Neil deGrasse Tyson is Correct about the Numbers
Yesterday, science writer Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted:
In the past 48 hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings. On average, across any 48 hrs, we also lose…
500 to Medical errors
300 to the Flu
250 to Suicide
200 to Car Accidents
40 to Homicide via Handgun
Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.
His numbers are roughly correct.
Moreover, his bottom line is important.
The kinds of deaths that gets attention are not always those with the largest numbers of fatalities. All of the causes he lists above have more. Handguns are close but even those are for any 48 hour period and it’s unlikely that we will have El Paso/Dayton-style mass shootings every 48 hours. It’s precisely the fact that such mass shootings are rare (although, of course, not nearly rare enough) that leads to the publicity they get.
Various people have expressed their upset at Tyson, but when they go beyond upset to actually argue, they typically fail.
For example, one responder wrote:
You can learn from errors
You can heal from flu
You can love life
You can drive safe[ly]
But even if you choose to live a safe healthy life you can do nothing against an American terrorist. You can’t even make a choice because a stupid white virgin boy has decided that you must die.
Yes, you can learn from errors, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t die. You can heal from flu, but many people, despite often good medical attention, don’t. You can love life, but it’s not the life lovers who are typically at risk of suicide. And you can drive safely, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get T-boned in an intersection by some bozo who runs a red. So just as you often can do nothing against an American, or even a foreign, terrorist, you often, despite your best efforts, might get killed by medical error, flu, and unsafe drivers.
Tyson’s most important point is his last sentence, and many of the people who are upset at him are proving his point.
Aug 5 2019 at 6:32pm
You and Tyson are correct about the emotional response to mass murder. Though I am far from being an advocate of “gun control” (whatever that means to the people who mouth it reflexively), I have to say that mass murder (including mass murder by terrorists) is in a different category than medical errors, flu, and many other “natural” causes of death. Mass murder is an additional risk. So the “responder” whom you quote is correct about the substance of the matter, despite the emotionalism of his comment.
Aug 5 2019 at 6:53pm
All those other things are additional risks too. And, as I responded to the responder, they are often very hard to avoid.
Aug 5 2019 at 6:35pm
It seems it’s the unexpectedness of the event. You should be pretty safe in a WalMart, and the even makes you feel powerless because you are unprepared for it. Old people especially die from the flu, and we all know there’s a chance we’ll get into a car accident, no matter how slight, so we are at least a bit prepared.
Aug 5 2019 at 7:37pm
Pedantic as it may be to point out, the eagerness of some people (and unfortunately even some journalists) to jump to racist stereotyping is rather irksome, especially since white males probably commit *fewer* homicides than would be proportional to the their fraction of the population.
Aug 5 2019 at 7:44pm
But making mass murders less massive by making it more difficult for just anybody to get their hands on weapons that fire large number of rounds in few seconds would be pretty easy unlike preventing flu, car accidents and suicides. I think it’s the uber-senselessness of murders with weapons almost no one should own that drives the special newsworthiness of these incidents.
Aug 5 2019 at 8:12pm
That is n emotional response as well. I associate with enough gun owners to know that eliminating tens of millions of a particular type of guns would be quite difficult. On a par with eliminating drug use by making them illegal.
Aug 7 2019 at 8:22pm
You don’t think stringently licensing the sale and transfer of certain kinds of weapons and add on’s that increase the rate or silence of fire would not lead to a significant reduction in the rate of acquisition of such weapons?
Aug 7 2019 at 9:46pm
I’m not sure you’re considering the number of those objects you want to restrict which already exist. It would take decades for enough of them to wear out in order to create any significant reduction in their availability. They’re aslo very easy for anyone with access to some basic machine tools to produce. All you’re really saying is that they should skip the licensed dealer part where a background check gets done.
If you want to reduce violent death using firearms, one obvious place to do so (where the pro-self-defense crowd is even going to support you!) is to spend resources on preventing/controlling inner-city gang violence. That’s the source of 10-25% (depending on whose numbers you look at) of firearms homicides. 50% of firearms homicides occur in 2% of counties, all urban. The recent decades of reduced firearms violence rates are primarily part of an overall reduction in crime.
Over 50% of counties don’t have a single murder each year. Those counties are all rural. Rural America has a gun homicide rate comparable to most European countries.
A large part of the issue is that rural Americans have lots of guns and minimal gun homicides, while inner cities have banned/restricted guns and lots of gun homicides, with suburbs and small cities in-between on the measures. So it makes no sense to rural Americans to adopt the non-working policies of the cities, while the city-folk don’t understand why rural-folk don’t see as much of a major issue.
And then the rare mass shootings get twisted by the media and politicians to fit their preferred narratives, which they usually don’t actually fit.
There’s so much proposed idiocy around the issue, all I can do is be thankful we have Constitutional safeguards preventing most of it.
Aug 6 2019 at 9:24pm
As with measuring the success of any policy, we must consider the tradeoffs, the benefits against the costs, the expected cost of individual liberty sacrificed vs the expected benefit of collective safety from mass shootings. One must consider the data on the likelihood of such an event happening before and after a policy that restricts individual liberties and inherent rights has been legislated. Any other method of analysis would be unscientific and would include a certain degree of uncertainty in achieving its policy objective while the cost in rights being sacrificed is without doubt certain.
Aug 8 2019 at 11:33am
I think you would have to ban all high caliber revolvers and shotguns.
I do not think it is unreasonable idea to ban certain guns, but just so we count both sides, what do you think the cost, if any, would be in young men going to prison or getting killed for distributing illegal weapons? I see no good estimates of those costs.
Aug 5 2019 at 8:20pm
In 1966 automobile deaths in America per 100,000 were just above 25. Most Americans were still eager to drive. By 2017 they were down to below 12 due to courageous politicians who passed auto safety laws (air bags; mandatory seatbelt laws) against a fair amount of resistance from industry and civil libertarians, and that is the rate we now view as the current normal and acceptable level of background risk. If we found the rate jumped back up to 25 in 2019, our hair would be on fire. A consideration of flu deaths would produce a similar conclusion.
Most of our traditional allies have virtually eliminated the threat of dying by gunshot through “gun controls”. In America, we have de facto decided that a level of gun violence is just part of the cost of enjoying our other freedoms. If we began taking steps such as outlawing high-capacity magazines, and we reached a lower rate of death by mass shooting, we would incorporate that into our expectation of background risk. Perhaps second graders would not need to practice shelter in place drills.
Since 1934, increasingly restrictive laws on fully automatic guns ownership has made them nearly impossible to acquire except by wealthy collectors. Sensible restrictions on features of assault-style guns will be accepted by most citizens including most gun owners. Now all we need are courageous politicians.
Tyson’s perspective is correct, of course, but I think mass shootings are in a risk class different than the others.
Aug 7 2019 at 12:51pm
“… I think mass shootings are in a risk class different than the others.”
This thought is the problem that Tyson and Prof. Henderson are addressing (correctly) with the idea that numeracy matters, especially in leading to non-emotional reactions to spectacle. All of these things cause death (and one could further clarify that they cause “unexpected” or “premature” death or however you want to characterize the unforeseen nature of the causes). What other “risk class” matters? And the fact is that mass shootings cause less death than the other causes listed. Trying to shoehorn mass shootings into some special “risk class” is an example of the emotional response to spectacle that is being rightfully derided.
Aug 5 2019 at 10:37pm
I agree with this post. However, it is also very unlikely I will die in a foreign terrorist attack.
Some people accept the boogeyman interpretation of foreign terrorism but reject the boogeymen domestic version..
Aug 5 2019 at 10:40pm
There is nothing wrong with an emotional response to mass murder. There is a good reason why people react so emotionally, it undermines their sense of safety in public places. Plus, many previous mass shootings were in schools. I get emotional when I see one child getting mistreated, should I react differently when dozens of children get murdered senselessly?
I am more concerned about people who do not react emotionally and insist on convoluted arguments why nothing can be done about ownership of weapons the sole purpose of which is to kill in bulk.
Aug 5 2019 at 11:26pm
You’re right that there’s nothing wrong with an emotional response to mass murder. The problem comes when you go from emotion to solution without thinking through consequences, including unintended consequences.
Aug 6 2019 at 2:47am
What could be the unintended consequence of outlawing private ownership of assault rifles? The same as when we prohibit people carrying hand grenades in their pockets?
Hand grenades are regulated under the National Firearms Act (“NFA”), a federal law first passed in 1934 and amended by the Crime Control Act of 1968. The 1968 amendments made it illegal to possess “destructive devices,” which includes grenades. (26 U.S.C. § 5801.)
Paul in NJ
Aug 6 2019 at 9:55am
“What could be the unintended consequence of outlawing private ownership of assault rifles?”
It’s difficult to tell whether you’re serious, or trolling.
For starters, “assault rifle” is an emotional term having no meaning in practical terms. It cannot be defined by characteristics, as changing even one of those will negate the law. “I know it when I see it” won’t stand up in court. But that’s almost beside the point.
Second, such a law would be patently unConstitutional. You’d know this from even a cursory reading of recent SCOTUS decisions. Do that, and become better educated.
And primarily, the “unintended” consequence would be massive disobedience by law-abiding owners and a huge outcry from those who believe in the Second Amendment. What would you do then? Would you send the Army door to door to confiscate them? That would spark massive disobedience — and quite possibly a civil war.
Aug 6 2019 at 10:22am
Perhaps you should take your own advice. Reasonable gun regulations were not ruled out by the Supreme Court. The longstanding ban against machine guns is still in effect since 1934 and newer legislation continued that ban. There is nothing in existing law or court precedence that would prohibit new legislation from placing controls on certain weapons and/or high capacity magazines. From a sport and home safety perspective, there is no rational need for any firearm that can discharge more than 10 rounds. If one is such a poor shot that they cannot bring down a dangerous intruder without firing more than three shots they should not be in possession of a firearm.
Aug 6 2019 at 5:44pm
I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea, but can we apply it to the professionals first?
Aug 9 2019 at 2:12pm
Don’t forget the ever-present opportunity costs. Even if we all agree that there is potential piece of legislation that would prevent future mass shootings, you have to decide if you want to spend your time and political capital on that rather than something else that could save many, many more lives.
It’s easy to say “why can’t we do both,” but in practice that’s not likely to happen.
Aug 7 2019 at 4:18pm
It is the opponents of mine who rely on emotion primarily, and trust that their moral claims will affect events – due to enthusiasm, I suppose. Over the weekend, a podcast interviewed Francis Fukuyama who has some new book about how people change their minds. He recommends responding to some absurd claim, or policy, with the simple question: “Yes, and how would that work?” (you sincerely want to know, don’t fake it).
In my college days, we referred to those opponents as “economically illiterate” since any aspect of practical human behavior was beyond the “moral horizon” for all the leftists.
Aug 7 2019 at 8:43pm
I don’t see where “emotion” comes into this. Mass murder with rapid fire weapons provoke a response not (I think) because people over-estimate their chances or dying is such an incident relative to dying from flu or medical mistakes or automobile accidents. Rather it is a reminder (to many people) of an implicit judgement that we are not in a equilibrium of costs of prevention v benefits of prevention. They think that there are many measures they consider of such low cost (restricting sale and transfer of certain kinds of weapons) as to be worth even a small reduction in the average number of victims in mass murder events.
Aug 5 2019 at 11:48pm
Good post, David! If I may quote myself, I would add one point derived from FBI statistics on the 50 mass shootings events in the period 2016-2017:
The link above provides more details and links.
Of course, it is more difficult to stop a mass killing when the killer is armed with a powerful semi-automatic rifle, you only have a handgun, and everything is played in a few minutes. But the cops did it, and nothing (but the state in certain parts of the United States) prevents an ordinary citizen from getting as much training (although not as much practice) as a cop. And again, 8% is not nothing.
Aug 6 2019 at 1:20am
The numbers might look different if you looked at expected years of life lost. My guess would be that flu and medical errors are mostly taking old people. Doesn’t seem wrong that people may abhor the taking younger lives or more innocent lives (did less to put them selves in danger).
I don’t actually like the media reporting on these events but this numerology still seems crass and smug.
Aug 6 2019 at 3:50am
The point about the numbers is right, but there are a couple of important responses.
Firstly, as Thaomas notes above, it feels like mass shootings are preventable in some important way that those other things are not. Deaths from disease and suicide… they’re never going to stop. But there are countries in the world in which angry young men never go on murderous shooting sprees. By equating mass killings with the naturally occurring flu, NDT seems to be suggesting that mass shootings are a natural inevitability. To many people, that’s a revolting suggestion.
Secondly, it’s a funny thing, but (some) libertarians seem quite keen on “culture” – in particular, using culture as an explanation for different economic outcomes. However, they are less willing to accept the natural converse conclusion, which is that culture can be used to change society. How do you change culture? By acting on it! By banning guns; by encouraging innovation; by penalizing divorce; etc. etc. When right wing/libertarian commentators seem very interested in *some* of these cultural interventions but not others, this suggests that their arguments have ulterior motivation.
(NB. I’m aware that the true libertarian has an anti-state intervention argument to make here; it’s just that true libertarians are vanishingly rare in the wild, and most folks on Twitter are dealing with average rightwing/rightish commentators.)
The American gun control argument is a very weird place on both sides. Still, I like NDT’s evidence-driven kind of argument.
Aug 6 2019 at 7:17am
I am reminded of the great work done by Paul Slovic and his colleagues over the years on risk perception. His research was flowering at the same time as Tversky and Kahneman but he is often overlooked. His landmark 1987 paper in Science requires a subscription to access but this more recent one covers the issues and is free at SSRN. The key issue that Slovic identified was people react much more to very rare incidents that have a high dread factor (classic example is the aversion to the use of nuclear power but the acceptance of medical X-rays).
Aug 6 2019 at 7:47am
Good post. As someone who is something of a control freak, I totally understand the fear of dying due to an event beyond your control and utterly unpredictable. Numeracy helps overcome that fear. You make peace with risk.
If one really stops to think of all the ways one could die that’s not his fault, it gets overwhelming. But you can’t let it shut you down.
Aug 6 2019 at 7:57am
I get a flu vaccine every year, even though it is often ineffective (I got the flu anyway this winter).
I have a concealed carry permit. Hopefully I never have to use it, and it might be just as ineffective as the flu vaccine, but that is still effective enough.
Anyone know of a medical error vaccine?
Aug 6 2019 at 8:02am
Replying to myself, herd immunity applies to firearms carrying too. Enough people carry and incidents get stopped before they can spread.
I oppose mandatory vaccinations and mandatory carry, but I encourage both.
Paul in NJ
Aug 6 2019 at 10:01am
“…herd immunity applies to firearms carrying too. Enough people carry and incidents get stopped before they can spread.”
It is no coincidence that mass shootings take place in carefully chosen “gun-free” zones, or in situations where there is little chance of encountering armed citizens. I am not aware of any mass shootings in police stations, or on military bases… or at gun shows.
Aug 6 2019 at 10:14am
Google Military Base Shooting Fort Hood!!!!
Aug 6 2019 at 10:31am
The Fort Hood example makes Paul’s point. He probably assumed that military personnel are allowed to carry arms on the base. They’re not.
I dealt with this when I was an employee at the Naval Postgraduate School. I wanted to carry a loaded pistol in my trunk. But that would have meant that every time I went on campus, which was multiple times a week, I would have been committing a felony. The only people who are armed on campus are the military and civilian police.
Aug 6 2019 at 11:15am
I’m betting a Walmart in Texas is one of the least gun-free places in the US… but that is just a guess. And we don’t really see that many mass shootings (or shootings for that matter) in other developed countries that severely restrict gun ownership. And the overall literature on gun ownership and homicide doesn’t really support your contention that more guns decrease violence (I believe Lott is just about the only researcher who finds the opposite (this is an exaggeration)).
A simple model of gun violence (which I imagine you don’t buy but is relatively reasonable) is that guns make violence less expensive. It’s easier to shoot someone than to stab someone or choke them to death, and so long as the shooter has a slight surprise advantage (i.e. not everyone has their gun in their hand the entire time), the body count is certain to be higher where guns are more easily obtained (just use google scholar to search “guns and homicide literature review). And it seems that if the shooter doesn’t care about living or dying (as most of these mass shooters appear not to care), they can get the jump on lots of people before a single gun is pulled.
Regarding Tyson’s point about suicide: gun ownership is a huge predictor of suicide. If you reduce the number of guns/gun owners, you reduce the number of suicides (there seems to be a pretty large elasticity between suicides and guns, so it is not the case that people just substitute methods of suicide).
Aug 6 2019 at 8:04am
Justin Fox had a piece on this phenomenon a couple of years back on why it is reasonable to fear terrorism more than the everyday occurrences that are statistically likely on average to cause more deaths. As some one who was firmly in the “terrorism fears and the associated response is irrational” camp, I found his argument at least partially persuasive.
I’d argue that mass shootings are close enough to terrorist attacks, even if they don’t share a common political motive, that “normal” people’s responses are justified. I think it is magnified over terrorism in left leaning people, because the “solution” to the problem seems relatively easy and straightforward, and that it is just political will that is stopping us from doing something about it. For people on the right, my feeling is that the positions are reversed, where terrorism is particularly scary, and seems like it should be easy to solve through things like tougher border security. (Note, it doesn’t matter that I think both sides are wrong, and that it would require huge curtailing of individual liberty to make more than a dent in either problem, it is their perception that matters)
One other thing occurred to me when I was writing this. Lots has been written about how terrorism is more likely to hit big cities, and yet the residents of those cities are less fearful and less willing to give up liberties to try to protect against terrorist acts. There’s a parallel that I haven’t seen as often, in that mass shootings seem at least more randomly distributed than terrorist acts, and seem as likely to happen in rural or suburban areas as urban ones, yet in this case we typically have urban liberals as the ones that are reacting out of line with the actual level of risk.
Aug 6 2019 at 10:49am
This is in response to two separate comments from Paul in NJ.
For starters, “assault rifle” is an emotional term having no meaning in practical terms. It cannot be defined by characteristics, as changing even one of those will negate the law.
Then how did we manage to outlaw hand grenades as “destructive devices”? Notice how mass killings in this country are always committed with assault rifles, not grenades.
It is no coincidence that mass shootings take place in carefully chosen “gun-free” zones …
From one of many articles: Because of open-carry gun laws in Texas, Walmart shoppers at the store in El Paso and other stores around the state are allowed to carry firearms openly. … Walmart remains the largest gun seller in the nation, …
Aug 6 2019 at 12:14pm
The problem isn’t the average but the tails. It is really hard to double the number of deaths from medical accidents, car accidents, handgun homicide, etc.
The same is not quite true with mass-shootings. While mass-shooting may not be extreme fat tails, they aren’t extreme thin tails either. And that is where Prof. Tyson may be being innumerate — he isn’t focusing on what kind of statistical distribution he is in.
Averages ONLY matter in thin tail environments. Take an example:
The average deaths from atomic war since they have been invented is quite small. But if we got into a live nuclear war tomorrow, the death-toll could easily be in the billions. Point is that when the extreme event completely swamps out the average, the only thing that matters is the extreme event. Indeed, since the extreme event hasn’t occurred, then saying the risk is low because the average is low is just not understanding how tail risk works.
I do concede that mass-shootings are not like nuclear war; they are much more thin tailed compared to fat tailed. But if you think of mass-shootings as a kind of terrorism (which Prof. Henderson references), then you start to see more of a fat tailed environment (though the nature of the terrorists, i.e., state sponsored or lone wolf, likely determines whether they are more thin tailed or fat tailed).
And that is what worries me about Prof. Tyson’s (and Prof. Henderson’s) argument — it treats average as the only important point without addressing whether the averages they are comparing are similar kinds of distributions (i.e., thin tailed or fat tailed).
This is one of those lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Aug 6 2019 at 4:00pm
I thought I posted, but I guess not.
I think the problem is that average only matters in thin-tailed environments. Where extreme events can radically change the average, the only thing that matters is the extreme event. Indeed, the nature of high-impact, low-occurrence, you often won’t find the event in the average.
So, I think Prof. Tyson is being innumerate by comparing arguably terrorism (potential for fat tail) with other incidents that are thin tailed.
Aug 6 2019 at 5:47pm
Chicago…Chirac…1517 shot YTD. 216 per month or 7.2 per day. 293 homicides, YTD. 42 per month, in gun controlled chicago. Mostly under 25 Black on Black killings. How do these weapons arrive? Go across the Illinois-Indiana state line where criminals purchase guns in NW Indiana. Just some numbers with no vitriol or emotion. Finally, last weekend, Aug 5th,7 were killed and 46 wounded in Chicago. A local hospital stopped accepting patients as it was filled to capacity as a result of the shootings. Crime brings poverty simply because no business would dare go there and people leave as soon as they are able.
Aug 6 2019 at 9:20pm
It’s worth noting that the vast majority of deaths from flu and medical errors kill those who are very old and in failing health, so the number of quality-adjusted life years lost per death might be only 10% or less of what’s lost from a typical homicide or car accident death.
Aug 7 2019 at 12:19pm
What would you say to the Talebian point that these are Fat-Tailed phenomena that we gravitate to on the news. Therefore, the emotional response, or paranoia, is rational as a way to mitigate large unforeseen tail events.
For example, the 35,000 or so deaths from car accidents a year will fluctuate very little in any given year. But if we ask ourselves about a worst case scenario for a terrorist attack, the number could be over 100,000 in a single explosion.
Given this fat-tailed distribution, the typical paranoia and emotion is rational.
Aug 7 2019 at 7:07pm
Let’s take that 100,000 at face value and assume this happens next year. 100,000 people dying would move the average US deaths from terrorism from 80 deaths/year over the last half-century to about 2080 deaths/year, or about 1/8 th of our average annual homicide rate, and still way below suicide/kidney disease/car accidents.
Fat-tail is a reasonable argument that the risk is higher than one would get by naively averaging, but the gap is so big that invoking fat-tail risk can’t bridge it on its own.
Aug 7 2019 at 7:45pm
I was about to write an answer to Ethan, but I think that Christophe Biocca answered it better than I had planned.
On the other issue, though, it actually is hard to imagine a single explosion that could cause the number of deaths to be anywhere close to 100,000. Think of what we first heard when the Twin Towers were hit. IIRC, we first heard that it could be 20,000 and then within hours it was down to 7,000 and then 5,000 and then, after a few days, 3,000. But think back to the 20,000. That was the high end because presumably that was almost equal to the number of people in those buildings at the time of the attack.
Aug 7 2019 at 11:11pm
There are easy ways to imagine (though hopefully harder to execute): a single powerful nuclear bomb in midtown Manhattan could cause well over a million of casualties and untold trillions in loss of value.
No one is saying these are likely but possible.
Aug 7 2019 at 11:39pm
Aug 8 2019 at 2:32am
The precise point mass shooters do what they do is to provoke an emotional response…
While there was one good comment that pointed out that it is the fact one person in such a short amount of time can kill however many people that separates it from the statistical aspect of mortality tables from events.
It is literally quantitative versus qualitative.
As far as shooters go…
It is because of the fundamental violation and betrayal of societal trust, brutality, callousness, and the perception that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime to provoke mass fear.
They want to do they worst thing the can imagine. They gave up on life, choose a horrible death spiral of murder, and hoping to end their life by committing suicide-by-cop.
If they were trying to kill mass amounts of people, they would turn to explosives, chemical weapons, or potentially mass poisoning. However, terrorism is violence for a political aim, or more simply, a political statement. Possibly trying make their opinions and fears seem more valid than they are by displaying their desperation…I can’t think of any good way to deter them other than numbers. As the number of CCW holders increase above 2-3 within an immediate area, a inexperienced single shooter very quickly looses an advantage, as he is in the open and cannot focus on everyone all at once.
The Las Vegas and D.C Sniper examples present the worst case scenarios where armed citizens cannot make a difference. These two examples also show how optics are one aspect that hasn’t fully proliferated among mass shooters due to cost. Good Optics cost more than most of the guns used.
In terms of gun laws/banning, I just cannot see it working, so long as second and third world nations continue to produce firearms, they will show up in America, even with full unconstitutional house by house search and seizures, just like drugs. Never mind the fact guns and ammo can be built, manufactured, machined at home by those with enough skill, or 3D printed parts can be designed to fill the gaps needed.
The Mental Health Aspect is an easy talking point, however, getting psychiatrist, psychologist, and other clinical social workers on board creates a humongous cost as these professionals earn a lot of money, and there are not enough, and will likely not want the liability. Placing the burden of cost onto a gun purchaser could alleviate that, however it also has legal and constitutional issues.
Early identification of an extremist turning into a mass shooter seems to be the only way to effectively minimize more shootings, but just how to do that is challenging, and would require friends, family, or others within a social group to have the strength of conviction to act. However, many shooters may be somewhat socially isolated, and only leave a trail of signs online with little to be caught in advance and instead only seen after.
Some of the things most have in common are:
1. They have a divided home or are fatherless
2. Are single, possibly isolated (leading to #3)
3. Have no children
4. They are young males who have not yet lived long enough to become experienced or successful
Aug 8 2019 at 11:12am
So many otherwise intelligent people cannot help but turn a horrible action into rage against something else they believe is the cause.
Having said, that, I could easily support laws limiting the size of “magazines”—–the Dayton shooter had something like a “75-100” bullet magazine and was killed within a minute. Supposedly, he shot 41 bullets within 30 seconds. However, fully automatics can can fire about ten times more–and are outlawed. If that is a “semi-automatic”-it seems pretty unusual and dangerous to me as well.
That, of course, is simply my opinion—but in Heller, Scalia did provide for various restrictions that States do undertake, including prohibiting ownership of weapons deemed to be “unusual and dangerous”.
However, I do not believe the public outcry was really about this at all. There was true anger aimed at both the NRA and the President. While the public generally suffers from innumeracy, it is unlikely that was a consideration here. It is easy to understand the numbers Professor Tyson puts forth, but they are also hard to create a simple narrative around—nor to demonstrate they are appropriate targets of outrage.
I believe the normal human reaction to these mass shooting events is generally shock and empathy. But it is also, apparently, in our nature to use them for our gain.
David L. Dawson
Aug 9 2019 at 8:43am
Poor analysis, Dr. Tyson:
During the given 48 hour time period:
It took hundreds of doctors or nurses to kill via 500 errors;
It took 300 individuals to die of the Flu;
It took 250 people to commit the 250 suicides;
It took tens perhaps hundreds of people to kill 200 in car accidents;
And it probably took multiples of tens of people to kill 40 others with handguns.
But it took ONLY TWO individuals to kill a total of 31 people via semi-automatic weapons. Moreover, the death toll probably would have been higher than 31, perhaps even hundreds had not the police swiftly responded.
Indeed, our emotions often respond more to spectacle than to data. But our minds often respond more to sophistry than wisdom.
Aug 9 2019 at 2:37pm
It seems that those two individuals ought to be the focus of our outrage – not their weapons, which did not fire themselves, and not the many millions of gun owners who have never shot anyone and never will. I’m not a gun owner, but I’m guessing that’s how a lot of them would see it.
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