09 10

29 March 2018

Nick Freitas Speech on Gun Control: An Analysis {part 1}

Nick Freitas gun control speech analysisI watched the speech that Nick Freitas, a Virginia candidate for Senate, gave on gun control and the debate that has been going on. My initial reaction was that I liked it, but I wanted to dig into it and see how it stands up to close scrutiny. Listening to the speech, which isn't very long, I made my own transcript, and I'll have his words set apart, and my commentary after.

So, over the last several days, Mr. Speaker, there's been a lot of discussion about an open and honest debate with respect to school shootings, gun violence, gun control, etc. And an open and honest debate, as I understand it, is one that would rely on data, facts, evidence, analysis, reason, and logic, etc., etc. And I'm certainly willing to have that debate.

I agree with these statements. In fact, I had conversations recently with several people wanting to see more research, more data, more information on school shootings, and these comments were coming from folks on the Left, so there's at least that much agreement at the start. The sedate and candid debate contemplated here is a far cry from the acrimonious hot air that generally passes for "debate" --on both sides of the isle.

I think that if we were going to look seriously at school shootings and gun control we would analyze things like: Why do all mass shootings seem to take place in gun free zones? Wouldn't it be reasonable to test whether or not the efficacy of gun free zones have actually achieved what their intended intent is?

To me, this seems eminently sensible. I can't think of a single mass shooting that happened someplace that was NOT a gun-free zone. If, then, ~100% of shooters are choosing gun-free zones as the site of their mayhem, it really does beg the question: are these zones really the good idea that they seem to be? At first glance, the evidence would suggest otherwise. Those wishing to defend gun-free zones would, in an open and honest debate, have an opportunity to bring evidence that the signs are working, and to show how there are more subtle effects of these zones that make their impact greater than just announcing to would-be shooters that they will be the only armed person in certain locations. Those wishing to defend gun-free zones need to show that there is some compensating benefit to the free-for-all that shooters enjoy in these areas. Perhaps private schools or other similar sites that are not gun-free zones could be looked at for comparison. If, on the other hand, the signs only make people feel more safe, but the data shows that in reality these zones are hazards, then by having data and a chance to have an open, honest debate, we can determine that, too, and having that data should reassure those who find they are on the wrong side of the debate: better to know the truth, and have the opportunity to provide for it, than to believe something that merely offers the false comfort of closing our eyes to painful truths. Objective data is a good idea.

We'd start to look at --most of these shooters come from broken homes. What sort of government policies have actually encouraged broken homes? You can look at Left-leaning think tanks like the Brooking Institute that will actually say that some of it can be attributed to various cultural changes that happened in the '60s, to the abortion industry. You can look at a more conservative leaning organizations that will say that the Welfare State contributes significantly to dismantling the family, and as families became more and more dependent upon the government then they were on mothers and fathers in the home raising children.

This also strikes me as something that ought to be relatively non-controversial: the data has shown for quite some time that broken homes are strongly associated with poverty, lack of education, drug use, crime, and other social ills and disadvantages. To investigate the extent to which government policy encourages broken homes shouldn't be controversial; it's responsible governance. Data exists, and should be allowed to speak, regardless of what ideological toes it steps on. The last 100 years have seen dramatic shifts in what is the "normal" family dynamic, and not all of it is healthy, as the  data alluded to, coming from both sides of the political spectrum, shows. Where the government is contributing to unhealthy patterns, we should identify it, and we should change it.

We could look at various status with those areas within the United States and around the world that have strict gun control measures and what their crime rates look like, whether Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, and others that have incredibly strict gun laws and yet for some reason it hasn't seemed to stop the gun violence in those particular areas. 

This idea of looking to laws in different areas speaks to one of the strengths of a federal system: the several States, as is made explicit in the Tenth Amendment, each retain broad sovereignty over a wide range of things. States and local government representatives, acting in behalf of their local constituencies, are able to legislate for their own areas as they see fit. You see this in the wide variety of homeschool laws across the nation, ranging from States that recognize that the responsibility to educate actually belongs with the parents, other states behave as if children are actually wards of the state, and parents who home educated have been granted a privilege which must be monitored through annual testing, meeting with local school officials to discuss the course of study selected, and even threatening to compel children into public schools should they fail to show "satisfactory" performance at home. The wide difference in laws has, over time, allowed people to study the impact that these onerous regulations have on student outcomes: it's minimal, with the amount of regulation largely impacting the amount of headache it is to parents to jump the governmental hoops and comply with varying levels of red tape. As far as outcomes go, homeschooled children average 20% higher on standardized tests, and as a group consistently outperform their public school peers in a variety of ways, are no more vulnerable to abuse, and generally thrive at home, regardless of the level of regulation of the state.

This kind of local variation exists in gun laws as well, with some jurisdictions choosing to enforce strict, even draconian gun laws, and others being somewhat more line with the principles of the 2nd Amendment. In the same ways that we can compare homeschool outcome data, and draw conclusions about the effectiveness of regulations there, we should examine the violent crimes that exist in various areas and what kinds of correlation there is to the gun laws. When looking at Chicago, New York, DC, and other areas with highly restrictive gun laws that still experience high rates of gun crime, those who wish to see broad imitation of these laws must, before they can be credible in a genuine debate, explain why it is that the criminal elements of these places seem to have no shortage of firearms.

We can look at the analysis out of 538, which is considered more of a left of center data analysis think tank, where you have several analysts now confirm from the data that they were looking at, not just in the United States, but in Canada,  Great Britain, and Australia, that they were shocked that the data did not support what they thought gun control measures would actually achieve. 

I'd never heard of 538 before, but they look like they're a news outfit -apparently left of center- and they did some very interesting research into gun deaths. They have a very well-reasoned piece on why mass shootings are a bad way to look at gun deaths: basically, they're a-typical in every way, including being a tiny percent of deaths, and the sorts of things that you'd do to fix mass-shooting situations are not going to touch the major contributors to gun-related deaths statistics... at all. I did not find their data for guns in other countries; only the US.

We can look at the number of cases in the United States where a gun has been used for self-defense. Estimates range everywhere from 100,000 uses to close to a million uses within the United States. Now, some organizations and some reporters only want to report on the ones where the gun was used and actually resulted in the death or maiming of the perpetrator. But if you look at the ones where the gun was used and the mere presence of a firearm actually dissuaded a criminal from committing an act of violence, an act of rape, an act of murder, the number shoots up; it skyrockets.

These numbers are hard to pin down; an LA Times article wants to say it's only 249 in 2012, but they have defined "defensive gun use" so narrowly that it's laughable: the only ones that "count" are ones ruled justifiable homicide: the bad guy actually died, and there won't be charges against the victim of the crime for fighting back effectively (That could be a whole conversation about victim-blaming, but not in this post). The New York Times quotes a Violence Policy Center statistic at 67,740 defensive uses annually. CDC research spearheaded by the Obama administration finds that injuries, not fatalities, are the most common outcome of altercations involving guns -- and finds that “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.” Guns resulting in fewer injuries to the victims is not at all an inconsequential finding. Several of these articles I've linked and others I looked at quote the NRA claiming upwards of 2.5 million defensive gun uses, and though I didn't find that number when I was looking through their site, I did come across this World News Daily article that gives Department of Justice numbers putting the number around 1.5 million defensive uses -- and acknowledging that, statistically, this number is "directly comparable" to a 2.5 million uses number, due to sample sizes and other factors. The WND article also gives some very interesting numbers for robbery outcomes: when a robber faces an unarmed victim, 80% of robberies are successful, and 1 in 4 victims will be injured. However, when the victim has a firearm, then it falls to only a 30% success rate - and only 17% or a little more than 1 in 6 victims will be injured. They report that no other response produces such low rates: that's property not taken and injuries not inflicted, with guns being the critical factor. So, while nailing down exact numbers is extremely difficult, I think that the numbers that Freitas used in his speech are reasonable -- and that if they are to be deemed objectionable, it's probably going to be because they're too small, not because they're too big.

So far, so good with this speech. Of course, this isn't the part that would be described as "fiery" but to this point in the speech, Freitas has been very reasonable and factual, and his numbers and so forth that he's used in the points he's made has checked out very well.

Check back for part two soon.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin