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Why gun nuts get called gun nuts

danps's picture

It's really tough to have a debate on guns with pro-gun types because they are nuts. And by nuts I mean: they typically don't follow and discernable logic for establishing a proposition through argument. The comment thread here from earlier in the week shows two of the favored strategies for gun nuts: derailment and ignoring. Here is how the derailing worked.

The main point that I was trying to establish in the thread was: fewer guns means less gun violence. Now, even having to debate this gives you an idea of how crazy the gun nuts are; you're engaged with someone who sees no connection between guns and gun violence. It's like trying to debate a supply sider on the effects of tax cuts: Something that makes zero sense on the face of it and has been repeatedly proved wrong in practice is now up for debate ("teach the controversy!")

In other words, the conversation immediately goes through the looking glass. But OK, I thought, let's take a little trip to Crazy Town and see if we can't salvage something sensible out of it. My guide was user YesMaybe [YM], and we began an extended discussion on this report. Again, the big picture here is the question "does reducing the number of firearms reduce the amount of firearm violence?" In reference to this:

Following implementation of the ban, the share of gun crimes involving [automatic weapons] declined by 17% to 72% across the localities examined for this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage), based on data covering all or portions of the 1995-2003 post-ban period. This is consistent with patterns found in national data on guns recovered by police and reported to ATF.

I noted that there was a decline of 17% after the ban. I don't have the exact verbiage since it was lost in cyberspace during the site upgrade (verbiage which is now, hilariously, a big sticking point for YM), but I'll gladly stipulate that I used some kind of inexact shorthand when describing it. Since we both had the source material available I didn't give much thought to typing it out verbatim or copying/pasting. Any ambiguity could be resolved almost immediately.

Well that was a BIG mistake on my part. YM took it as evidence of great perfidy, describing it as a "baloney claim," an "entirely false claim" (and that I am "suffering from terrible confirmation bias on this topic, to the point of misreading clear language and ignoring blatant contradictions"), that it was "simply false and based on misreading" and "a huge misrepresentation" (also: the ban "didn't have much of an effect"). And of course it was all duplicity on my part. It wasn't a trivial (see below) distinction that had no impact on my main point ("fewer guns means less gun violence"), but a deliberate lie made in a bad faith attempt to secure through deception what I could not secure through refuting YM's sublime reasoning. Huzzah!

This is what's called derailing. By seizing on a trivial detail, immediately ascribing dark motives to it, and fixating on it to the exclusion of everything else, the discussion shifts from the main topic ("fewer guns means less gun violence") to an incredibly tedious argument over syntax.*

What's funny is that even the precise wording YM calls attention to over and over again supports my thesis: Banning a category of firearms reduced the crime rate in that category by between 17% and 72%. Pretty impressive! But in a derailed argument, semantics are king. Even if the lowest value of 17% is still well into statistical significance, do you really want to go further into Crazy Town by arguing over what statistical significance is? (And what exactly ARE statistics, anyway?)

In any event, the discussion was well and truly off the tracks. I tried to work back to the main topic ("fewer guns means less gun violence") a number of times. YM was, unsurprisingly, interested in navel gazing over the speculative effects of re-instituting the 1994 ban. Not in, say, looking at an actual real world example that provided a chance to test the hypothesis ("fewer guns means less gun violence").

Australia instituted a ban after a horrific massacre in 1996. There was no grandfathering with this one, either. It was a retroactive ban, and citizens were offered a buyback program for compensation. Fewer guns! Did it lead to less gun violence?

Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

Wow! It sure looks like fewer guns has meant meant less gun violence in Australia! Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to discuss that? It would be like getting a one way ticket out of Crazy Town! Gun nuts will have none of it though, and you can look at YM's resolute and impressive refusal to acknowledge that in the comment thread as proof. They stake out their turf and cannot be budged. No matter how directly you put contrary information in front of them, they will not see it.

There are lots of discussions that could be had about our dysfunctional and murderous gun culture: The way our Second Amendment devotees never discuss what a well regulated militia consists of; or how a police state was smoothly set into place while the vigilant gun-loving sentries were asleep at their posts; or the comical absurdity of the "armed citizenry as bulwark against tyranny" laff line (a Predator drone would turn you and your stout little band of patriots into pink mist before you even knew you were being targeted, dumbass); or, most importantly of all, how fewer guns means less gun violence.

Good luck getting any of those discussions off the ground with a gun nut, though.

* Even that discussion is stupid, because no one argues that passing a duplicate of the 1994 ban would have immediate effects (due to grandfathering). The reduction would happen over time, as pointed out by University of Missouri (St. Louis) criminologist Richard Rosenfeld:

ROSENFELD: Policy number two has to do with our other gun violence problem. The problem we've been talking about over the last few days and indeed over the last year. And that's the gun violence problem associated with the mass shootings. That's a rather different problem.

Smart policing of the sort I just described is not going to work as well because as you pointed out, mass shootings are rare, they're not spatially concentrated. And so smarter policing --

KLEIN: You don't mean all in the same city?

ROSENFELD: They don't occur all in the same city. They don't occur in the same neighborhoods. They're so rare, they don't occur clustered anywhere, fortunately.

There it seems to me restricting access to high-powered weapons and large capacity magazines is a necessary step. As you point out, it's not going to lead to an immediate elimination or even, it seems to me, important reduction in the number of incidents. But overtime, I'm reasonably certain that it would lead to a reduction in the number of victims.

We call these mass killings because of the number of victims involved. And if there's less access to the kinds of weapons that show up disproportionately to these killings over time, there should be fewer victims.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Submitted by YesMaybe on

Lambert, can you please throw a flag on this shit? Last I heard, facts were important, and there was a big difference between a reduction in "the share of gun crimes involving [automatic weapons]" and a "reduction in the gun crime rate" (especially considering the point, stated in the report that AWs are only rarely used in gun crimes in the first place).

All I did was point out that his claim was false and contradicted the reports own findings. I then pressed him on it when he failed to admit it. If this is something that warrants ridicule, I am clearly out of my element here.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I wish your reply made sense but it does exactly what danps says; speaks right past the evidence and engages the semantics.

Nuclear weapons are only rarely used in war as well. The difference between the effect of a nuclear weapon vs a hand grenade is dramatic, yes?

Submitted by YesMaybe on

It "speaks past the evidence" because I'm not arguing for or against further gun control. I was just pointing out a false factual claim danps made. Is that a crime?

As for this 'semantics' bullshit, let me pose it to you in a different context. Is the following difference also just a matter of semantics. Note: I don't have the exact numbers (so 20% is my made up figure), but the gist is true (the US's share of the total did decrease as China has increased its own share to 50% of the total, I just can't find the numbers with a quick google search).

"Between 1990 and 2012, the share of global carbon emissions due to the US decreased by 20%."
"Between 1990 and 2012, global carbon emissions decreased by 20%."

This is EXACTLY the same type of mistake. I dare you to say this difference is 'semantics'!

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

You are still accusing and objecting to his (supposed) phrase "reduction in the gun crime rate", which, if he made it, he walked back here. When if he merely had written "reduction in the AWS gun crime rate", it would have been completely accurate even by your measure and you expect us to believe you would have been in complete agreement? Please.

And so now, rather than have celebrated correcting him and proceeding with the evidence provided ether pro or con, you are now asking people to go back and recreate databases to see if danps had properly formulated a phrase he has already backed away from, if indeed he ever made it.

Yes. That is semantics.

Submitted by lambert on

... because what's nuttier than waltzing into FreedomWorks with your own packing staffer?

And I'm perfectly happy calling Barbara Boxer a sleazy gun advocate (but wasn't it something the way Obama slapped her down for undercutting him, and especiallly his presser tears. Oh, wait...)

I'm not so happy to call the guys with guns in the woods up here gun nuts. Hunting isn't my thing, but hunters is what they are.

* * *

I think a lot of this whole discussion is what I think I might call "the dick outside of the pants" problem. (Swords, I suppose, are OK....) There's a lot of gun culture, like the open carry guys waltzing into the coffee shops with their guns, that I think is at an absolute minimum and should be mocked and shamed, much as (say) fraternity drinking, which is incredibly damaging to young people, should be mocked and shamed. Worked with cigarettes, after all, even if it did take 30 years.)

Submitted by lambert on

... and I can't do that because to do that I would have to manually restore the 30 or so nodes left to restore from the upgrade, which comes before restoring the comments, which I would have to do to disentangle the fershuggeneh comments in which the original 17% figure, which seems to be one of the bones of contention, appears. I do not have time to do that because the overall stability and functionality of the site comes first, since it benefits all users.

* * *

That said, I draw your collective attention to my views such as they are, following an extended foray onto the gun boards from Maine. My key takeaway is that gun nuts, gun advocates, and gun owners are overlapping but distinct categories. One may be a poor gun advocate -- one who makes bad arguments -- without necessary being a gun nut (see definition at link). And it is in fact true that one may be a gun owner without being a gun nut (though shooting dear with automatic rifles puts a gun owner into the nut category IMNSHO).

* * *

It would also be nice if Corrente, having weathered a recent Israeli/Palestinian thread without anybody stomping off, a rare achievement, could do the same for the gun discussion. (Not that it won't die as soon as the Ds don't need it as a distraction to give the libruls the illusion they're doing something.) This is especially true because you are all regular and valued contributors.

* * *

I am the greatest swordsman in Japan. In consequence, I very rarely have to use my sword any more. (The recent episode on ObamaCare is a rare exception -- plenty of blood and entrails there!) I don't swordfighting so much any more because (a) it's bad for my health, because anger is bad for my health, and (b) it doesn't scale to match the systemic problems we face, so it's an opportunity cost.


1. Even though "your argument is not you," that's a hard posture to maintain when somebody is trying to hammer your argument onto your forehead with a nail. So I don't think it was an especially useful tactic of dan's to do that.

2. It is true that gun nuts and gun advocates (like Barbara Boxers for example) put out an utterly immense, AIPAC-class quantity of bullshit (partly funded, I might add, by those gun owners who pay dues to the NRA.) Gun culture, IMNSHO, has clearly created a self-licking ice cream cone where the answer to everyone is "more guns!" So I don't blame Dan for becoming exasperated. It's also true that I haven't encountered that bullshit for long, so I don't have it sorted (unlike, say, Austerian or HCR bullshit).

3. Re: the 17%, there really does need to be some sort of structured contestation on data sets, if not agreement. That won't be easy, if gun data is like climate data, for example. Or cigarette data/ (I gave some geographical data at the link above; what leaves out is that America is uniquely bad* in gun death numbers, much as it is uniquely bad at health care numbers.)

4 The comparison to Digby is ludicrous for all sorts of reasons, and "pwog" is offensive because infantilizing and for that reason diminishes the user. IMNSHO 'career "progressive"' in quotes is far more skewering, doesn't diminish the user, and has the merit of putting these guys in their proper class position as well.

Bottom line is you guys need to figure out how to argue better. That's my flag.

So shoot me. Ha ha. Or not, right?

NOTE * Unless one views a much higher death rate as acceptable collateral damage

Submitted by YesMaybe on

Well, maybe you could add a moderation rule that says something along the lines of:
"Some things are true and some things are false. Good reasoning and communication is aided by appealing to things which are true and avoiding appealing to things which are false. Therefore, (a) never intentionally make false claims, and (b) if you unintentionally make a claim that's false and someone points out to you that it's false, the correct thing to do in response is acknowledge your mistake, not attack and distract."

Something like this is a ground-rule for rational discussion, so I've been assuming that it was at least implicitly a rule here.

What danps, and now okanogen apparently, are saying is that it's a trivial detail and semantics that the 1994 law didn't reduce the gun crime rate by 17% as danps claimed it did (when in fact the report found NO effect on the gun crime rate). That's full-blown moronic.

Submitted by lambert on

But for reasons stated, I can't assess the claim. I know what you say, but I don't have the many hours it would take to reconstruct the thread to assess the claim myself.

Below I reboot that issue ("is it true?")

mtngun's picture
Submitted by mtngun on

Danps starts out by dehumanizing and degrading gun owners by calling them "nuts". Lambert joins right in (note to self: no more donations to Corrente).

I'll hit a few of Danps' lies and distortions, but it would take a book to do justice to them.

Danps said "fewer guns means less gun violence." Oh really, then why do the predominantly white state with the highest gun ownership -- Idaho, Utah, North Dakota -- have the lowest murder rates in the country ?

Danps tries to dodge that question by talking about "gun violence" as opposed to "murder rate." Danps' definition of "gun violence" includes suicides, which are known to be higher in rural states, and which is a choice, not an act of violence. "Gun violence" may even include people shot by cops.

Re: Australia. Australia's homicide rate was declining before it's drastic gun laws were passed. It continued to decline at about the same rate after the laws were passed. But Danps can't see that because he is focused on "gun violence" rather than homicide rates.

Danps never discusses other factors that influence homicide rates, like inequality, unemployment, racial tension, the black market for drugs, or the cultural artifacts of slavery. Nope, Danps has a Freudian fixation on a certain phallic symbol.

Fuck Danps, Fuck Lambert, and Fuck Corrente if Corrente is going to be about name calling and culture war instead of about a progressive plan to unite and lift up the 99%.

You want a culture war, you got one. I'm out of here.

Submitted by lambert on

At link.

Gun [nuts|advocates|owners] are overlapping and not identical categories. Unfortunately for us all, there really are gun nuts out in the real world -- unless you think machine gunning deer for sport is a sign of normalcy. Or taking over a Washington think tank at gun point. If the term offends you, what's another one?

I think "urban elitism" is an Orwellian canard -- and a dehumancing right wing talking point as well, It doesn't, I think, apply to dan anyhow, who I believe lives in a smallish town. To me, it looks like a gun regulation regime that's appropriate for rural areas got imposed on cities, even though it's inappropriate for them.

And on culture war, so far as I can tell, gun advocates won. The country is awash in guns and they aren't even regulated to the extent cars are!

Lastly, if you think you can drive Corrnte content by either withholding or giving money, then shove it up your ass and get out. Shall I cancel your account?

Submitted by lambert on

Neiman Watchdog:

A sharply declining trend in gun use in homicides and robberies began in 1969, the year of the Port Arthur gun massacre and the imposition of tight gun control, which followed a year in which 44 per cent of all homicides were by gun, according to the National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP).

I haven't found a chart on this, regardless of whether the Australian homicide rate was declining, or not, the "sharp" decline took place after tight gun control was imposed. That looks an awful lot like cause an effect to me.

Now, if I were dan, or I were you, or I were YM, I would immediately turn this into a sign of perfidy. But I'll just leave it at that....

Submitted by lambert on

So where, in your view, does gun policy fit into that? Is there anything at all about the current gun regimen that needs to change?

I would especially like to hear about any pulblic purpose reasons to maximize gun ownership, which is the obvious goal of the gun manufacturers (sales) and their lobbying arm (the NRA). Because one of the things that totally ticks me off in the whole gun discussion is the idea that mass ownership of guns is necessary to prevent tyranny. Well, after FISA, Patriot Act, TSA, DHS, NDAA, the "kill list" and the suppression of Occupy, that argument is looking a little threadbare to me. I mean, what does is take?

Submitted by lambert on

This is the 17% quote:

Following implementation of the ban, the share of gun crimes involving [automatic weapons] declined by 17% to 72% across the localities examined for this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage), based on data covering all or portions of the 1995-2003 post-ban period. This is consistent with patterns found in national data on guns recovered by police and reported to ATF.

Is the methodology solid? Are there counter-examples? Are the results due to some other cause, for example, economic?

NOTE This is a reboot of the previous comments thread, which is not lost -- it's in the old database, but it will take me hours and hours and hours to manually move it from the old database onto the posts. A very poor use of my time IMNSHO when I still have many site stability and administrative issues to deal with.

Submitted by YesMaybe on

Lambert, I think you're missing the point. I am not now and have at no point called into question the veracity of the report's contents. I don't know the methodology, counter-examples, what-have-you. I am taking this report (by the DOJ NIJ), as well as the NRC report (which are both cited on the wikipedia article about the 1994 ban) at face value. So, to answer your question: yes, this is true to the best of my knowledge (I'm not an expert, I am just going off the reports and I haven't even read them through, just glanced).

The issue is that in the original thread, Dan asked me to address an alleged "17% decline in the gun crime rate". I then asked where he got that from, and he pointed to this part of this report. It is entirely clear that what it says is not even close to "17% decline in the gun crime rate". See my carbon emissions analogy in my response above to okanogen's comment if you don't understand why the two are hugely difference.

Now, if what you're not sure is whether I am accurately representing dan's original claim, that can be cleared up when the original thread is restored (which you can do whenever the higher priority stuff is done, I'm not saying you should do it now). But let me point out that Dan has at no point claimed I was inaccurate and that he didn't claim that (if I quoted him wrong that's a mistake I would take back). Instead he's dismissing the whole thing as trivial or mere semantics or that he was using "inexact shorthand". Regarding that, see again my response above to okanogen.

Submitted by YesMaybe on

Also, if you're not sure of whether I was accurate in quoting Dan's original claim, you can look through the original thread without porting it to the new site. I have no idea how long that would take you since I don't know the tools involved. But if you can, in a couple of minutes look through it and find the exact phrase Dan used that put it beyond any doubt.

Submitted by lambert on

Reconstructing a comment thread by manually cross-checking comment data from the database IDs that order and relate the thread is not on. It would be even more time consuming and probably less accurate than reconstructing the thread on the site and has the additional disadvantage of being a dead loss so far as any other readers are concerned.

Please try rebooting the 17% discussion at the comment I provide. Is it true or not?

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Hypertext, AKA The Web, has the potential to be a self-correcting medium. Reader comments can be a check on your accuracy if you let them. I hate being wrong. I tend to get defensive. Still, I'd prefer to find out I was wrong than to persist in error. At this link is an example of how that can work. The reader who provided the correction is "beachmom", and I was the writer. We proceeded from initial disagreement to correction. I tried to find confirming evidence on my own, and couldn't, beachmom found the factoid she remembered, and I thanked her for the correction.

That's how reasonable people discuss facts, and it's how a reasonable writer deals with correcting them when he gets them wrong, I think. It doesn't always work that way, and I don't always work that way, but it's the ideal I strive for.

Being shown to be wrong publicly is a natural consequence of publicizing your opinion. If you write enough things, you will be wrong about some of them. What you as a writer do afterward is what impresses or fails to impress me. Try to be right, but assume you'll be wrong at least occasionally.

I don't have the time to look into who is right at the moment, nor does it appear to be possible. Nevertheless, I'll just write this, because I this isn't the first time I've noticed the need. Embrace what this new medium can offer, despite the fact that it's going to hurt a little.

Submitted by YesMaybe on

I agree entirely. If it turns out that I am misremembering what Dan wrote, I will gladly apologize for wasting everybody's time and getting people needless upset.

However, I will in under no circumstances accept that the difference between "a 17% reduction in the gun crime rate" and "the share of gun crimes involving AWs declined by 17% to 72%" is trivial, mere semantics, or inexact shorthand (which is what danps is effectively claiming to avoid admitting he just misread the text as you would have in his place). As I wrote above, it is just like the difference between these two:

"Between 1990 and 2012, the share of global carbon emissions due to the US decreased by 20%."
"Between 1990 and 2012, global carbon emissions decreased by 20%."

What I've been trying to do is point out that these two are not equivalent and the difference is significant rather than mere semantics. And this is what I'm ridiculed for by danps. This will be my last comment on this topic, unless it turns out I was wrong in which case I'll apologize to everyone.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

The whole derailment actually began with hyperlinked text. There was a dispute over how I characterized the language in the study that was linked to in the comments. I've already allowed that I may well have omitted the acronym "AW" in my original comment. I haven't disputed it at all. Even though the original comment it lost, I'm perfectly happy to stipulate I could have left it out.

What's noteworthy here is not the correction itself, but how it was handled. The question in assessing a correction in a debate is, "does it change the argument?" If it doesn't - as in the case of beachmom's noting it was three years instead of four - it's pretty simple: Make the note and proceed with the discussion.

That isn't what happened here. The correction didn't make a difference to the thesis ("fewer guns means less gun violence") because as I noted above: Banning a category of firearms reduced the crime rate in that category by between 17% and 72%. It should have been pretty straightforward, especially since we were working from the same text and any ambiguity could have been cleared up immediately. "The report says AW violence, not all gun violence." "Right, but the point still stands: banning the category reduced violence in that category." (Argument proceeds from there.)

But look at how the argument doesn't proceed; YM repeatedly ascribed bad faith to me on it, unlike beachmom did with you. That's a tell. YM then fixated on it to the exclusion of everything else. Even the next tiny step forward in the discussion - that a (minimum) 17% decline in the banned category is pretty solid evidence that fewer guns means less gun violence - is off limits. That's another tell. YM wasn't, and isn't, interested in focusing on whether fewer guns means less gun violence. It's all about finding some bare, irrelevant scrap to obsess over in order to avoid discussing the main topic.

The reason I'm happy to grant that I may not have used "AW" originally is because, under the circumstances, it was irrelevant. It didn't change the thesis, and because we were working from the same readily available source I expected any reasonable person looking at it to make the appropriate mental adjustment (and maybe relegate the "correction" to a pedantic "well, actually" as a side note). I still think that's the case; I don't think YM's reaction was a reasonable one.

Think of it this way. In one of your posts you write "its" instead of "it's." One commenter writes "I think you meant it's" (pedantic side note) while another writes "HA! You wrote 'its' you dummy! You are clearly an ignoramus and cannot speak knowledgeably on any subject!" and follows up with multiple additional comments on how you clearly do not speak English as a first or maybe even a second language (derailment). Are those the same? And more to the point, what will be your opinion of each?