Category Archives: Violence and Guns

Falsehood: “People, not guns, kill people”

Yes, of course, you need a person (usually) to pull the trigger. But it is abundance of and ease of access to guns that causes the United States to be off the charts in woundings and killings from firearms. This is what the research has shown for a very long time and continues to show. Here, I’ll give you yet another example. All of the following text, and the tables, are exerted directly from the paper. Continue reading Falsehood: “People, not guns, kill people”

Is this terrorism?

Is a particular act an act of terrorism? Is a particular person a terrorist?

People want the label applied to acts and people that are readily and resoundingly vilified. It hardly matters if the person is an actual official terrorist. If they killed someone and you are really really mad at them you want them to be a terrorist. Or, if they are just scary. Like the elderly black homeless man in this story, labeled by the Iowa Farmers as a terrorist because it was impossible for him to squeeze his wheelchair through a door gracefully.

We yell at each other about whether or not a person will be labeled as a terrorist, and it is often said that if a mass killer is found out to be brown, he’ll be labeled as one, but if he is found out to be white, his actions will be attributed to mental illness. And so on.

People also want the label to be applied instantly, just as the news of some horrid event is coming out. No matter what. Call the terrorist a terrorist NOW or you, too, are a TERRORIST.

Here’s the thing. What a terrorist is, or what terrorism is, has an official definition. There are probably going to be unclear cases, but the term terrorism has a meaning and it is important to get this right even if getting it right somehow goes against the sensibilities of the Extremely Annoyed. Also, since there is a real definition and details matter, it is absurd to demand that the label be used instantly. It takes time. And, we can wait. There is no gain in instant labeling of a terrorist. Police and investigators would do the same things in either case in the initial stages of an event.

The FBI gives these two definitions of terrorism:

International terrorism: Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (state-sponsored).

–for example, the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, CA, that killed 14 people and wounded 22 which involved a married couple who radicalized for some time prior to the attack and were inspired by multiple extremist ideologies and foreign terrorist organizations. Continue reading Is this terrorism?

Rates of sexual assaults among college students, by gender orientation

This is just over a year old but just came across my desk. The study is: Sexual Assault Victimization Among Straight, Gay/Lesbian, and Bisexual College Students by Jessie Ford and Jose Soto-Marquez, Violence and Gender, June 2016.

From the abstract: Continue reading Rates of sexual assaults among college students, by gender orientation

Study says: Police Body Cams Have No Effect. I Expected This

You have cops everywhere doing cop things. Every now and then a cop does something really bad and someone gets killed. That is not going to show up as a statistical effect when looking at the overall behavior of the cops, unless you do some very specialized Bayesian statistics, which no one is going to do on that sort of data.

So, the just released study, summarized here by NPR, is not a surprise.

Having police officers wear little cameras seems to have no discernible impact on citizen complaints or officers’ use of force, at least in the nation’s capital.

That’s the conclusion of a study performed as Washington, D.C., rolled out its huge camera program. The city has one of the largest forces in the country, with some 2,600 officers now wearing cameras on their collars or shirts.

“We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras,” says Anita Ravishankar, a researcher with the Metropolitan Police Department and a group in the city government called the Lab @ DC.

“I think we’re surprised by the result. I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior,” says Chief of Police Peter Newsham. “There was no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all.”

Perhaps, he says, that’s because his officers “were doing the right thing in the first place.”

The purpose of the body cam is to find out what happened in this or that extreme event, when there is a death, or a plausible accusation of wrong doing. Another likely effect of the body cam is to cause bad behavior to be more rare, just because the cameras are there. But bad behavior is often the result of out of control emotions, or of bad training, or some other thing that the presence of a cam is unlikely to detect. I would not be surprised if body cams did have this effect on some police forces, but not most.

There are statistical ways to see if the body cams are having an effect on behavior but they have to assume that the behavior is a) really there already and b) of a certain specific form. Then you can subset your data down to the sensitive parts of it, and see if, say, before or after body cams you get a difference. But really, the best way to do that is to pair up the cops (statistically) so you have one set of cops match, with respect to relevant characteristics, another equal size set (on the same police force) where one set is wearing the cams, the other not (there are some added difficulties in doing this, like matching patterns so neither or both have the cams, etc). This sort of approach could identify an effect. But the methods that would normally be used won’t unless it is dramatic.

Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators

I feel it is time for a repost of an essay I wrote about five years ago during an earlier period of turmoil on the internet caused by women and men acknowledging that women are generally under constant sexual harassment and under constant threat of sexual assault.

There may be a few broken links here that I’ll just deaden, but otherwise, I’m not changing the essay at this time.


I want to mention three separate instances of men acting inappropriately towards a woman that occurred to people I know over the last couple of months.

[Trigger warning: Sexual harassment and rape]

In once case, a man drove up to a woman who was just getting out of her car, in a relatively secluded parking lot, to ask her what kind of mileage she got on that model and make. There was nothing exceptional about the car that would cause special interest in this issue. In the second instance, a man skated (on in-line skates) up next to a woman who was skating on a long trail a mile or two into the woods where no one was around, and insisted on “teaching her” how to “draft” which involved him skating to a few inches behind her and holding his hand on the small of her back while he explained how great that felt. In the third instance, a stranger cornered a women in an enclosed space, tried to rape her, and in so doing hit her several times in the head while pulling off her clothing.

Continue reading Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators

More Guns Equals More Gun Deaths

And lax legislation and elected representatives who run their elections using money from the gun industry make sure there are PLENTY of guns to go around. People who are running for office who have pro NRA positions and/or take gun money should be drummed out of politics.

The rate of gun ownership in a state predicts the rate of gun deaths in that state.

This works across countries as well.

Once again. Politicians who have voted in favor of NRA policies need to go.

Photo above from TIME

Vote Down The Guns

First a word about our lovely press. If I hear one more reporter grovel and squirm about how we don’t really want to hurt the NRA or take away any gun rights or do anything unreasonable, no, no, we just want to assume there is a solution to the carnage that does not inconvenience any of the gun loving yahoos that watch our networks …. then I’m going to I just don’t know what. Reporters: Please leave open the possibility that a double digit percentage of Americans don’t care one whit how much restrictions there ends up being on guns. We just want the insanity to end, and if that means taking away all the guns, then, whatever. It was not our decision to make guns so available that they can be amassed in sufficient quantities to shoot over five hundred people in one sitting. We want results, we do not care, not one bit, who’s feelings are hurt.

But I digress.

You need to do this before any upcoming elections. Find out who is Continue reading Vote Down The Guns

A Response to the Las Vegas Shooting

From Americans for Responsible Solutions. I’m personally not sure about responsible solutions … I tend to read “responsible” as “watered down” when it comes to the gun debate. But, for what it is worth (and it is interesting) here it is:

Framework for Addressing the Loopholes that Led to the Las Vegas Shooting

October 5, 2017

We would support a proposal that would comprehensively address the loopholes that led to the Las Vegas shooting. More specifically, this proposal would include the following components:

1. Register existing bump stocks and other trigger activators under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and prohibit the manufacture, sale and transfer of such devices. Bump-fire devices are just one type of a variety of attachments sold in the United States to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic firearms to mimic the firepower of a fully automatic machine gun. Such devices do not belong in civilian hands, and the future manufacture, sale and transfer of such devices should be prohibited. However, an unknown number of such weapons have already been manufactured and sold to civilians. In order to address these existing devices, we suggest requiring them to be registered to the current owners under the NFA. The NFA, enacted in 1934, prohibits possession of an NFA weapon — which currently include machine guns, silencers, destructive devices, and certain other highly dangerous firearms– unless it is registered in the person’s name with ATF. As a result, millions of NFA weapons currently exist in civilian hands, yet are rarely used in crime. The Las Vegas shooting is evidence of this fact: no registered machine guns were used in the attack. Yet, the shooter was able to fire very rapidly to kill or injure hundreds in just minutes, due to his use of bump stocks.
Continue reading A Response to the Las Vegas Shooting