Gun Rights vs. Gun Control

[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from a regular reader and commentator to Pileus, Mark LeBar. Professor LeBar teaches philosophy at Ohio University and is currently visiting in the Freedom Center at the University of Arizona.]

You’d think gun-control proponents would have had their statistics shot down enough that people would know better. Certainly it is tiresome to see the same sorts of manipulations of gun fatality statistics over and over. But credulous reporters seem to eat them up, so it is likely worth repudiating them.
 
This story ran in today’s (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star. In light of last month’s horrific shooting, it is a sensitive issue at a sensitive time. And who better for thoughtful, sensitive treatment of such things than the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence? Well, anybody who can actually understand statistics, that’s who.
 
The Brady Center provides this handy map, indicating where 14 “mass shootings” have occurred since 1999. Then, lest someone actually understands what the map indicates, they provide this “helpful” caption (in the print version; I don’t see it in the online version):
 
“Of the 14 mass shootings since 1999 in the U.S., 10 have occurred in states identified by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as having the weakest or second-weakest gun laws. With a score of 2 out of 100, Arizona is tied with five other states as having the second-most-lenient gun laws in the country, behind only Utah.”
 
If you look at the map, you can see that what they say is true. Of course, it is also true that the category of “weakest or second-weakest gun laws” includes 41 states; states in the three strongest categories of gun laws number 9. So, in the past 12 years (according to the Brady Campaign; I’m taking their numbers at face value), we have 4 mass shootings in 9 “strong gun control” states, and 10 in 41 “weak gun control” states. Only the Brady campaign could construe that as a recommendation for gun control.

Suppose you are thinking of buying new tires for your car; you want ones that will not fail catastrophically. You do some research, and find that in the last 12 years there have been 14 catastrophic tire failures. 10 of them are Liberty tires, and only 4 are Brady tires. Only if you are foolish do you conclude from that that the smart thing to do is to buy Brady tires. If Liberty tires are more than 80% of the market, the failure rate of Brady tires is almost double the failure rate of Liberty tires. Only someone silly or ignorant of statistics would buy what Brady is selling. But that seems to be what they are counting on.

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