WaPo: Statistician Thought Gun Control Was the Answer. Then She Did Research.

This article is from an opinion piece at the Washington Post by Leah Libresco – a statistician and writer for news site FiveThirtyEight. At the WaPo site, her more logical article is preceded by an emotional video about how guns must be banned. There are links in the article below to some of her research at FiveThirtyEight, including some methodology for her results. When you look at the data, the vast majority of gun control proposals make no sense.

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

Opinion | The Washington Post Editorial Board appeals to Trump and Congress to stand up to the gun lobby and prevent mass shootings. (The Washington Post)

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United Statesevery year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.

US Civil War 2.0 Update

Young boy sleeps between his parents

There have been several articles in the past week or so on the topic of the possibility that there will be or there already is a second civil war occurring in the United States. Several of them reference each other.

The Washington Post started with In America, Talk Turns to Something Not Spoken of for 150 Years: Civil War in which it blames Trump and conservatives for the current state of affairs.

From Richard Fernandez’s article at PJ Media, What Would a Hybrid Civil War Look Like? wonders if we are already in a civil hybrid war where victory is achieved by silencing opponents, punitive prosecution and deplatforming.

Howard Schultz tweeted that “the failed political class of Washington, D.C., has broken America’s political system. And out of that are rising political extremes on both sides.” Yet to some, extremes are not a bug but a feature. Bernie Sanders declared without a hint of irony that “Donald Trump wants to divide us up based on the color of our skin, based on where we were born, based on our gender, our religion and our sexual orientation,” even though that is the perfect definition of intersectional identity politics.

While one explanation for the fractiousness is a reversion to our primitive natural tendency to mistrust outsiders, the other possibility is that it is now the way modern warfare is waged. The Russians have ascribed events unfolding in Venezuela to an American Trojan Horse strategy. It “would rely on ‘protest potential of the fifth column’ to destabilize the situation in the countries with unwanted governments … using the technologies of color revolutions.”

The Russians, whose Soviet empire was overthrown by the color revolutions, have been experimenting with similar strategies known as hybrid warfare. As the NYT reported

General Gerasimov laid out in an article published in 2013 … which many now see as a foreshadowing of the country’s embrace of “hybrid war”… analysts see a progression from the blend of subversion and propaganda used in Ukraine to the tactics later directed against Western nations, including the United States, where Russia’s military intelligence agency hacked into Democratic Party computers during the 2016 election.

With conventional war rendered suicidal by the advent of nuclear weapons, a cocktail of lawfare, info war, deliberate population movement, and targeted physical intimidation is now the toolset of choice and the Russians, Chinese, jihadis, EU, and USA each have their versions.

“The idea that the Russians have discovered some new art of war is wrong,” Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute and the author of “Russian Political War,” said of the general’s latest speech. “This is basically the Russians trying to grapple with the modern world.” Hybrid war has long been a Western military term of art, analysts say, especially in the context of counterterrorism.

But since the resulting battlefields are waged inside the country, there is little reason why domestic political conflict should not resemble the international ones. Because victory is now attained by jailing opponents, silencing or financially sanctioning them, punitive prosecution, deplatforming, and universal surveillance are used alike in both cases and it is increasingly hard to tell them apart. The thesis that America is already in a “civil war” or on the brink occurred to Greg Jaffe, national security reporter, and Jenna Johnson, national political correspondent for The Washington Post...

Robert Bridge writes at RT American Civil War 2: US media will have only itself to blame if all hell breaks loose that the media’s self-righteous bias stokes the divisions.

…Michael Cohen, for example, Trump’s turncoat personal lawyer who committed perjury by lying to Congress, was quoted high in the article as saying, “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Now that is certainly rich. Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Washington has been consumed by the Mueller investigation, and amid mindless chatter that Trump is an illegitimate president slated for impeachment. In other words, the last thing that can be said about the Democrats is that they facilitated a “peaceful transition of power.” In fact, they have hobbled Trump and his administration ever since he entered the Oval Office.

Another pro-Liberal voice dragged into the Civil War story was Robert Reich, who served on Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board. The Post linked to an article Reich wrote last year where he posited the fictional scenario where an impeachment resolution against the president is enacted, thus kicking off mass civil strife on the direct command of dear leader…

Now that is some world-class chutzpah. In fact, it is the same self-righteous, ingratiating tone that weaves itself throughout the Post article. In keeping with the mainstream media’s non-stop narrative, Trump and the Republicans are blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the country, while the Democrats come off as little angels trying to piece the fractured country back together.

As already mentioned, Donald Trump is certainly not above criticism. Far from it. But for the mainstream media to place all of the blame for the current political malaise at the Republican’s door is about as responsible as lighting up a cigarette inside of a Chinese fireworks factory…

Finally Malcolm Pollack’s On Civil War discusses how it is the Left that has pulled crazily away from the rest of the country and the resulting desperation of normal people to return to civilized order that is causing the chasm.

…That’s it exactly: we are desperate. We know how close we are to the edge, to the dissolution of civilized order into chaos and tyranny. We can feel in our bones the implacable hatred of our would-be commissars for everything we believe is good and right and true — along with a growing understanding that their hatred doesn’t stop at our traditions and beliefs. As long as we live and breathe, we are a threat. If the blood-soaked history of the twentieth century can teach us anything at all, it should teach us that it will not be enough to see us displaced and destroyed. They will want us dead and gone.

One of the milestones along the road to civil war is the normalization of violence as a rational response to a dehumanized enemy, followed soon after by an eagerness for general conflict. This eagerness arises first in the breasts of those seeking radical change, who see violence as justified by the righteousness of their cause, and who are usually young and excitable people who have a much better sense of how to destroy what exists than to build and preserve a system that, however flawed, actually works. (This also reflects that the Right, almost by definition, moves toward order, while the Left is always entropic.) But the Right is eminently capable of reactive, or even proactive, violence when confronted by an existential threat to order, and is every bit as liable to the “othering” and dehumanization of its enemies in preparation for war.

There is, then, a spiral of mutual threat and provocation in the run-up to war, along the course of which a people can go from general comity and commonality, to political or cultural division, to rancorous debate, to increasingly bitter struggle for political power, to “othering” and dehumanization, to normalized violence, to bloodthirsty eagerness for war, to general armed conflict. We are already well into the latter stages, and even on the Right I see martial enthusiasm increasing: the hatred of the enemy, the idea that we are now so far beyond reconciliation that there is going to be a fight, and that we might as well get on with it (especially as we are the ones who will most likely win)…

RT: America Stumbling Towards Civil War One Terrible Tweet at a Time