdity of 2nd amendment absolutists.

    Fact is, while there are many ways to kill someone, having a gun simply DOES make it far easier for both murder and suicide. Gun deaths push our murder rate higher than just about any country--developed or developing. I believe it's the spontaneity of pulling a trigger that turns a lot of impulsive acts of violence into impulsive murders, followed by anguished suicides.

    It's unlikely that Kansas City will alter its absurdly lenient gun purchasing laws. And it's terribly unfortunate that a tragedy like this doesn't even move the society towards better laws.

    But the country needs to have an adult conversation about gun control. If not after a major news event, when?


    1. Right, Mike, because the right way to have an "adult conversation" about some topic is to exploit the availability bias to try to push one's own agenda while emotion overrides people's ability to reason.

      I remember how well those "adult conversations" worked out in reference to Love Canal, and Alar, and 9/11!

      And using all caps to shove one's assertion down someone else's throat is another good way to promote "adult conversation," Mike!

    2. Mike, wow. You're implying that Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself because it was easier for him to purchase a firearm than what you feel he should be able to? That's a fairly convenient view to hold post suicide/murder, especially if his background was clean.

      Having a loaded gun, or loading it, then aiming it for the potential of firing upon a target, then actually squeezing the trigger isn't an act of impulsive spontaneity, regardless of the timing between events.

    3. Anonymous3:13 AM

      Mike, I agree that firearms make it easier to kill, but I believe this is only true physically (pulling a trigger is certainly easier than swinging an axe). However, I am not so sure that firearms make it easier to kill psychologically or ethically. If somebody decides that they're going to kill someone, the ethical and psychological hurdle must still be passed one way or the other. What tool is used is essentially irrelevant to this fact.

    4. This seems unlikely to be true. You only have to contract very small muscles, at the peak of emotion, to pull a trigger. It can be a literal twitch. That seems qualitatively different and easier than clubbing someone, or stabbing them.

    5. Anonymous10:16 AM

      Joseph, I think Mike has a point. The ease of shooting a gun is what allows someone to -skip- the psychological/ethical hurdle they would normally have to take.

      So for example, in a fit of rage, a man may pull the trigger from a good distance away, while if he only had an axe and had to go through the entire motions of running toward the person and swinging it, he'd be less likely to.

      I don't agree with Mike's conclusion, but I think this is a reasonable point to make.

    6. Jim, I think you misread what Joe said. He stated it takes more kinetic energy to kill someone with a knife than it does with a gun. He also said the psychological barrier you must jump in order to do either of those things, that the barrier is essentially the same. I completely agree.

      Belcher supposedly shot his girlfriend 9 times. That's another barrier to clear all by itself.

    7. Anonymous8:29 AM

      Jason, that is exactly what I was saying.

      No matter what weapon is used, one must still pass the ethical and psychological barriers (I don't believe the means has any measurable impact on this process). In fact, even if one surpasses the ethical barrier, they may still be hesitant due to psychological factors. Simply put, not everybody has it in them to kill another person even if the action is reasoned to be ethically just, such as in the case of justified self-defense.

      As for the shooting 9 times, did you ever consider that the first 8 didn't quite finish the task? It's a serious question, I am not attempting to be heartless.

      I don't know what type or caliber of bullet he used, and I obviously wasn't there to see if she died from the first round or the last round. I will say that if he used FMJ 9mm rounds (which is inexplicably very common), and he didn't place them correctly (he's a bad shot and/or was shaking), then it may very well have taken quite a few rounds to ensure death. Conversely, a deep-seated hate could be the explanation. Nobody can or will know this, because the only person who did know this is also dead (any explanation on this matter is mere speculation).

      Killing a person is certainly not as easy as one might think.

  2. The editor for comments lacks the ability for italics or bold, so I'm either surrounding my emphasis with *'s or caps. I try to make as little use of them as possible, but still keep my point clear.

    That aside, I disagree that there's an availability bias at play here. At least as described on wikipedia. The consequences of crappy gun control are constant. The story in Kansas City merely serves to highlight a major issue that isn't getting enough attention.

    Are we not allowed to use Hurricane Sandy to highlight the risks of greenhouse gas emissions? Or Irene before it? Or Katrina?

    I see no problem in drawing a correlation and causation line with this case in Kansas City. I don't think it's exploitive of emotions to point out that we need to talk about this stuff more.

    It's perfectly reasonable to run into a movie theater and yell "Fire!" if, indeed, the theater is on fire. In fact, doing so is likely to save lives.

    1. "The editor for comments lacks the ability for italics or bold..."

      Does it now?

      "Are we not allowed to use Hurricane Sandy to highlight the risks of greenhouse gas emissions? Or Irene before it? Or Katrina?"

      Not allowed to? Who said anything about not allowing people to say this or that?

      Are such arguments logically sound? No, they are not: the rely on the availability bias, as does the one employing Belcher.

      Let me ask you this, Mike: Do you have one tiny shred of evidence that under any gun control regime seriously proposed as law in the US, Belcher would not have had the gun he used?


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