Monday, June 24, 2019

Irrational Hoplophobia from NBC12 in Virgina



When people want to believe something, they tend to fit the data to their pre-conceived ideas. This is known in scientific circles as confirmation bias. Others may call it rationalization.

It is on full display in an article written by Katie O'Conner in the Virgina Mercury. The article is piece promoting more restrictive gun laws in Virginia, in advance of the special session called by Democrat Governor Ralph Northam.  The article is premised on false assumptions and the irrational attribution of volition to inanimate objects. From nbc12.com:
As state lawmakers prepare to reassemble in Richmond for a special session on gun control after the Virginia Beach shooting, this statistic will likely be repeated often: In Virginia, more than 1,000 people die due to gun violence every year.

That equates to almost three people every day. Guns take more lives than car crashes.

And nearly two-thirds of those gun-related deaths in Virginia are suicides.
It is a short article that illustrates the illogic of hoplophobes.

First, this sentence: 
In Virginia, more than 1,000 people die due to gun violence every year.
 It sounds like a statement of fact. It isn't. A statement of fact would be: Guns are involved in more than 1,000 deaths in Virginia every year.  The difference is in the causal attribution.

The causal attribution "due to gun violence" makes it appear that if there were no guns, 1,000 people would not have died.

The underlying assumption is "no guns, no gun deaths".  The statement is false logic. No gun deaths does not mean no deaths. There is little reason to believe a decrease in "gun deaths" means a decrease in deaths.

Here is a parallel statement that makes the irrationality clear. "No hospitals, no hospital deaths".

A great many people die in hospitals. If we eliminate hospitals, then we eliminate hospital deaths. But the overall death rate will rise.

The reason this illogic resonates with hoplophobes is because they have rejected firearms ownership and use. To rationalize this rejection, they convince themselves that firearms have no legitimate purpose, and firearms are useless for defense of self and others.

Notice the inflation of "gun violence" to include suicides. The percentage of suicides committed with guns in the United States has fallen from about 60% (1990-1996) to about 50% at present. During that period, the per capita number of firearms in the United States increased by about 40% (.78 to 1.3).  The overall number of people who commit suicide with guns has risen, because the overall suicide rate rose so much during the Obama administration.

Those who wish for a disarmed population claim more guns are in fewer hands. They do this based on a survey that indicates a smaller percentage of households have guns. Other surveys show the percentage of households with guns to be about the same as they were 40 years ago. There are numerous other indicators that show gun ownership has been rising, including burgeoning gun sales, enormous increases in concealed carry permits, and rising percentages of minorities and women who own guns.

Part of the irrationality of hoplophobes is to transfer volition from people to guns. From the article: 
 Guns take more lives than car crashes.
Guns do not take lives. People with guns take lives. In the United States, and in Virginia, about 2/3 of those lives are people who take their own life. In Virginia, and in the United States, about half of suicides are committed by people with guns.

The claim of hoplophobes is, if no guns were available, the number of suicides would drop. There are several studies that show, if you work hard to make a particular suicide method less available, suicides with that method will drop. The overall suicide rate is likely to drop for a short while, until people learn of other methods and substitute those methods.

In Australia, when ownership of guns was subjected to extreme restrictions and regulations, the suicide rate with guns decreased. But suicide with other methods increased.  Overall, the suicide rate was higher after the extreme gun controls than before.

It is easy to come up with plausible sounding rationalizations, even with rationalizations that fit existing data.

For example, it may be that severe gun restrictions lead men (who commit far more suicides than women in today's society) to believe life is not worth living, as society has become too regulated and less accepting of men. Thus, promoting "gun control", which men oppose more than women, might lead to more suicides, especially with  other methods.

I am not saying the above is true, or not; I am using it as an illustration of how easy it is to create rationalizations that fit a data set.

The data shows that restricting guns has little, if any effect on overall suicide rates, similar as restrictions on other methods.

The promoters of removing suicide methods claim if enough lethal methods are removed, the suicide rate will be permanently lowered.

They may be correct. It is impossible to know. If may be fewer people would wish to live in such a highly regulated society.

It is ironic, however, that many of the same political philosophy who wish to highly restrict firearms because of the risk of suicide, simultaneously promote "assisted suicide", where there is governmental approval of suicide.

It is not suicide they object to. It is suicide that does not have the stamp of state approval.

Overall age adjusted suicide rates peaked in the U.S.A. in 1986, dropped until 1999, then started rising again, with current levels slightly lower than in 1986.

Hoplophobes, those with an irrational fear of weapons, will not be convinced by facts or logic. But most people are not hoplophobes and have not studied the issues.

Facts and logic can be useful in educating them.

 ©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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