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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Monkeys and a Few Thousand Concealed Handguns--and I'm More Worried about the Monkeys!

What is the world coming to when I find myself more worried about science than I am about right-wing gun-nuts?  I blame the New York Times.

First, I flipped to (well, OK, clicked on) an article entitled "Guns in Public, and Out of Sight," about laws allowing people to carry concealed handguns.  Now, being a firm believer in robust gun-control laws, I prepared myself to look down with liberal disdain on the benighted proponents of such barbaric legislation.  And the Times' reporter, true to the paper's liberal-leaning editorial policy, clearly intends for the reader to find concealed-carry laws dangerous and wrong-headed.  Then I read these paragraphs:

"The New York Times examined the permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public. The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. And while it does not provide answers, it does raise questions.

"More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun."
Sounds worrisome, no? Well, actually, no.

Consider the numbers: "More than 2,400 permit holders" is of course vague.  We don't know how many more than 2,400, but we can assume that it is less than, say, 2,500, or the writer would have said "less than 2,500.."  Still, a couple of thousand convicted criminals running around just one state is no small potatoes.  Except note that "or" in "convicted of felonies OR misdemeanors."  Reading on, we see that, "more than 200 [i.e., less than 300] were convicted of felonies."  Well, OK, but still: a couple of hundred felonies committed by gun-wielding reprobates.  Except note that only 10 of these felonies were "murder or manslaughter."  And "all but two of the killers used a gun."

So another way of looking at this is that, over a five-year period, of the 2,400 crimes committed by people licensed to carry concealed firearms, less than 15% were felonies, and only five percent of these felonies involved the death of a victim--and 20% of the killings were not done with a gun anyway, making the whole concealed-carry permit somewhat irrelevant.  So even if we assume causation (which we can't), we can only conclude from this that concealed-carry gun laws led to eight homicides over a five-year period.  And note that the reporter stipulates that the 2,400 crimes committed by licensees represents "a small percentage of those with permits."

Obviously, any felonious homicide is unacceptable, but looking at these numbers carefully leaves one with the distinct impression that concealed-carry laws are hardly the threat to public safety that a liberal like me would tend to believe.

Well, OK, maybe I have to think more critically about my position on gun-control, but I can maintain my faith in science as an advancer of human well-being.  What;s that?  Oh, scientists have figured out a way to genetically alter bird flu so that it can be transmitted through the air?  And bird flu is about 50% fatal (compared, say, to the horrific flu pandemic of 1918 which killed about 2% of its victims)?  And they are thinking about PUBLISHING the information on how-to-engineer-a-world-killing-virus?

Look, I believe in the free exchange of ideas as much as anybody, but I would suggest that this is one piece of information that should, maybe, be guarded very very very carefully.  I mean, the fact that this genetic alteration can be done is scary, if not entirely surprising.  But you have to ask yourself who REALLY needs to know HOW to do this?  Considering that governments tenaciously guard secrets on things like how to make nuclear bombs, I would think that guarding secrets on something that is exponentially more dangerous to the human race is a no-brainer.

But what do I know?  After all, I'm beginning to think concealed-carry laws may not be such a bad thing.  Next thing you know, I'll be supporting Rick Perry for President.  The man does have nice hair.

1 comment:

  1. NO, not Rick Perry!...but glad to see you're open-minded enough to assimilate "new" information.