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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Probably Trending Upwards

My wife claimed that school shootings in the United States are on the rise and she's right [source]:



I was surprised because I had last looked at this in 2002, three years after the Columbine incident, and at that point there was clearly no statistical trend.  Even throwing out the outliers, there probably is one now.

But, before we freak out collectively and totally, remember that there are nearly 50 million students in the United States, making the probability of dying in a school shooting less than one-in-a-million for a student in a given year.

49 comments:

Harry Eagar said...

Those lefties at NPR reported today no trend, although a time line from (if I recall, Harvard School of Public Health) found the intervals between shooting incidents has tightened a lot.

Maybe someone could do a research report. Since the NRA has blocked gummint from doing it -- who says democracy is dead? -- maybe the private sector could step in.

erp said...

The NRA blocked the government ...

If only.

erp said...

Could this have something to with the trend going up?

Harry Eagar said...

Yes, erp, NRA minions in Congress passed a law preventing appropriations from being used to study the health effects of firearms. If you read newspapers you'd know this.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Unfortunately for your thesis, Mr. Eagar, studying the health effects of firearms is not at all the same thing as studying a trend line. One might also note it applied only to the CDC, not the "gummint". This means erp had the more accurate take on the issue.

Given the recent massive incompetence of the CDC and our public health systems to deal with Ebola, I must say it seems quite reasonable to have attempted to force them to focus on their actual responsibilities instead of such politically motivated activities.

erp said...

NRA minions in congress has a nice ring to it, but alas they don't exist because if they did we wouldn't be in the colossal mess we're in right now in every area of the world and in every area of daily life

... and I fear Bret is right that when the media is done with St. Hillary, Mother Teresa would be ashamed of her frivolous life (if she were alive, that is) and bubba will be back.

Hard to get out of bed this mornings.

erp said...

aog, since what's bandied about in the media is suspect to say the least, it is my considered opinion that the Ebola hoopla is this election cycle's October surprise and that it has been blown out of proportion to get our dumbed-down citizenry's mind off the real danger, Islamic terrorism now relegated to under the proverbial truss ads and off the front pages.

Need proof: Our “fearless” leader is pictured standing close to an alleged Ebola survivor.

Clovis e Adri said...

Hmmm... we ought to think harder and harder on why such episodes happen more frequently in places with liberal gun laws... think, think, think.

Oh, I can't find an answer.

Maybe it is just the "Lemmings effect".

Harry Eagar said...

Among erp's many fantasies is that schools are dangerous, although (and there is enough data to do this study and it has been done) when it comes to murder, only about 1 or 2 % of child murders happen at school, although they spend much of their time there.

Children are in far more danger if they live in a home with a gun nut.

erp said...

Clovis, actually murder rates are much higher in areas with the strictest anti-gun laws.

Harry, gun nuts like the kind that roam the streets of our once great cities killing and maiming children on a routine basis?

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Maybe someone could do a research report. Since the NRA has blocked gummint from doing it …



[Harry:] Yes, erp, NRA minions in Congress passed a law preventing appropriations from being used to study the health effects of firearms. If you read newspapers you'd know this.


Considering you spent your career as a journalist, it is surprising you don't see the glaring discrepancy in meaning between your sentences.

Or perhaps not, because you are channeling the motivated reasoning that led to the NRA advocating that ban in the first place. Just as virtually all government funded climate "research" starts with a predetermined conclusion, so did all CDC research into guns. Your use of "… the health effects of firearms." is even more transparently disingenuous. The health effects of firearms are no more mysterious than the health effects of overdoses, knives, or ropes used as nooses.

Which means the CDC wasn't researching health effects, but rather using "research" to push a confiscationist agenda. That is outside the CDC's remit. If the CDC would stick to its knitting, rather than set giant piles of money on fire studying the ridiculous, it might have been something other than a confederacy of dunces in its Ebola response.

Children are in far more danger if they live in a home with a gun nut.

Children are in far more danger from water than guns. Time to ban swimming pools, right?

Harry Eagar said...

When 3,000,000 Americans hang themselves, I'll take your comment seriously.

Hey Skipper said...

When you take on board that children are at greater risk from drowning than from guns, then I'll consider the possibility that you aren't an unreasoning fundamentalist.

BTW, 3,000,000 Americans have hung themselves.

(Pro Tip: you are in the wrong crowd to be abusing numbers.)

erp said...

... you are in the wrong crowd to be abusing numbers.

Ouch!

Bret said...

Hey Skipper: "Children are in far more danger from water than guns. Time to ban swimming pools, right? "

I've always found that argument not convincing - kinda apples to oranges. There are a lot of benefits to swimming for children. Perhaps there are benefits to having guns in the house for children too, but those benefits are so radically different that you can't really compare gun deaths to swimming deaths.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Which means the CDC wasn't researching health effects, but rather using "research" to push a confiscationist agenda.
---

Most of the mass killing incidents are related to people with serious mental problems. IMHO, that looks like something in the realm of health studies - why do you disagree?

erp said...

Clovis, Check out another harebrained lefty notion, deinstitutionalization, to find out why so many mentally disturbed people are walking around.

Perhaps someone might correlate the date seriously disturbed people, many with serious drug problems as well, were no longer removed from society for their own protection as well as the protection of the public at large.

Probably work up to a nice set of statistics and colorful pie chart.

Harry Eagar said...

Skipper, I am VERY surprised you chose that link (which does not, so far as I can see, support your assertion) because it does contradict an assertion you have made more than once about the relative effectivelness of suicide by firearm.

America is not up to 3 million firearm deaths yet but why not try to intercept the curve?

In my county, we have a drowning every few weeks. Few in pools, and almost all of people over 65. Perhaps we should outlaw old people from swimming?

Let me know the next time some child is killed when a knife goes off while her daddy is cleaning it.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Most of the mass killing incidents are related to people with serious mental problems. IMHO, that looks like something in the realm of health studies - why do you disagree?"

I'll have to let Hey Skipper answer for himself, but I've an opinion on this one too.

Yes, all school shootings are, by definition, the work of "people with serious mental problems," in that no sane person could possibly conclude shooting school children is a good idea.

But so what? Only an incredibly tiny fraction of the mentally ill shoot school children and there are already laws in place to prohibit the possession of guns by the mentally ill. So what exactly needs to be studied in terms of anything vaguely to do with health?

As I pointed out, it's less than one-in-a-million odds even in the worst years that a child dies because of a school shooting. No way should money be diverted to study that. Especially since, as aog noted, that the CDC didn't do such a great job with things like the recent Ebola scare, which is rather closer to their core mission.

Also, I imagine Hey Skipper starts with the premise that the CDC has been very, very anti-gun in the past, and if he's right (and I think there's some evidence that he is), then it's a good bet that the studies will come out the way the political winds blow and not necessarily an accurate reflection of reality.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Skipper, I am VERY surprised you chose that link (which does not, so far as I can see, support your assertion) because it does contradict an assertion you have made more than once about the relative effectiveness of suicide by firearm.

I figured you would be.

When 3,000,000 Americans hang themselves, I'll take your comment seriously is a classic example of lying by statistic. Well, either that or innumeracy. With progressives it is hard to tell.

I really don't know how many Americans have shot themselves. And clearly you don't either. Because if you had done just a tiny bit of investigating, you would have realized how utterly foolish your statement was.(Moreover, it is a fair bet that, given the relative availability of rope vs. guns over time — that thing you mysteriously ignore — more people have hung than shot themselves.)

[Harry:] Let me know the next time some child is killed when a knife goes off while her daddy is cleaning it.

[Bret:] As I pointed out, it's less than one-in-a-million odds even in the worst years that a child dies because of a school shooting.


The odd of a child getting killed in a car are far higher. Therefore, ban all discretionary driving with children on board?

That's preposterous. But no more so than Harry's endless invocations of astonishingly rare events.

[Clovis:] Most of the mass killing incidents are related to people with serious mental problems. IMHO, that looks like something in the realm of health studies - why do you disagree?

I completely agree that people with serious mental health problems belong in the realm of health studies.

Guns do not; they are a means, not an end. The health affects of gunshot wounds are no more worthy of study than nooses and tipped chairs, or cars and trees, or razor blades and bathtubs

The only reason the CDC, full of preening progressives like Harry, wanted to "study" the health effects of guns was as a means to a confiscationist end. Unfortunately, confiscationists are completely blind to their own staggering failures — as gun control laws have relaxed over the last 25 years, what happened since was exactly the opposite of what the omniscient progressives insisted would happen, whether in the realm of crime or suicide.

Perhaps worse, confiscationists are immune to the hypocrisy of their arguments: more children under the age of 15 die by drowning than by guns. If confiscationists had more intellectual integrity than your common, garden variety zealot, then they would be clamoring just as loudly for the abolition of water sports.

But they don't. Because it isn't about dead kids, it is about progressive zealotry.

erp said...

Yes.

Harry Eagar said...

And you know those events have gone down how?

Harry Eagar said...

Actually, there are not laws in place to keep mentally ill people from obtaining firearms.

Hey Skipper said...

Wrong.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
The only reason the CDC, full of preening progressives like Harry, wanted to "study" the health effects of guns was as a means to a confiscationist end.
---
And you have actual evidence for that or is it just your little theory?



Bret,

---
As I pointed out, it's less than one-in-a-million odds even in the worst years that a child dies because of a school shooting.
---
Careful: your statistic was about shootings in school, but nothing forbids children dying in mass killings in places other than schools.

Still, the odds will be low for anyone to die in such an event, sure, it is not like mass killings were happening everyday, everywhere. Yet, they are a pretty common suicide dream for a class of the mentally sick people, which means they will keep happening. There are three things you can do to address that: (i) nothing at all, (ii) change how to deal with the mentally ill, (iii) change how to deal with access to the tools the mentally ill use to execute their crazy things.

I can see a honest space for research in option (ii).

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Still, the odds will be low for anyone to die in such an event ... (ii) change how to deal with the mentally ill..."

Makes no sense to me to put effort into something that's one-in-a-million. Lots of better things to spend money on including let people keep more of their money and spend it on themselves or invest it.

Clovis wrote: "I can see a honest space for research in option (ii)."

I can't. It's too political. Maybe in some other universe. But even if it were possible for it to be honest research, it's still the wrong place to expend resources in my opinion.

Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

The trend in quantity is indeed up: there were, give or take, 70 deaths due to school shootings in the first decade of the data series. In the last decade, there were 160.

Taking population growth into account, using the first decade as the baseline for rate, then 90 deaths would be the zero trend number.

Eliminate just two shootings -- Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook -- and the remainder is 90.

The rate trend therefore is likely zero; the apparent upward trend is due both to incorrectly focusing on quantity instead of rate, and the outsized effect of randomness on small numbers.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] And you have actual evidence for that or is it just your little theory?

This NYT article provides a reasonably objective, if conceptually incomplete, history of the ban.

Why conceptually incomplete?

Several reasons. One readily apparent conclusion an objective study would yield is that blacks suffer gun violence at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. I'm not going to look for the link now, but I'm pretty sure memory serves in noting that black males between 15 and 34 (2% of the population) account for 50% of the gun murders in the US.

The obvious conclusion is that the single most effective measure to reduced gun violence is to enact a gun control law that prohibits black males possessing guns.

Of course that is ludicrous. Why? Because guns aren't the problem.

Further incompleteness. There is no denying that 55% of suicides are via gunshot. Fine. What conclusion follows?

But wait, there's more. Gun violence studies cannot study the violence that didn't happen because of guns. Harry, of course, would argue on the basis of precisely no evidence that such a thing isn't possible. (I predict that, just like global warming fundamentalists, no amount of contrary evidence will cause even a moment's doubt among fundamentalist confiscationists. Note: I have not read the actual report; I don't have the time. It is possible that the link has tendentiously quoted it.)

And here is some actual evidence. From a CDC morbidity and morality report:

The observed declines in firearm homicide rates and increases in firearm suicide rates are consistent with longer-term trends in homicide and suicide nationally (1). Homicide rates generally have been declining in the United States during the past two decades (1). Factors identified by previous research as influencing this decline include shifting demographics, changes in markets for illegal drugs (e.g., type, demand, and participants), law enforcement responses to gun violence and drug-related crime, increased incarceration rates, community policing and related efforts, and improving economic conditions throughout much of the 1990s.

The problem is hiding in plain sight. Completely unmentioned is the fact that there is a very high correlation between the reduction in firearm homicide rates and the liberalization of gun laws. (Also note that attributing one cause of that decline to improving economic conditions in the 1990s is already comprehensively contradicted. Despite deteriorating economic conditions since 2007, homicide rates continue to decline.

It's almost as if the CDC will do anything to avoid mentioning guns as being the best available* counter to gun violence.



* In the real world, as opposed to the fantasy world of rainbows and sparkly pastel unicorns that confiscationists inhabit

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
Makes no sense to me to put effort into something that's one-in-a-million.
---
Quite interestingly, you say that after complaining CDC "didn't do such a great job with things like the recent Ebola scare".

Small as the odds of dying in a killing spree are, they are still much higher than dying by Ebola in the USA. Yet, only in one case the small odds justify forbidding research, in your view.

Go figure.


Skipper,

---
It's almost as if the CDC will do anything to avoid mentioning guns as being the best available* counter to gun violence.
---
Talking about incompleteness, you could give some thought on why there are places in the world where violence went down with no use of guns to counter them.

Peter said...

Hmmm... we ought to think harder and harder on why such episodes happen more frequently in places with liberal gun laws... think, think, think.

Clovis:

The U.S. has far and away the highest rate of gun ownership in the world--almost one gun per person. It also has comparatively loose gun control laws. Brazil has a much lower rate of gun ownership--75th in the world--and tighter gun laws. Yet Brazil's gun homicide rate is four times that of the States. How, after thinking harder and harder, would you explain this?

Hey Skipper said...

[Hey Skipper:] It's almost as if the CDC will do anything to avoid mentioning guns as being the best available* counter to gun violence.
---
[Clovis:} Talking about incompleteness, you could give some thought on why there are places in the world where violence went down with no use of guns to counter them.


I should have said "... avoid mentioning guns as a possible counter to gun violence and other crime."

Just because there is a strong correlation doesn't mean there is a cause & effect relationship; after all, there have been plenty of other things going on.

Nonetheless, the CDC report provides the proof you were looking for: its list of potential causes for the drop in crime and gun violence included all manner of things, including one explanation that recent history has pulled off the table, yet completely omits a possibility with strong correlation.

Yet Brazil's gun homicide rate is four times that of the States. How, after thinking harder and harder, would you explain this?

IIRC Britain's suicide rate didn't change after implementing stringent gun controls. Since then, however, gun crime has increased significantly, as have hot (residents in the dwelling) home invasion burglaries.

Australia's experience of gun control has been just as pointless.

(Sorry, no links. I have to head out the door in a few mins.)

And remember, 2% of the US population commits 50% of murders. Outside urban areas, and not all of those, the US murder rate in particular, and crime in general, isn't particularly different from other developed countries.

It certainly isn't enough to warrant the hysteria of confiscationists.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
Brazil has a much lower rate of gun ownership--75th in the world--and tighter gun laws.
---
First, I wouldn't believe any estimate of gun ownership in Brazil. I know about many people who own unregistered guns, and they are not criminals - or better yet, they "are", just for having those guns. And of course, there are the hundred thousand of real criminals who also own unregistered guns. In the case of drug dealers, sometimes very sophisticaded guns, like those ones that can shoot down helicopters.

---
Yet Brazil's gun homicide rate is four times that of the States. How, after thinking harder and harder, would you explain this?
---
I don't need to think much to explain that. It is simple: we are still monkeys down here. Yeah, it's that simple.

I am against the tight gun laws we have here. We are still in the Old West in some senses, so we'd probably be better if the common citizen had a culture of self-protection by guns.

But you see, we are far away from Europe - or Canada - on that. We are still aspiring to be a developed place. The USA, in the other hand, is supposedly a very modern thing. They can - and should - beat Canadians and Europeans in any contest. They don't need to, but still behave like they are in an Old West movie.

Peter said...

...but still behave like they are in an Old West movie.

Heh. That's actually the way I imagine AOG some days. I envision him on a horse marking the boundaries of his homestead while watching out for cattle rustlers and federal agents (played by Harry) trying to take away his constitutional rights. Erp is in the kitchen baking up a storm for the neighbour's barn-raising 'cause everyone took care of everyone else back then. When they're really on a tear about government, I wonder whether they aren't the only people I've ever encountered who rooted for Liberty Valance.

But, Clovis, monkeys? Sorry, I'm not letting you get away with that nonsense. Being Canadian, and therefore peaceful and almost unbearably nice, I'm not too comfortable with the gun cause, but I've watched this debate rage for many years in many places and I've come to think culture plays a much more important role than gun laws. Some societies are just more violent than others. However, I've also noticed that whenever the gun control crowd talks about statistics, they list all the same Northern European countries by comparison. It makes the States look like the odd man out among many, even though it's really just a comparison of two regions and the U.S. population exceeds their total. They almost never throw in Russia, Latin America, Asia and Africa, which surely is more than just a little oversight. If they did, the States would look like Holland by comparison. Shame on you for your self-abnegating epithet, but I do wonder how the gun-control brigade would react to it.

erp said...

A little sexist there Peter. Sorry to disappoint, but even though I am an old granny, cooking ain't my thing. I'd be organizing the efforts and doing a dang-good job of it. You know each doing what they do best, putting their shoulder to the wheel and all. They don’t call me Commandant for nothing.

I don't know who Liberty Valance is. I hate violent films and TV shows and violence of any kind -- maybe I'd make an exception dealing with people who abuse helpless things like kids and kittens.

Si vis pacem, para bellum. True then, true now.

erp said...

Clovis, I didn't know we were in a contest. Is that how you see the world? Odd that.

Peter said...

Ok, ok, erp. You're out helping the neighbour brand her cattle.

erp said...

No, I told you, I run the whole shebang. IOW - I'm what the left loves best -- a despotic authoritarian dictator -- my way or the highway -- we all pull together, get the job done ... and here's where the narrative differs from today's narrative, we all go home and live our own lives.

In the early days, neighbors literally helped each other in every way. Things have gotten more complicated now and we help each other in different ways ... through community activities, civic or religious groups, etc. Why is that so amusing and hard to understand?

Real life happened before you were born Peter. It wasn't perfect, but things are far worse than it was in those imperfect days now that our funds are confiscated by the left (call them progs, fascists, whatever you like) and used as bribes to get the support of the weak-minded whose numbers are growing exponentially.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
But, Clovis, monkeys? Sorry, I'm not letting you get away with that nonsense. [...] and I've come to think culture plays a much more important role than gun laws.
---

You first need to decide if you are against or in favor of my comment. Because, in less polite words, I am saying the same thing as you- culture plays the most important role on that front, and ours down here still have a long way to go.

That's not a "self-abnegating epithet", it is just simple reality. I am not condemning all individuals - there are plenty of good people and good things down here too - but the culture we have come to install and accept as our everyday setting.

Peter said...

Clovis, are you aware you have just expressed the notion of American exceptionalism more concretely than any American I've ever heard? I'm happy to compliment my neighbours to the south when appropriate, but I balk at the suggestion they are at the top of some cultural evolutionary chain.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

Actually quite the contrary: I've pointed out one area where they are behind other developed countries. How exceptional is that?

My point on them being able to outdo Europeans and Canadians has little to do with exceptionalism, but with a naive expectation of more money meaning more development.

A little appreciated fact is that the US borrowed a lot from Switzerland when establishing their Constitution. Take a look at Switzerland: they are definitely a leaning-right society at so many things, including guns, pretty much every citizen has one at home. The idea to take their guns off failed and they believe to deal very healthly with their guns since childhood.

They also have sustained a strong welfare state even if pursuing policies usually associated to neoliberal and right-wing tendencies.

Really, had you to call anyone exceptional, would you choose Switzerland or the USA?

I admire America and Americans at many things, but I keep things on perspective too.

Harry Eagar said...

I can hardly wait for Skipper to find some time and look up those Australian records.

It's going to be embarrassing for him.

Hey Skipper said...

You mean like this?

[Harry:] Actually, there are not laws in place to keep mentally ill people from obtaining firearms.

Harry, I can hardly wait for you to provide links.

Here's one, regarding suicide. From the abstract:

This study examined the increase in the rate of suicide by hanging and an apparently simultaneous decrease in the rate of suicide by firearm as hypothetical evidence that Australian males have substituted one method of suicide for another. Trends in hanging and firearm suicide rates were examined from 1975 to 1998 for all Australian males and from 1971 to 1998 for a subset of Australian male youth, as well as a group of Australian males aged over 64 years at the time of their death. When the firearm suicide rate for Australian males declined the hanging rate increased simultaneously, with no statistical difference in the rate of change of the two methods. A similar pattern of simultaneous divergence in hanging and firearm suicide rates of a 15- to 24-year-old subgroup occurred at a not dissimilar rate over a longer time period. Rates of suicide by hanging were found to have begun increasing prior to the decline in firearm suicide. The declining rate of firearm suicide in the 15- to 24-year-old subgroup coincided with an increase in the overall suicide rate.

Murder and suicide rates before and after gun bans.

Spoiler: If you didn't know when the gun ban happened, the stats wouldn't tell you.

Australian murder and suicide rates over the last twenty years.

Spoiler: If you didn't know when the gun ban happened, the stats wouldn't tell you.

It's going to be embarrassing for him.

Prediction, borne from ample experience: Harry's response will be some combination of supersonic goal posts, memholing, and SQUIRREL!

erp said...

Skipper, ya forgot "crickets."

Bret, how do I prove I'm not robot by typing numbers in a box? Robots can do that too -- you're giving us a bad name.

:-)

Harry Eagar said...

'I can hardly wait for you to provide links.'

Why, when I do you either don't look at them or shoot the messenger? However, it was not difficult to find one. I asked Mr Google, 'how do I buy a gun without a background check?' & got a million and a half results. Here is the top one:

http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2013/11/18/how-to-buy-a-gun-without-a-background-check/

erp said...

So I broke my own rule and checked the link. BTW I won't do it again anytime soon.

LOL ... in other words, anyone can buy a gun illegally in a parking lot. How will the most stringent gun control laws prevent that from happening.

Think, think ... it can't be done as our multi-decade war on drugs has shown. Willing sellers and buyers with cash in hand -- unbeatable combination.

As has been noted a couple times, preventing law abiding citizens from having guns means only criminals will have them and that's what's happening in places where gun violence is rampant, e.g., Chicago.

Hey Skipper said...

Why, when I do you either don't look at them or shoot the messenger?

You have an astonishing record for saying things that are demonstrably false.

How do I know? Because I always check your links, as you should well know considering the number of times I have done so and you responded by [supersonic goal posts II memhole II crickets II SQUIRREL!]

Just so here. You claimed above ... there are not laws in place to keep mentally ill people from obtaining firearms. Which, as it happens, is a complete inversion of reality.

Instead of copping to your notafact, the goal posts suddenly move to an entirely different, and utterly beside the point, field.

The immediate challenge to you was to provide links to Australian records that would embarrass me in my contention that gun confiscation in Australia has been pointless.

Having, in very short order, found substantiation for my conclusion your response is ... supersonic goal posts AND crickets AND memholing AND SQUIRREL!

So long as you traffic in empty pronunciamentos, expect to be a perforated messenger.

Annoying Old Guy said...

I'm with erp - I see not the slightest bit of evidence in Eagar's link for his claim that there are no laws against purchasing a gun without a background check. In fact, the article hints strongly otherwise as it describes a group raising a lot of money to fight such laws.

P.S. erp, text recognition is hard, so the non-robot part is not typing the numbers, but knowing which numbers to type.

erp said...

Considering what robots can do, it would seem trivial to me for them to be able to recognize the shapes of numbers and of course, I'm just teasing Bret being the robot guy and all.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Actually, they can many times recognize shapes and that's probably a big part of what Bret does with his little robots. Otherwise how would they know where to cut the lettuce?

What they are bad at is on interpreting those shapes as we do. See, the computer can learn to look at a branch and calculate a good point to cut it at the base, but it is another matter to recognize it as a "T" or a "I".