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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

More guns, more shootings


As far as correlations go, that one isn't too hard to guess, is it?


77 comments:

Hey Skipper said...

There are a host of problems with the NYT "reporting".

The y-axis scale is 20/square, x-axis 50 million per square. Why?

Why absolute number instead of per-capita? At a per-capita rate (which makes absolute sense since it is capitas doing the killing), and taking the US as one per-capita unit, then the Philippines would be 3/4 of the way up the x-axis, not near the bottom.

Perhaps even more glaring is this: Why mass shootings, instead of mass killings? Why is the NYT concerned more about the means, then the ends?

But wait, theres more:

America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries.

Again with the guns. What is America's non-gun homicide rate? If it far exceeds other developed countries -- and it does -- then the problem isn't guns. Moreover, if comparing like to like (say, Scandinavian-Americans v. Scandinavians) and the difference greatly diminishes, or disappears (and it does), then the problem isn't guns, but rather all-manner of non-means causes.

This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence.

Only to an innumerate idiot that has excluded all non-gun means of murder.

In case you don't believe me, here's proof:

In 2013, American gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. That same year in Japan, a country with one-third America’s population, guns were involved in only 13 deaths.

Japan's suicide rate is 2-3 times that of the US.

This, right here, convicts this silly piece of merde as written either by a propagandist or a zealot, or Harry. But I repeat myself.

My objections aren't open to debate -- they are brute facts. The question is, why do progressives put up such transparent nonsense? Perhaps they believe that enough can be easily fooled to joining the choir; or, alternatively, progressives are simply incapable of analytical thought, and are incapable of spotting barking mad errors.

Also, couldn't help but note that comments are disabled for this crime against statistics and logic.

Hey Skipper said...

All of which, BTW, is why I don't trust the NYT on anything.

Yes, their straight reporting has a breadth unmatched almost everywhere. But on certain subjects -- guns, climate -- they are either pushing an agenda, or too stupid to separate merde from shinola.

Clovis e Adri said...

---
There are a host of problems with the NYT "reporting".
---
If there is, you failed to point out any.

Your brute facts in no way deny their brute facts.

If the question is why America has so many mass shooting with guns, they are only pointing out a rather obvious brute fact: it has far more guns than anybody else, and to be sure, they check if such correlation is valid across the spectrum of countries.

You apparently looks to think the question a silly one, as if to discuss a particular way of killing was non-sense, which it is not.

Clovis e Adri said...

---
Yes, their straight reporting has a breadth unmatched almost everywhere. But on certain subjects -- guns, climate -- they are either pushing an agenda, or too stupid to separate merde from shinola.
---
Maybe yes, yet the link was not to a reporting, but a column. From their link:

"The Interpreter

A column and newsletter by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub exploring the ideas and context behind major world events. "

Peter said...

Clovis:

Nothing personal, old swot, but I'm a little surprised to see a Brazilian playing this card so confidently. Of course it's true that you need a gun to commit a gun homicide, but beyond that axiom, international statistics aren't quite the friend that the gun control lobby thinks they are. If you look here, you will see that the U.S. has 112 guns per hundred people (!!!), while Brazil has 8. Brazil's gun homicide rate is three times that of the States.

There are lots of other anomalies in these international comparisons. For example, Canada actually has a fairly high gun ownership rate (mostly rifles)by international standards, but a low gun homicide rate. Progressives up here boast about the efficacy of our gun control laws, but I have cultural explanation. We're just a hell of a lot nicer than the rest of you savages!

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

Brazil gun homicide rate is more like 6 times the US.

And the reason I play it so confidently is that I am not the least interested in gun homicide rates in this post, but gun mass shootings - those are still extremely rare down here (though copy cat effects are making them a bit less so now).

Clovis e Adri said...

To be more precise, I am not even interested in gun mass shootings in their numeric definition, but in the sort of non-crime/gang/mafia related random mass shooting the US displays.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] If there is, you failed to point out any.

Wait. What?

They report that the US gun suicide rate is many times that of Japan's, yet leave out that Japan's overall suicide rate is nearly 3 times that of the US.

How is that not an epic reporting failure?

Let's say -- and I know I'm going out on a limb here -- that the fact of a suicide is far more impactful than how it happened. Whether a friend of mine died by hurling himself out of a fourth floor window isn't significantly different than self hanging isn't of nearly as much import as the fact that he is dead, and he killed himself.

Presuming you are more motivated by ends than means, then you, and the NYT, will be faced with the uncomfortable consequence of having eliminated all guns, but not budging the suicide rate one iota.

There are two ways of looking at this: either the NYT is analytically challenged, or they don't care whether people are dead, only how they got killed.

Maybe yes, yet the link was not to a reporting, but a column. From their link:

If it isn't in the Op-Ed page, then it supposed to be straight reporting.

This isn't.

Or it is, and it is immeasurably awful.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
How is that not an epic reporting failure?
---
Maybe because the title of the piece is "What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings?", not "What explains higher gun suicide rate in the US?" ?

They went to the topic of gun death rates in order to cover the matter more completely, but it was not a piece about it.

---
There are two ways of looking at this: either the NYT is analytically challenged, or they don't care whether people are dead, only how they got killed.
---
Well, it may come as a shock to you, but often a piece titled about a particular way of dying will, well, talk just about that.

---
If it isn't in the Op-Ed page, then it supposed to be straight reporting.
This isn't.
Or it is, and it is immeasurably awful.
---
My understanding is that a "Column" will always have more explicit opinion than a standar reporting piece. Nonetheless, IMHO, their numbers and analysis was good enough. You are bothered entirely by their focus, not their data.

Peter said...

OK, Clovis, but that sharp distinction is not one implied in the NYT article you linked to. What exactly is your point?

Full disclosure: I'm no fan of the American gun culture and I am glad we don't have it here. However, I am very aware that my view is predicated on the assumption that most of my co-citizens feel the same way and that we generally enjoy the benefit of quick response times from uncorrupted police forces. If that were to change, I dunno.

Comparatively speaking, the U.S. is a more violent society and has a more violent history (outside of wars) than most of Europe and the rest of the Anglosphere, which explains all those predictable charts about gun laws and gun availability that surface after every horror. I once tried to add up all of the politically motivated deaths (including labour violence)in the two countries since Confederation (1867) and the Canadian total to date couldn't match an average week in Bleeding Kansas. But the U.S. is a more peaceful society than most of Central and Latin America and much of Africa and Asia. Gun control laws play a minor and inconsistent role in all of this. Rather than the depressingly predictable debates about gun control that emerge after every atrocity and never make a difference, wouldn't it be better to explore underlying cultural reasons?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

I beg to differ, for that article answered your final question.

I don't know about you, but I am always surprised when there is news about a crazie who got a gun (or many guns) and killed 20 or 40 people at once. My point is just to understand why that happens so often in the US.

Cultural reasons are often debated, and my main take of the article is that, no, it is not really about culture.

Most other countries, had they the same massive quantity of guns and easy availability to them - including Canada - would end up with similar results. Just because, in the end, the reason it happens in the US so often is the crazies there have far more access to guns in order to make it happen. It is "duh"-like level of simple of an answer, but there you have it.

Though Skipper and you apparently read the article thinking about gun control, I don't. The number of deaths due to randomly crazy mass shootings are very low compared to the rest, and I can understand if people prefer to "keep their 2A freedom" instead of exchanging it for, maybe, less crazies doing their mess. I respect that position, each society should judge better their tradeoffs. I just wanted to understand the phenomena, that's all.



erp said...

Mass shootings were rare prior to deinstitutionalization.

Peter said...

Seeing as we are into correlations, how about the correlation between mass shootings and pundits rushing to produce op-eds claiming confidently they know exactly what the cause is and how to prevent such horrors in the future? I think I could write some myself showing that the problem is gun ownership rates, the kinds of guns available, religion, atheism, inflammatory political rhetoric, mental illness, the decline of civility, the American revolutionary heritage, violent sports, income differentials, Hollywood gore porn, social media, mass media publicity, poor parenting, teen bullying or maybe even lousy nutrition. Tell me, do they pay for that stuff?

Most other countries, had they the same massive quantity of guns and easy availability to them - including Canada - would end up with similar results. Really? Do you have some authority for that or did you just pull it out of your hat? Because if that were so, seeing as Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany, France, New Zealand and several others all have gun ownership rates roughly one quarter of the American rate, they should all have about one quarter of the mass shootings, no? But as you point out, the contemporary plague is centered in the States. Is there some tipping point above which the floodgates open? Also, seeing as these mass shootings are almost always suicidal acts, if there is nothing cultural in play here, shouldn't we be seeing mass killings by other means in countries with low rates? As terrorists have shown, it's fairly easy to massacre people using cars and trucks?

I don't know whether you are right or wrong because there is no way to substantiate your thesis and therefore no objective basis to either agree with it or challenge it. There are some very powerful arguments in favour of gun control, especially in modern urban areas, but I don't see mass shootings as playing any role beyond confirming pre-existing biases.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
[Clovis] Most other countries, had they the same massive quantity of guns and easy availability to them - including Canada - would end up with similar results.
[Peter] Really? Do you have some authority for that or did you just pull it out of your hat?
---

Really. Go back to the article I linked in this post and take a good look at the second graph there.

See Canada? Apply a factor 3 to that point in the graph it is, and its position in the X-axis would be just the same as the USA. Its position on the Y-axis would be a tiny bit below the USA.

Considering that it is far easier to do a mass shooting of squirrels than of people in Canada, given people are way harder to find, it is a pretty impressive result - hey, you guys aren't all those nice peaceful citizens you thought!


---
Because if that were so, seeing as Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany, France, New Zealand and several others all have gun ownership rates roughly one quarter of the American rate, they should all have about one quarter of the mass shootings, no?
---

Of course not, for you forgot to correct for population in both measures (not only number of guns per people, but number of mass shooters per people too), which is what the afore mentioned graph does.

Making that correction, you see that graph will have a lot of dispersion near its origin, but it shows a much clearer correlation when you go further the X-Axis.

It is also good to remember that smaller countries will,for statistical and all sorts of other reasons, be outliers in such analysis, and you did cite a few countries too small to fit here.



---
I don't know whether you are right or wrong because there is no way to substantiate your thesis and therefore no objective basis to either agree with it or challenge it.
---
Look, correlations are not a basis to explain much, but they do point out tendencies well. And my thesis is substantiated in the results mentioned in the paper - you can go there, check it all and try yourself to challenge it, but the data is a bit better than you look to believe.


Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Maybe because the title of the piece is "What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings?", not "What explains higher gun suicide rate in the US?" ?

Then it is singularly odd that the item included suicide at all, then, isn't it? Moreover, it can hardly be called anything like complete reporting to imply, without stating, that absent guns, there would be fewer suicides. And then failing to note the two countries differences in suicide and gun ownership reeks of agenda journalism.

Just like here.

[Hey Skipper:] There are two ways of looking at this: either the NYT is analytically challenged, or they don't care whether people are dead, only how they got killed.

---

[Clovis:] Well, it may come as a shock to you, but often a piece titled about a particular way of dying will, well, talk just about that.


But what is the point of the article? It is to substantiate the assertion that absent guns, there would be far fewer premature deaths in the US. Yet in attempting to do so it resorts to crimes against basic statistics, scaling chosen for visual affect, and omitting clearly relevant facts. What is the most important thing about suicide, that people kill themselves or how they manage it? It is at all relevant that countries having virtually eliminated gun ownership (Australia, England) have seen no change in suicide rates?

[Peter:] Comparatively speaking, the U.S. is a more violent society and has a more violent history (outside of wars) than most of Europe and the rest of the Anglosphere, which explains all those predictable charts about gun laws and gun availability that surface after every horror.

Exactly. For unknown reasons, Scots-Irish descendants are far more violence prone than others of European ancestry. Gun ownership is common enough among Scandinavian-Americans, yet they are no more prone to murder than Scandinavian-Scandinavians. African-Americans alone make our murder stats at least twice as bad as they would be otherwise.

The problem isn't guns, because they are common to all three groups, yet they have far different rates of violent crime.

[Clovis:] See Canada? Apply a factor 3 to that point in the graph it is, and its position in the X-axis would be just the same as the USA. Its position on the Y-axis would be a tiny bit below the USA.

It seems as if you are repeating the same mistake that the article made with regard to suicide.

Let's say that people in general care more about mass murder than how the murders were committed. How many mass murderers are there per hundred million people?

For example, since 1966, Australia has had 26 mass murders.

In 1986, halfway between then and now, Australia had 16 million people. So Australia has roughly 156 mass murderers per hundred million people. Of course there is a link between the ease of getting a tool, and the likelihood it will get used for a job; guns are no exception. But the lack of guns is no barrier to mass killing, as GW9525, or Nice, France, clearly demonstrated.

I simply do not get the fixation on means instead of ends. All the victims are just as dead.

Peter said...

Yes Clovis, it's hard to aim an assault rifle from a moving dogsled. Besides our fingers are always too numb from cold to aim properly. But how come you Brazilians have so many gun homicides seeing as most of you live in remote villages in the rainforest?

OK, I get it. The U.S. has lots of guns and lots of mass shootings, ergo... Still, that article seems to have a lot of confirmation bias and is pretty cavalier with the stats. Plus the authors seem to give short shrift to other explanations. I was astounded to see them claim that mental health in the States is no worse than anywhere else. Any Canadian could have told them Americans are all crazy.

Peter said...

Skipper, Clovis is trying to restrict the comments to these "senseless" mass shootings and I think you are focused on general crime and homicide rates. As to mass shootings, your ethnicity remarks are problematic. The largest immigrant group in English Canada was the Scots and the Irish weren't that far behind. Plus while Quebecers gained a reputation of being pacific (they actually aren't), at the time of settlement the French were considered the most warlike people in Europe. Plus while I could be wrong, I don't recall too many of these mass shootings being committed by African Americans.

One thing that troubles me about NYT/Dem/progressive shibboleths that the problem is lack of gun control is that, while these mass shootings are generally seen as a contemporary phenomenon beginning with Whitman in 1966, the States has always been awash in guns, maybe even more so than today on a per capita basis. But even the Chicago mobsters and the bad guys in the old West didn't shoot up schools and country fairs. So what happened?

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Your brute facts in no way deny their brute facts."

LOL.

Bret said...

Clovis,

I guess I don't get the preoccupation with this particular phenomenon - specifically "mass shootings." Is a mass shooting death more tragic than a general gun homicide or a automobile accident death or pretty much any death? Aren't most deaths tragic in some way, leaving grieving family and friends. A few hundred die in mass shootings in the United States in recent years, a few million die of all causes. I guess I don't understand why I should care more about that particular method of death as compared to all others or even compared to all other non-disease/non-old-age deaths. If I were anti-gun, I suppose I would care more, but from a neutral gun control point of view, is there a non-ideological reason while mass shooting deaths are more important or more tragic than other sorts of deaths?

Peter said...

Bret, you are now arguing like the kind of modern rationalist who thinks he is a clever savant by pointing out that more people die in car accidents than from terrorists, so what is the big fuss? We all know that, by far, the greatest danger to young girls from sexual assault is from stepfathers and family members, but it is the stranger in the park at night that haunts her (and our) dreams. As bloodless as it sounds, not all deaths earn our equal existential horror and mourning. Those which are unexpected, inexplicable and wanton chill our souls and galvanize us to irrational responses and action and more than those we can explain. Don't ask me why, I don't know, but I don't think I can imagine a "Mr. Spock" society where it wasn't so. These mass shootings may be more likely to generate gun control initiatives than all the gang killings in Chicago.

Peter said...

To follow up, Americans ( and the rest of us) have more or less willingly accepted major restrictions of their personal freedoms and a very sharp increase of government surveillance because of 3,000 deaths in New York in 2001. Was that a rational response? I wonder. But if not, what kind of society would do a cool, rational cost/benefit analysis in the face of that kind of outrageous existential horror? Or what kind of person?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
I guess I don't get the preoccupation with this particular phenomenon [...]
---
Well, what Peter said.

Plus, you underestimate that feeling of 'need to understand' that people have concerning every non-trivial type of death.

I am a curious person about almost every subject I can think of. To me, it is the contrary that is hard to understand: how can you look to such an outlier phenomena and not be puzzled?

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
But what is the point of the article? It is to substantiate the assertion that absent guns, there would be far fewer premature deaths in the US.
---
That may be their implicit intended goal - and you look to be aggravated by that, feeling they are selling their agenda and so on - but their explicit goal, and I believe they did well at it, was to show there is a 'more guns-more mass shootings' correlation across countries of very different cultures, ethnicity, and so on. IOW, a reasonably robust correlation.

So the better defended point of the article is that absent guns, there would be fewer premature detahs in the US ((not 'far fewer', since mass shootings deaths are a very small part of the total gun related toll).

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Let's say that people in general care more about mass murder than how the murders were committed. How many mass murderers are there per hundred million people?

For example, since 1966, Australia has had 26 mass murders.

In 1986, halfway between then and now, Australia had 16 million people. So Australia has roughly 156 mass murderers per hundred million people.
---

See, you alone stumbled over the most important insight of the article - which, as I said before, is 'duh'-like simple, but still.

IOW, crazy mass murderers are somehow common to many modern societies. Since in the US they have more access to guns, hence give us a greater horror show, we dumb people get the impression the US is somehow a place of greater affinity for mass murders.

It is not. It just have more guns.

You may find it utterly obvious, but since this type of discussion often goes to a multitude of other factors and hypothesis, it is pretty interesting to check they look to be of second order.

It may be surprising that culture plays less of a role, but it must be about statistics: individuals are rich source of complex behavior, but once you have too many people out there, a lot of that behavior tends to average out to a few points.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] See, you alone stumbled over the most important insight of the article - which, as I said before, is 'duh'-like simple, but still.


I thought about it a little more, and it occurred to me the thesis of this article is entirely wrong, and the wrongness is hiding in plain sight.

Assume that guns are instrumental in mass shootings. Not merely that they are used, but that they are instrumental. That is, there is a correlation between the number of guns, and the number of mass shootings.

Take Russia, for example. Roughly 12 million guns, and and 17 mass shootings.

The US has 240 million guns. If there is a correlation between the number of guns, and the number of mass shootings, then the US should have 340 mass shootings, not 90. Thats off by roughly 3.5 times.

This invalidates the premise of the entire article, as there are only three explanations I can think of.

First, some gun owners have more than one gun. Fine, but that could apply just as well to Russia, so I will take the luxury of considering that factor common-mode, and ignore it, since it wouldn't change the discrepancy.

Alternatively, the more guns there are in a country, the less instrumentality attends each additional gun. But the very thesis of this article (and gun controllers in general) contradicts that: guns cause shootings.

Finally, guns are not instrumental to mass killings at all. Mass killers are, thankfully, a tiny percentage of a population, and they will find a means to cause mass casualties, guns being just one of those means.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
This invalidates the premise of the entire article, as there are only three explanations I can think of.
---

No, it doesn't, it only shows that the average is higher than the US (try to fit an optimal straight line through all the points of Graph 2 of the link - the US will be below it).

Which, if it is any consolation, means that the US is actually less violent, in terms of mass shootings, than you ought to expect from the average of the world.

Clovis e Adri said...

BTW, Skipper, it comes as no surprise to me that, were Russia as armed as the US is, it would experience 3 to 4 times more mass shootings per capita than the us does.

I know Russians enough to believe that.

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "Those which are unexpected, inexplicable and wanton chill our souls..."

Okay. I guess maybe I'm losing my soul then since I'm feeling no chill or much of anything at all from these mass shootings. No more than reading about a car accident with some fatalities.

Part of it is that I don't see why they're unexpected or inexplicable. I'm absolutely certain that there will be more mass shootings, aren't you? So doesn't that mean they're expected? And what's inexplicable about someone who's insane, fanatic or apoplectically angry doing something extremely violent? Isn't that part of the nature of the human species? That some (fortunately very few) of us are wantonly and extremely violent?

Or maybe it's because I don't watch TV. Reading "20+ dead in church shooting" or "50+ dead in Las Vegas" from mass shootings probably doesn't have the same impact as seeing bodies all over the place on TV. It probably is more remote and has naturally less impact to me than someone engaged in the visualization of the events on TV.

I haven't been on Facebook or social media for a bit so maybe it's just that I haven't been caught up in the emotional response to these supposed horrors.

I'm not sure why, but I definitely have a very different and much more subdued response than seemingly everybody else including those here on this blog. "20 dead in mass shooting" and "7 dead in freeway pile up" aren't feeling all that different to me, at least at the moment.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...how can you look to such an outlier phenomena and not be puzzled?"

Which part is puzzling? (I assume that the "outlier phenomena" is the much higher mass shootings and guns in the US).

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] No, it doesn't, it only shows that the average is higher than the US (try to fit an optimal straight line through all the points of Graph 2 of the link - the US will be below it).

Yes, it does. The whole point of this vapid nonsense is to demonstrate how guns make the US a more violent place.

But it fails epically in two ways. First by using count instead of rate, which makes the non-US countries look far less violent in comparison than they actually are. Second, by not even noticing that the number of mass shooters is so much lower than it should be that they end up demonstrating exactly the opposite: the more guns a society has, the fewer the mass shooters, and by a substantial margin.

It is astonishing that they make a correlation based claim, and don't even know which way the correlation goes.

I attribute that to progressives being, in general, being singularly awful at analytical thinking.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
It is astonishing that they make a correlation based claim, and don't even know which way the correlation goes.
---

I believe you are the one who can't read those graphs, Skipper, your affirmations above make no sense.

Hey Skipper said...

Referring to the first graph.

Leave aside for the moment that choosing quantity instead of rate is statistical stupidity of the very highest order. There is absolutely no justification for this. It is so shabby and pathetic that I can only conclude neither the author nor the editor has even the numeracy that my golden retriever once possessed.

Quoting from the article:

When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested if noisy democracy, a crusader in foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and film.

But there is one quirk that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.


According to the author, guns are instrumental, in that mass killings using guns would not have happened without them. And I am being charitable.

After all, if the killer was determined to enact his own holocaust (GW9525; Nice, France), then guns are just a means among many. If that is the case, then this whole stupid article is also a complete nullity, because enacting strict gun control measures wouldn't change anything meaningful.

Okay, take the charitable argument: the more guns there are, the higher the rate of mass shootings.

That must mean that mass shootings rise in proportion to the number of privately owned guns -- a country with 100 million guns must have 100 times the mass shootings as a country with 1 million guns.

Is that true?

I picked Russia as a roughly representative point in that horror show of a graph, because it is roughly in the center, and is at least identifiable, as opposed to the rest of those blobs that could be any damn thing.

If gun are instrumental, then the US should have a quantity of mass shootings that is pretty close to the multiple of guns in the US compared to Russia. BTW, it is in this regard that picking quantity over rate almost appears to make sense; after all if it is guns that cause mass shootings, by, oh, I don't know, whispering dark incantations into susceptible ears, then the rate of mass killings is dependent upon the evil instruments themselves.

This is exactly what this article is proposing -- although it is hard to put the explanation within the thesis in such a way as to not make it sound like so much bollocks.

But take it as read.

If guns are instrumental -- that is, they create more mass killings -- then the constant of proportionality must be close as darnnit, or even exceeding, 1.

If it is much less, as here, where it is about .3, then it torpedoes the thesis. The more guns, the fewer mass shootings. But that runs exactly counter to the explicitly stated thesis, doesn't it?

And that is before getting to the most foolish part of this whole thing. Considered in terms of rate, compared to the number of guns, mass shootings in the US happen at a rate of around 0.3 per million guns.

If guns are instrumental, how can it be they cause mass shootings so vanishingly rarely?

More likely, the author hasn't thought through any of this.





Hey Skipper said...

BTW, my mixing of the terms "mass killings" and "mass shootings" is purposeful, because doing so correctly, as opposed to completely ignoring what's fundamentally important -- ends, not means -- points out how awful this article is.

As well, the moron who wrote this didn't make the link that erp did above. The true operative factor is the contemporary inability to involuntarily confine the mentally ill.

Why did the article choose 1966 as the starting point?

This, in particular is nonsensical:

If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.


Two thirds of US gun deaths are suicides, but only 4% of gun deaths can be attributed to mental health issues?

What. The. F**k?

And the last sentence is equally a horror show. US mass shootings are sufficiently few to be easily assessable individually. Certainly it is within the realm of reason to produce an actual answer, rather than a statistical concoction. Just as it is decidable whether these mass shootings would best have been prevented by confiscating guns, or institutionalizing the mentally ill.

It seems obvious to me that essentially all mass killers (absent the ideologically motivated) are profoundly mentally ill. If they weren't, but rather normal like nearly all the rest of us, no one would still be left standing.

Hey Skipper said...

Maybe there's another reason this article started in 1966, instead of sooner.

Clovis e Adri said...

Gosh, Skipper, you are going insane if you buy that comparison of the mass shootings of crazies today with the systematic killing and persecution by the Nazi/Facist/communist states in past. A truly nutsy comparison.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Leave aside for the moment that choosing quantity instead of rate is statistical stupidity of the very highest order.
---
That criticism is nullified by their second graph, where both axes are on per-capita basis.

---
If gun are instrumental, then the US should have a quantity of mass shootings that is pretty close to the multiple of guns in the US compared to Russia.
---
No, it should not. The data shows correlation, not a linear model to fit all countries. So, when I did suggest to Peter that, by applying a factor 3 to Canada, it would be just like the US, his best answer could well be that I can't ever prove that such a rescaling of Canada would be linear. And he would be right, I can't, and nor can you place such a great faith in the fact that Russia, in a linear extension, would be so much worse than the US.

---
If guns are instrumental -- that is, they create more mass killings -- then the constant of proportionality must be close as darnnit, or even exceeding, 1.
---
No, it doesn't, and you are showing poor statistical judgment. All they show is a positive relationship between more guns-more death across the spectrum. The fact that Russia could be, hypothetically, a case of more guns-much much more deaths goes, in now way whatsoever, against their claims.



Clovis e Adri said...

Correction:

The fact that Russia could be, hypothetically, a case of more guns-much much more deaths, does not go, in any way whatsoever, against their claims.

Peter said...

Let's try to cut through all this statistical mumbo-jumbo. Clovis, imagine strict gun control measures were implemented that reduced the number of guns in the States by half to a paltry 125 million guns, a phenomenal achievement. What do you say the NYT article suggests would happen?

Hey Skipper said...

[Hey Skipper:] If guns are instrumental -- that is, they create more mass killings -- then the constant of proportionality must be close as darnnit, or even exceeding, 1.
---
[Clovis: ] No, it doesn't, and you are showing poor statistical judgment. All they show is a positive relationship between more guns-more death across the spectrum. The fact that Russia could be, hypothetically, a case of more guns-much much more deaths goes, in now way whatsoever, against their claims.


Let me explain this a different way, using the second chart instead of that full frontal assault on statistics 101 that this article leads off with.

Draw a line from the origin to the point 40 mass shooters per million/80 guns per 100 people.

Data points above that line have a high proportion of mass shooters per number of guns. Afghanistan, lots of mass shooters per 110 million despite not a lot of guns; Iraq, comparatively few, despite having something like 5 times as many guns.

Moreover, the spread between Iraq and France, despite nearly the same number of guns per 100 people, is a factor of roughly 5.

How the heck can guns be the correlation, if the explanatory divergence in that single factor is so huge? Moreover, guns as an explanation isn't helped by the fact that the ratio of (mass shooters per 100 million population:guns) in the US is roughly 0.3, whereas France and four other unnamed data points is roughly 0.5.

Please explain to me how the US is an outlier if its ratio of mass shooters to guns is lower than France and a whole bunch of data points very close to the 0.5 line. Or, for that matter how international comparisons suggest an answer when the ratio for Canada is close as darnnit to that for the US (i.e., the slope of the line from the origin to Canada is only slightly lower than that to the US.)

In other words, while it is undeniable that the US has almost twice as many mass shooters/100^6 people as, France, gun ownership looks to be not explanatory, but rather completely irrelevant.

Hey Skipper said...

But wait, there's more.

Above I harped on the distinction between mass shootings and mass killings, insisting that the distinction is either nefarious or delusional.

Iraq is to be admired, because despite having fairly high gun ownership, it is about as low as it is possible to be in terms of mass shooters.

Any guesses as to where it would be on the chart if it was re-titled mass killers per hundred people? They would have to triple the height of the chart to keep Iraq in view.

I'd just love to hear why, when it comes to mass killings, or killings of any kind, it is the means that is so important that not only is there not so much as a nod in the direction of the dead, but that fraudulent graph portrays Iraq as something it absolutely isn't.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Gosh, Skipper, you are going insane if you buy that comparison of the mass shootings of crazies today with the systematic killing and persecution by the Nazi/Facist/communist states in past. A truly nutsy comparison.

No, it isn't. This article (whatever its merits) does what confiscationists always do: focus solely on the cost side of guns, without considering even for a second that there might, just might, be some benefits.

To take just one example that is in that article — remember the Tutsi genocide, that killed something like ¾ of a million people. Is it within the realm of the possible that had Tutsis been armed to the extent Americans are, that the genocide would never have happened?

And while we are talking correlations, if that is the horse this article wants to ride on, then it can't get off when the riding gets rough.

The murder rate in the US is now something like half its peak in the early 90s. The early 90s is also when many states in the US greatly liberalized gun laws, and gun ownership skyrocketed.

There is a far, far, higher correlation between gun ownership and declining murders in the US than there is between ownership and mass shooters worldwide.

If the latter correlation is an answer then the authors had damn well better admit that the former is an explanation, too.

erp said...

When you guys start charting the number of angels on the head of pin, I'm telling ya, I'm calling the medics!

:-)

Peter said...

Yes erp, as he says, Skipper is uncommonly adept at articulating positions he doesn't agree with, but sometimes he can be very confusing about the ones he does. :-)

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter:] as he says, Skipper is uncommonly adept at articulating positions he doesn't agree with

I did?

However, I could have explained the underlying concept more clearly.

Below the line, the rate of increasing gun ownership exceeds the increase in mass shooters.

Above the line, vice versa. (This is because doubling the number of guns occupies the same distance on the X-axis as doubling the number of mass shooters does on the Y.)

On the line, the correlation has no explanatory value -- guns and people are both increasing at the same rate. The further above the line, the more likely it is that the correlation represents a cause and effect relationship. If a doubling in the number of guns quadruples the number of mass shooters, then you might well be onto something.

However, if doubling the number of guns increases the number of masses shooters by only 50%, then the hypothesis is toast.

Canada the US are in roughly the same region on the graph -- the number of mass shooters is increasing more slowly than the number of guns.

The only reason the graph appears to show something is that the number of guns in the US is so much greater than the rest of the world, NOT because, in proportion, the number of mass shooters is unusual.

If the US had roughly six more mass shooters over the period, it would have the same ratio as France, which is purportedly not an outlier.

Full disclosure: I'm home alone, and am on my way to the second martini being under my belt.

Bret said...

erp and Peter, LOL!

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

And it as good thing you have a Martini to excuse yourself, because you just gave the most wrong explanation about correlations that I ever saw.

A 45 degrees line (plus a zero disperson about it) is the dream of every graph looking for correlations, for it shows one thing is absolutely correlated with the other one, a one to one relationship.

A 0 or 90 degrees line is the contrary: it means one thing does not present any change when the other does.

Now, you look to be greatly confused by the fact that many points of graph 2 are out of the optimal fitting straight line - which means there is a good deal of dispersion, i.e. variation, in the correlation they are looking for - but it sure does not mean what you take from it above.

Bret said...

Clovis,

I'm finding your (and the NY Times) statistical analysis and interpretation accurate.

I'm not finding it quite convincing.

If we remove the US from that top graph, is there any correlation at all? It doesn't look to be very strongly correlated without the US and, in fact, it might even be negatively correlated.

If you remove one point and the correlation goes away or even changes sign, that's a red flag to me. I wouldn't trust any statistic based on such a data set.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Let's try to cut through all this statistical mumbo-jumbo. Clovis, imagine strict gun control measures were implemented that reduced the number of guns in the States by half to a paltry 125 million guns, a phenomenal achievement. What do you say the NYT article suggests would happen?
---

Their data (not the article, i.e. their text, but their graphs) suggests that the US, even though having the same number of crazy people, would have had roughly the same number of mass shootings per 100 million people that France did.

Taking in account the US population is 4.82 times the French one, but it grew at faster rate, and making a rough estimative that ignores many other possible complications, it would give the US roughly 70 (plus 4, minus 10, of uncertainty) cases of mass shootings in the period, which ranges from 30 to 16 less mass shootings than it actually had.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
If you remove one point and the correlation goes away or even changes sign, that's a red flag to me. I wouldn't trust any statistic based on such a data set.
---

Well, than you ought to give up studying any phenomena that is too far an outlier.

Mass shootings are very rare, countries with data about it are not too many, and in the end the data can lead you only to some very limited set of conclusions anyway.

As I take it, they are just confirming what should be obvious: places with more guns tend to have more mass shootings.

Is that an argument to take the guns out of the population? I don't think so, given the relative number of deaths is so small.

If I were an American, I would not support strict gun control (to make far harder to have a gun) based on that data. I would, more likely, support greater control of the kind of guns accessible to be bought, probably restricting it to shotguns and others that could make the death toll of each incident a bit lighter. I don't buy the argument that you need an AR-15 to exercise your right of effective self defense.


Clovis e Adri said...

Correction: I've meant pistols, not shotguns, in the last para above.

I can't explain why, but every time I read 'shotgun', my mind translates it wrong by default.

Bret said...

Clovis: "As I take it, they are just confirming what should be obvious: places with more guns tend to have more mass shootings."

Does the data support that if you remove the US?

erp said...

... not obvious to me.

It's places like the US where violent lunatics like this latest nutcase are walking free. He crushed a baby's skull among other things and was walking around free to escalate his craziness.

It was already illegal for him to own a fire arm. He should have been in an institution for the criminally insane, so innocents could have gone on with their lives instead of being buried.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

A did a dumb mistake upon answering you, when I gave those final numbers.

The right numbers for the US, with 125 million guns, would be more like 42 (plus 2, minus 6 of uncertainty in a rough guess) mass shootings. So less than half the 90 mass shootings between 1966-2012.


Bret,

I guess the correlation gets steeper if you take out the US (so more guns lead to even more deaths), but its dispersion grows and you have less statistical significance.


Erp,

Almost every place is the same as the US at that, nowadays: the crazies are all out there.

Bret said...

Clovis,

You "guess" or did you calculate?

From what I can see, they didn't actually provide a link to the data, did they?

erp said...

No Clovis, all the world didn't open up the doors of their institutions for the criminally insane and let the crazies out. They make up much of the homeless population -- not only crazies, but unfortunate retarded people who were thrown out to fend for themselves. It was totally outrageous. I was on the mental health state board at the time and was called a nazi because I voted against it.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I guess, therefore I did not calculate - I am looking to that graph and doing first order estimatives by rule of thumb.

You take the US out, you still have Yemen and a non-homogeneous distribution of the points that gives you a small positive correlation (but a steeper one at that, than when you had the US).

You take both the US and Yemen out, and the graph is useless.

Erp,

Yep, pretty much all the rest of the world did that too, even if a bit later or if a bit more slowly.




Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] And it as good thing you have a Martini to excuse yourself, because you just gave the most wrong explanation about correlations that I ever saw.

A 45 degrees line (plus a zero disperson about it) is the dream of every graph looking for correlations, for it shows one thing is absolutely correlated with the other one, a one to one relationship.


I am terrified of saying this, because there is a decent chance of turning the entire internet into a singularity, thereby destroying civilization as we know it.

You are right, and I am completely wrong.

(Hides under desk, whimpering and thumb sucking, as if that is going to do any good in the face of the onrushing singularity.)

Hey Skipper said...

In shameful truth, I had completely lost track units, and convinced myself -- proving once again that denial is more than just a river in Egypt -- that a correlation of 1 proved there wasn't any correlation at all.

And that was before my first martini, as I was pondering this whilst sitting in the back from Helsinki to Düsseldorf.

Anyway, thanks for setting me straight.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "I am looking to that graph and doing first order estimatives by rule of thumb. "

OK. It looks to me (yes, guessing) that without the US, you can't reject the null hypothesis that the slope is not positive - the standard error of estimate will be too high. Why they didn't include a table with the numbers is beyond me - then we could stick it in a spreadsheet or matlab and futz away.

I have a problem with data sets where removing one point changes things. Here are a couple of examples:

1. In futures trading (with Howard), imagine the axes are money put at risk versus return based on some trading rule. We would never, ever trade that rule. The outlier is likely to be one random trade that will not repeat for a very long time if ever.

2. Imagine it was drug efficacy versus dosage. I don't think it would be wise to take a massive dose. One guy benefited from the big dose - would anybody else?

And so forth.

Furthermore, I personally doubt that number of guns has any direct implications in this problem but is rather a side effect of other things, for example:

1. Ease of acquiring weapons. Even if there were 0 guns in the US but someone could go get all the guns and ammo he wanted instantaneously, that's more directly related than the number of guns itself. The number of guns is a symptom of how easy it is to get guns.

2. Gun culture. Americans like guns and are comfortable with them.

And so forth.

The bottom line is that I don't find the graph statistically compelling nor the logic compelling.

Hey Skipper said...

There is another conceptual problem with this graph. It finds the availability of guns strongly correlated with mass shooters, yet the huge increase in guns since the mid-1990s is also correlated with a drop of something like 50% in non-mass gun murders.

It would have been simple task to see where the US lies in other forms of violence. If, for instance, the US has a high rate of non-gun murders compared to other similar countries -- which, SFAIK, is the case -- then gun availability doesn't explain anything.

Additionally, removing young African-American men from the stats causes violent crime rates to plummet. Since guns aren't racist, then, then the explanation must lie elsewhere.

Even if sparkly unicorns were to suddenly rule the world and make all guns vanish, a very real and major problem -- the near-extinction of meaningful fathers in many black communities -- would remain, as would the consequent violence and crime.

If confiscationists looked at all the evidence available, not just a few out of context cherries, I don't see how they could reach any conclusion other than that guns are at worst irrelevant.

That is clearly the case for suicide rates, for instance.

Peter said...

I agree, Skipper, that trying to correlate mass shootings with a rise in gun availability while "ordinary" gun homicides are plummeting is a big problem for Clovis and the NYT. I was also very intrigued with your sharp insight that, given the out-of-sight American gun numbers, there should actually be more mass shootings in the States. I don't know if that kind of deep wisdom correlates with martinis, but I'm heading out to buy some gin to find out.

Clovis e Adri said...

It is beyond me the reason Skipper and Peter would expect random mass shootings to be correlated with other kinds of gun deaths.

Seems rather trivial that lunatics who try to kill dozens of random strangers in one spot are pretty different from the criminal who kills in a robbery. To wit, you rarely see mass shooters with a past of criminal enterprises.

Bret,

Both future trading and drug studies would easily give you far more data points to draw on. Now, if the bet was if the USA will keep having far more mass shooters per capita than most of the rest of the world, that's a future trading I'd easily bet on.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] It is beyond me the reason Skipper and Peter would expect random mass shootings to be correlated with other kinds of gun deaths.

Because shootings (or, as I prefer, killings) exist along a spectrum of violence, whereas a correlation between shootings and white collar crime, for instance, might be a real reach.

What I don't get is how you can put them into separate categories. After all, to kill many, it is first required to kill one.

Meanwhile, it is beyond me how anyone can put into a box this thing called "shootings" while simultaneously ignoring all the other means to the same end.

If the US is more violent across the spectrum than similarly situated countries, then means aren't the problem, something, or things, else is.

Alternatively, if the US was just like Canada except for violence using guns, then that would be very powerful argument for getting rid of guns (ignoring the perennial problem for which confiscationists never have an answer: the only people disarmed are the law abiding). The confiscationist argument is, at its core, that guns make violent acts so easy that they are instrumental in causing violent crime. Confiscating guns would be correlated with a plummeting suicide rate, or murder rate, or mass killings; conversely, the wide availability of guns would be correlated with increases in each of these ills.

Alternatively, since none of those relationships hold, then at the very least one should seriously entertain the possibility that guns aren't the problem.





Peter said...

Clovis, when you brilliant boffins get going on a thread like this, I never know whether there is a political/policy subtext or whether you are just having a good time having a professional intramural squabble. If the latter, then you are right. But what I don't get is why so many people think there is one cause of this statistically rare phenomenon. Also, if you agree that mass-killings, although horrific, are statistically rare and unrelated to general gun homicides and violence, why is this even important? After all, that NYT article wasn't in the science section, was it?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

This is not so much about causes, but how they many causes manifest themselves. We don't know why people become mass shooters, but we see that, if more guns are available (per capita), more mass shootings happen (per capita). Anything beyond that is just speculation.

Now, I may say this is not important from a numerical point of view, but I would not say mass-killings are not important at all. They are very important to the ones affected, after all.

As policies implications go, to me, if the correlation of that article is right, it means mass-shootings will keep happening anyway in the USA, and since this is a near certainty, steps to ensure they are less harmful could be taken.

erp said...

Yes, and those steps are to remove those who've proven to be violent and out-of-control like this last guy who had previously harmed his wife and child and crushed a baby's skull and had escaped from a mental facility and yet was was not restrained. There used to be places for the criminally insane and there were far fewer mass shooting for no apparent gain to the shooter.

Check out those statistics.

The trend toward de-institutionalization started in the 50's with new drugs to treat mental illness, but went into full court press mode in the late 60's and 70's with Geraldo Rivera's TV extravaganza and the election of Jimmah.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Any suggestion in order to make that happen? I guess there is no chance for the govt to foot that bill for better mental health care and facilities in the USA.

erp said...

Clovis, Health care isn't a federal responsibility. Each state and community makes their own arrangements. You are falling into the socialist mind-set. Try to resist.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,


Where did I state it was federal responsibility? I wrote 'govt', meaning all the branches.

erp said...

The word, government, usually refers to the feds.

Clovis e Adri said...

What do you call the executive branches at state and municipal level?

None of them will step up mental health care anyway, so what's the next proposal of your list?

erp said...

I'm talking semantics here. When we speak of government, it's usually the feds. All you mention are also government. You do understand that there were institutions for the mentally ill and others for the criminally insane as well as places where retarded people were cared for. All these were CLOSED because the compassionates noticed they weren't like Club Med. Unless we return to sanity, you're right, there will be no movement to take these people off the streets and into places where they can be removed from society and citizens can feel safe in their communities.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "What do you call the executive branches at state and municipal level?"

I usually use either the plural (governments) or usually I spell it out (state and local governments). Your use is also correct (I'm pretty sure), but I'll admit that when I read it, I also assumed you meant the federal government, so a few extra keystrokes can be helpful.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

---
you're right, there will be no movement to take these people off the streets and into places where they can be removed from society and citizens can feel safe in their communities.
---

Thanks, Erp, I get mightly happy when you agree I am right :-)

Clovis e Adri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
but I'll admit that when I read it, I also assumed you meant the federal government, so a few extra keystrokes can be helpful.
---
As I understand your present health care system, there is money from the three branches involved for most cases where someone is being subsidized, so I did not feel the need to explain what you all surely know.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] The trend toward de-institutionalization started in the 50's with new drugs to treat mental illness ...

True. Just as the trend was motivated by people who were effectively incarcerated without due process, or recourse. There were plenty of people who weren't insane, but confined nonetheless.

The problem is that, unlike physical disease, mental disease is devilishly difficult to objectively diagnose. Maybe one in 10,000 people with mental issues go on to do anything violent, and it is almost impossible, in advance, to tell who. (Granted, not totally impossible. Cracking a baby's skull would seem to be a danger sign.)

[Clovis:] We don't know why people become mass shooters, but we see that, if more guns are available (per capita), more mass shootings happen (per capita).

This is why the focus on shootings, instead of killings, is nothing more than ooohhhh shiny thing!

The Australians confiscated guns in 1996. There have been 12 mass killings since.

The worst mass killings in the US haven't involved guns. (I'm going with memory here, on account of there is no way of getting a useful search result given Vegas and Texas.)

Finally, I'm left with this quandary: if all guns were to vanish tomorrow, these mass shooters would just shrug their shoulders and binge watch Disney musicals, instead?

erp:

I don't think there is any plausible mental health policy that can deal with a phenomena as rare as mass killers without ensnaring a whole bunch of people who, while certainly annoying, won't become violent.