We need science, not knee-jerk reactions

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Previously, I showed that stats don’t add up when making the case that gun owners are dangerous. Conservative estimates show that for every one person who murders with a gun in a given year, there are approximately 100,000 that own guns without incident—1:100,000 does not a  pattern make, by any standard.Armalite AR-15

I do not subscribe to the, do-something-even-if-it’s-wrong mantra. If the desired outcome is a positive result, doing the wrong thing is fundamentally illogical, and will in all likelihood make matters worse—the infamous Washington DC Gun Ban is a prime example.

When children die, it’s always tragic. Being the intelligent beings we humans are, it’s in our nature to solve problems—that’s a basic part of our evolution. A tragedy such as Sandy Hook would push anyone to action, even if that action was contrary to their own long-held beliefs.

For instance, the famous skeptic Dr Michael Shermer, someone whom I greatly admire and partially credit for shaping my way of thinking, wrote this article  in January of 2012, only to reverse course a bit in the wake of this recent tragedy; he now compassionately asks for a restriction on guns.

I respect the passion with which people have decided to come out in favor of banning so-called “Assault” rifles (a made up term), their concern is understandable. The fact that someone famous for always putting logic over passion like Dr. Shermer can change his opinion shows this issue can move anyone.blog4

But, I believe removing guns from law-abiding and sane citizens will only save one potential victim while making a potential victim out of another. It seems more of a knee-jerk reaction than a logically deduced solution.

We know how many lives were ended by guns, however we can never know the lives saved because a killer was stopped by a good Samaritan with a gun.

For instance, if the Sandy Hook shooter had been shot by a teacher immediately after killing his first victim, there would have been no way to know he would have went on to kill 25 more. As such, you should be wary of anyone who says they have data proving that guns kill more lives than they save. Such numbers are purely theoretical and often swayed by the writer’s opinion.

One common attack levied at gun control dissenters is, “Yes, let’s do nothing.” Sadly, this is a straw man argument that does nothing to further intelligent discussion. Most rational people are not proposing we do nothing, certainly not me. So making that statement towards gun control skeptics as if we advocate doing nothing, then attacking us for being do-nothing people is insulting and wrong.

So in the wake of this awful tragedy, I am proposing we use good science to improve this issue.

In order to keep this story reasonably short, I’m going to focus on spree killers such as the Sandy Hook shooter (for the record, I am purposefully not mentioning the name). If we are to get serious about reducing all violent crime, repealing “vice” laws against certain drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc., is needed. We know this because repealing prohibition worked, yet for reasons of religious ideology, we continue to ban many other victimless crimes because zealots consider them to be immoral.

One of the traits that seems very common amongst spree killers of any type, whether they use a gun, bomb, arson, or any other deadly means of attack, is that they often had a documented history of mental illness and/or psychopathic behavior.

Based on this information, I believe there is usable data that is not being fully taken advantage of. What I am proposing is that the American Psychological Association (APA) have a convention where an open invitation is sent to any psychiatrist who has treated a patient who went on to commit these heinous acts. americanpsychoass[1]

Those doctors would confer and collect data about common traits that were exhibited amongst most or all of the attackers they worked with. This data would be published in medical journals for other mental health professionals to review and provide relevant feedback. The APA would then assemble a list of traits they feel are consistent among spree killers while ruling out those traits that were consistent among killers and non-killers alike. Once we have done this, we should have a reasonable collection of warning signs that can be shared with the public so that we can be aware of what to look for amongst society.

This approach is similar to what was asked of us after 9/11 where the public was given warning signs to look out for to prevent terrorism. If a family member, friend, or acquaintance is behaving in a manner consistent with the behavioral patterns of these killers, we can be more prepared to act.

Gun owners like me for instance, might lock up our guns in a secure safe or remove them from the house altogether. We could call a local medical health facility about what we’ve seen to determine if the person in question may need evaluated. If the person has already been diagnosed and prescribed medication for their issues, we must be diligent about reporting if they go off their meds, which may result in violence.

One look at the Giffords shooter’s (Also not mentioning his name) YouTube videos was rather convincing that the man needed help. I feel that if mental health professionals worked harder at getting info to the public about what to look for and when to report it, the caring among us would do exactly that, and unlike gun bans, lives could be saved with few deadly unintended consequences.

Murder rate statistics of the United States show we are well below average among the rest of the world, so being an alarmist is hyperbole at best—we are not experiencing an epidemic, and immediate action isn’t needed. Other studies have shown that violent crime is simply in steady decline around the world. As we evolve as a species, we become more intelligent, and less violent.

But politicians use hyperbole to advance a political agenda like Gordon Ramsay uses swear words to make a point. There is no epidemic, spike in violence, or reason for panic. What is needed are clear thinking medical scientists applying the scientific method towards mental health issues, then educating the public on how best to deal with them.

As a libertarian, I cringe at the notion of government locking someone up on the premise they might be a threat before they’ve actually done anything wrong. So I believe incarceration should only be done at the behest of licensed medical professionals, and there should be appeals in place to help these people get a second opinion if they feel they are being unfairly detained.

While I’m advocating for advancements in mental health science, and using those advancements to identify threats and potentially get them out of society until they are no longer deemed a threat, it is imperative that like our prison system, we take every step to not detain someone who is of little threat to society.519x361[1]

Logical Americans must demand we use science, not knee-jerk reactions and politically motivated legislation to solve our problems. There’s a reason we have cures for thousands of diseases, rovers on Mars, and mobile phones the size of a playing card—it’s called the scientific method. Unlike politicians and hyperbole, it leads to truths and it actually works—let’s stick with it.

 

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