Friday, June 24, 2016

Weird Dream

I was getting out of a cab (and I almost never use cabs).  I handed the driver a $20 and a $5 and he says, "These are counterfeits."  I look more carefully than when I put them in my wallet, and they are not even good counterfeits.  Then I notice the Secretary of the Treasury's name is Arabic.  Prophetic?

New Paper

The Gunning of America as Magical Mystery Tour: Talking to the Dead

Pamela Haag’s The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture (Basic Books, 2015) does something that no other serious book has done: it causes me to question the rationality of the author based on her apparent belief in the ability of mediums to communicate with the dead. Almost as disturbing is her belief that her religious beliefs are a legitimate basis for public policy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Often Are Guns Used in Self-Defense?

This is a recurring claim of the mainstream media: that gun murders so far outnumber justifiable homicides that gun ownership is a net loss.  This is a statement that is technically accurate but misleading.

This would be an interesting argument if the FBI’s justifiable homicide statistics included all defensive killings by civilians.  But it does not.  The FBI’s manual on reporting data to the Uniform Crime Reports system is very clear as to what deaths may be reported as “justifiable homicides”:

Justifiable homicide, by definition, occurs in conjunction with other offenses. Therefore, the crime being committed when the justifiable homicide took place must be reported as a separate offense. Reporting agencies should take care to ensure that they do not classify a killing as justifiable or excusable solely on the claims of self-defense or on the action of a coroner, prosecutor, grand jury, or court. [emphasis added]
So if the police, prosecutor, judge or jury decide that a killing was legally valid self-defense, it isn’t included in the FBI’s justifiable homicide statistics.  Also, only defensive killings “in conjunction with other offenses” are included.  Obviously if you kill someone engaged in robbery or attempted murder it gets included, but many states allow deadly force under circumstances that may not involve such.   To use an example from California law: “committed by accident and misfortune, or in doing any other lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent” or the excusable homicide category “When committed by accident and misfortune, in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, when no undue advantage is taken, nor any dangerous weapon used, and when the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.”

These “sudden combat” excusable homicide deaths are not in a technical sense “justifiable homicide” and so don’t show up in the FBI’s statistics.  Studies of such deaths suggest that civilians kill in self-defense far more commonly than the police of the FBI’s “justifiable homicide” statistics sugest.  The noted criminologist Gary Kleck has concluded, based on these studies, that the number of CLDHs with guns per year is typically 7.1% to 12.9% of the murder rate (at least five times the FBI’s “justifiable homicide with a gun” figures).  So the FBI’s “justifiable homicide” statistics grossly understate civilian defensive uses of guns that cause criminal deaths.

There’s a deeper problem here as well: many civilian defensive uses of guns cause no deaths at all.  Bad guys suddenly remember an urgent appointment elsewhere when confronted.  How often?  For 2003-2011, my associates and OI gathered new media and official agency reports of such uses.  As of today, we have more than 4400 such uses that were considered important enough to report.  Doubtless, there were many others never reported.

Summary: the FBI’s justifiable homicide statistics are a very incomplete measure of civilians using guns for self-defense and any sort of cost/benefit analysis based on comparing gun murders to justifiable homicides is grossly misleading.  A more formal version of this will be appearing in the University of Florida Journal of Law & Public Policy soon.  PDF of this is here.
Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at College of Western Idaho as needed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mandatory Background Checks: Commonsense Gun Control?

“Everyone knows that mandatory background checks for all gun purchases is just ‘common sense.’”

It used to be common sense that heavier objects fall faster than light objects.  Then Galileo did something bizarre: experiments that demonstrated that common sense on this is wrong.

Fortunately we have run this experiment.  Eight states adopted mandatory background laws for either all firearms transfers or all handgun transfers between 1960 and 2012.  (Why those years?  Consistent and reliable murder rate data from the FBI starts in 1960.)  So if this is just common sense that such laws disarm criminals, wouldn’t you expect murder rates to fall (at least a little) in those states?

In the following graphs blue is the murder rate/100,000 people for each year.  The orange line shows the average for the five years before the mandatory firearms background check law took effect, and the five years after.  In some states, yes, murder rates fell.  Where you see an asterisk next to the state name, it means the change was statistically significant: likely the change was not random,.  All murder rate data comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports system.
But in a number of states, murder rates rose after the new law:

If mandatory background checks reduce murder rates, wouldn’t you expect to see murder rate reductions in all these states, or at least most of them?  I won’t argue that background check laws increased murder rates, but the benefits are shockingly subtle if present at all.  If you want all the technical details and footnotes go here.

There’s another experiment.  Gun control advocates have often argued that “the gun show loophole” allows criminals to buy guns.  A few years back, a group of social scientists, one of whom has supported gun control, decided to study the effects of gun shows on murder rates in the zip codes closest to gun shows in California and Texas.  California requires all gun show purchases to go through background checks; Texas does not.  If gun shows are a source of guns used in murder, Texas should show increases after gun shows.  Their conclusions?  They found, “no evidence to suggest that gun shows increased the number of homicides in California during our study period.”

Texas is wide open with buyers able to buy guns at gun shows without background checks.  They found “that in the two weeks following a gun show, the average number of gun homicides declines in the area surrounding the gun show. Aggregating across all gun shows in the state, we find that there are approximately 16 fewer gun homicides resulting from the 200 gun shows in the average year.”
Are mandatory background checks “commonsense gun control”?  Yes like heavy objects fall faster than light objects!
Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at College of Western Idaho as needed.

Daisy PowerLine 880S

Can't find snakeshot for driving away cows; my wife was just in tears yesterday when she saw the devastation they had done to her flowerbeds.  I bought a Daisy.  It is hand pumped and while the packaging says it fires either pellets or BBs, firing pellets (which look a bit like mini Minie balls) is single shot only.  BBs make it a repeater.  Worse the included 4x15 scope seems impossible to mount, and would cover the loading port for pellets (which is all I bought).  BBs definitely.

Even with iron sights (plastic sights?) it is pretty darn accurate and the pellets make an emphatic sound when they hit fence posts.

gCode for Cutting Circles

It is easie than figuring how to do it with x,y coordinates but not dramatically simpler.  There are multiple variants, but what I have settled on involves positioning cutting tool at left side of circle, then clockwise rotation for desired radius:

g00 x of center of circle - radius y of center of circle - radius Ffeedrate
G02 Iradius
The C to generate a series of progressively smaller circles to hog out the center is no fun and dig deeper on each pass is harder than I expected.

I Want to Blame Obama

There are no .22LR shot shells in Boise.  Even mail order is back ordered.