Sunday, February 18, 2018

Guns, Data, and Missing the Point

If digital writing required the same ink as print, we'd have blown through all the dye, murdered every octopus and squid, and started in on the crayons just to cover everyone's gun-related opinions over the last few days. There's no argument that can sway anybody who lives in this country anymore, not on its merits. Opinions shift when headline events occur, and if outside opinions sway a person, it's from being surrounded by a bunch of people shouting in unison. The gap between 'we will die with all these guns' and 'we will die without all these guns' is too massive for someone to leap on the strength of a single person's eloquence.

Some people keep fighting anyway. Some walk away, unwilling to lose (more) friends and relatives to a firestorm that only ever has fuel added. I watch numbers. Less open to interpretation, as a wise man (read: greedy fictional banker) once said.

One of my Facebook friends posted a takedown of Everytown for Gun Safety's statistic that there have been eighteen school shootings in the first month and a half of 2018. The takedown focused pretty hard on the fact 'only' six or seven had injuries or fatalities, which seems like a pretty fucked way to look at the situation. Within the lifetime of anyone coherent enough to understand what we're talking about, the idea of guns on a campus would still have been cause for a freakout. Setting aside incidents where bullets flew in or around a school in a separate category because someone's aim was shitty is missing the point pretty hard.

That said, there were also instances like a third-grader pulling the trigger on a cop's gun, which is a situation that sounds idiotic as shit but is very much an accident. Whether the list looked like the 'correct' number would be eight or ten or twelve or fifteen, eighteen was clearly not right. Pointing that out is fair. It's arguably necessary given how many media and political sources took that number and ran with it, because if a statistic gun control advocates start relying on can get shot down as easily as this one, it's doing zero good for the cause.

But there's a flip side to making corrections: letting go of the point once it's made. The Gun Violence Archive has just about every data point you could want at a glance about shooting incidents (some of which don't have any casualties). The New York Times used the archive's data in a recent piece on shootings since Sandy Hook, and as of February 15th found eleven school shootings listed in 2018. Both logic and a dig through well-collated data shows the eighteen number was too high. The people who complained about that can enjoy that they were correct, and let it fucking go.

Eleven in a month and a half is still one every four days. If your message is, hey, this statistic is too high, but this is still really fucking bad and we need to find some answers, great. That is a reasonable perspective. If the main thing you're bitching about is that the gun control people overshot their argument, and you can't stop harping on it because they're dishonest or it's clear you can't get a straight answer out of liberals or whatever the fuck else, shut the goddamned fuck up.

Go hug your guns. I truly don't give a shit. I've stopped believing that we're going to fix this problem before the whole country burns. But if you'd rather watch the country burn before you give up your weapons, own it. Own the fact that, no matter how much you argue there will be just as many dead people without guns, we can't possibly know that without changing anything and your guns are more important than trying. I will respect people more for throwing themselves on top of their arsenals screaming, "MY GUNS! YOU NO TAKE!" than anybody scrabbling for the tiniest handholds so they can cling to the notion one erroneous statistic discounts every other argument on the side of those who made the mistake, including entirely valid arguments presented by the corrected statistic.

Just be sure—for your own sake, be really, really sure—that you are all-in with whatever you believe. Because if what you support is or becomes the rule, and it leaves you in a position of having to help someone else grieve the loss of a child or parent or whoever that might not be gone if you hadn't gotten your way, your belief isn't going to do shit for them. You're going to have to look at them and know, in your deepest heart, that even if you had known this would happen you still couldn't have supported anything else. If you can't do that, you need to seriously ask yourself why you feel the way you feel when it comes to guns, and pester yourself about it until you figure out something that makes sense, that you can live with.

Because not everyone is going to.

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