Hannity scolds armed Michigan protesters: ‘Dangerous’ show of force ‘puts our police at risk’. When Trump’s number 1 cheerleader agrees with the rest of us…
Majority of Americans Don’t Support Reopening, Poll Finds — as Coronavirus Continues to Spread. “…78 percent said they would not feel comfortable eating out at a restaurant…” among other things.
Guest Opinion: Let the new normal be a better normal – The coronavirus pandemic has lifted the veil covering the pervasive injustices that corporate greed and exploitation have wreaked upon our nation and the world at large.
I am slightly heartened that a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, has joined the ever growing chorus calling for a ban on certain categories of guns: The Post urges Trump to take action on assault weapons.
We’re used to all of the usual suspects trotting out their logically fallacious arguments (most of them commit a variation of the Nirvana Fallacy, also known as the Perfect-solution Fallacy: if whatever changes proposed can’t guarantee there will never be a gun death again, well, then we can’t do anything at all! Bull.
This weekend, thanks to Neil deGrasse Tyson being his usual smug self, we got one of the other fallacious arguments, and not for one of the typical rightwing types at all! Tyson had one of the most vapid and tone-deaf hot takes ever, in a tweet where he made the claim that in a typical 48 hours there are far more deaths in the U.S. due to medical errors, and due to the flu, and due to suicide, and due to car accidents, and due to homicide by handgun then these too mass shootings. Therefore, we should, you know, not get upset. Hit the link to see the tweet in question.
In one tweet he managed to pack several logical fallacies, which—if we weren’t talking about people being murdered—would be funny coming from a smug wanker who has made a career out of pretending to be the smartest guy in the room.
The first logical fallacy he is committing is the Appeal to Worse Problems (more formally known as the Fallacy of Relative Privation). All of these other things, he argues, cause more deaths, so we shouldn’t waste any time worrying about mass shootings until we eliminate all of those other causes of death. It’s a specialized kind of false dichotomy or dilemma: implying that we can only choose to worry work on a solution to one of the things in front of us.
Another problem is that several of the things in the list have no relationship whatsoever to the problem at hand. That the couple that could be argued to have a relationship, it’s a very weak one.
Medical errors, by definition, are not intentional acts. One has to be licensed as a medical professional and in most jurisdictions receive regular training and sometimes re-certification in order to practice medicine. Another way they differ from mass shootings is that we have systems in place designed to study such errors in order to find ways to make them less likely to happen. We have systems in place to apply those lessons. We have nothing like this for mass shootings.
Flu is not an intentional act by a human, it is caused by a virus. We have vaccines to reduce the incidence of flu. We have medications to reduce the severity of flu when it happens. We have entire teams of experts constantly studying flu and looking for ways to improve the vaccines and educate people in other ways to reduce their odds of catching flu. We have nothing like this for mass shootings.
Suicide is an act of self-destruction. We have suicide prevention hotlines. We have other forms of medical and psychiatric help available. We have groups of medical experts studying suicide (and proving again and again that there are ways to reduce the incidence of the act—that’s a topic for another day). But, those studies do relate slightly to the mass shootings discussion, as it has been shown that, for instance, banning guns in the residential parts of U.S. military bases (a program first undertaken at bases with a high incidents of service members committing murder-suicide of their families) doesn’t just cut down on the instance of gun deaths, but also reduces the rate of all categories domestic violence.
The vast majority of car crashes are not intentional acts. And again, we have experts in both the private and public sector who study car crashes and car design and relevant laws to find ways to reduce the rate of car fatalities. And we’ve significantly reduced them! Again, nothing like that exists for mass shootings. Also, you are required to have a driver’s license and regularly renew it to be drive. Cars are required to be registered and have their plates renewed periodically. Most jurisdictions require that you carry auto insurance for each car you own. Many jurisdictions require periodic inspection of the car to retain its registration. None of this applies to gun ownership.
The only one of his claimed worse problems to have more than a slight connection to mass shooting is homicide by handgun. And those findings about domestic violence on military bases give us at least some reason to suspect that the easy availability of guns contributes to the incidence of violent crimes in general. There seems to be something about the way that we perceive guns as opposed to knives and other weapons that has far-reaching effects. But, again, we don’t have large systemic ways of studying gun violence in this country.
The reason we don’t have systems in place to study gun violence is because Congress, under the influence of the gun lobby (usually in the guise of the NRA) has made it illegal to do so. And if there were no relationship between the availability of guns and the incidence of gun violence, why else would gun manufacturers be willing to spend millions each election cycle to prevent anyone from studying it?
Humans are social animals. Working together and the ability to divide labor is one of our species’ survival traits. We can work (as we already are), on other problems and the scourge of gun violence at the same time. Putting effort into universal background checks, and voluntary gun buy back programs, and studying other ways to reduce the incidents of these crimes. Red flag laws, which at least some Republican Senators have signaled they are willing to pass, would be a nice start.
Figuring out how to unpack toxic masculinity, racism, and how the mega-rich use our prejudices to blame economic uncertainty on marginalized groups instead of the hoarding and exploitation by corporations and billionaires, isn’t going to be easy. But if organizations like the National Institutes for Health could start studying gun violence systematically, we will find at least some ways to combat those contributing factors.
But it isn’t going to happen unless we ignore the excuses and demand action.
No one likes a bully, they say. But the perception of who is bullying who can go to rather ludicrous points. When Laura Ingraham, long time radio talk show host, past editor, TV talk show host, et cetera, tried to portray one of the Parkland shooting survivors as whining when he mentioned that he’s been rejected by four of the colleges he applied to, she apparently didn’t expect that comment to go viral in a negative way. She certainly didn’t expect advertisers to start pulling out of sponsoring her show. She then issues a pretty ridiculous (half-assed) apology. And then headlines started coming out some places that made the high school students she ridiculed seem like the bullies.
Let’s get something clear. I hope Laura’s advertisers keep pulling out. I’m glad that some people have finally noticed that she’s a bully. But she has been a bully for years: Cyber Bullying is a bit new. But Laura Ingraham was a real bully long before the internet. From February, before this incident: ESPN’s Michael Wilbon on Fox News Host Laura Ingraham: “She Comes off Like a Bigot”. Or two years ago: How Laura Ingraham has attacked Latinos, civil rights groups, and more. Or this gem from 2014: Laura Ingraham Mocks Sick Immigrant Children With Terrible Taco Bell Joke. And this is a good sum up of some of her antics in the 1990s and early aughts: Laura Ingraham: Right-Wing Radio’s High Priestess of Hate.
That’s enough about that hateful person.
In related news: Black Students at Stoneman Douglas High Want Gun-Violence Solutions to Address Police Violence. While at events they had control over, the survivors of the Stonema Douglas shooting had tried to include all of their peers and present a diverse front, the media has tended to focus on a few of the white kids (and one light-skinned Latina). And lots of people have pointed out that these kids aren’t asking for anything more than the Black Lives Matters folks have been asking for all along.
So it is more than fair to ask why the killing of someone like 12-year-old Tamir Rice didn’t get the some attention as the Stoneman Douglas kids are. Part of me would like to hope that we’ve just reached a tipping point. But (particularly seeing both the racist and homophobic attacks made on Emma Gonzales) I suspect that there is more than a bit of racism in play here.
I have to agree with these kids: Black Parkland students worry: What happens to us when schools are over-policed? Putting more police officers into schools won’t help stop mass shootings, and has historically resulted in cops abusing and arresting kids for things that should never have involved a cop, and not surprisingly disproportionately targeting kids of color. The answer isn’t more cops or more guns in school, and anyway paying attention would already know this: CHILDREN OF COLOR ALREADY FACE VIOLENT DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS. ARMING TEACHERS WILL GET THEM KILLED, Why having police in schools is a problem, in 3 charts, and Black Students More Likely to Be Arrested at School.
Things that actually would help:
- Raise the minimum age to buy guns to 21
- Universal background checks to buy guns (a measure supported by 97% of the general population and by 96% of gun owners!)
- Licensing gun owners the way we license drivers, including requiring more rigorous testing and evaluation for different classes of guns (just as commercial driving licenses have more stringent requirements), and including periodic re-certification
- Requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance, again just like we do for car owners
- Voluntary gun buy back programs
That won’t prevent every shooting, obviously; just like changing drunk driving laws didn’t eliminate all drunk driving. But we’ve been able to bring down the rate of car crashes that result in death or injury in which alcohol played a factor by 35% by enacting some common sense drinking-and-driving laws. If we reduced shootings by even a fraction of that, that will still be thousands of people saved every year.