Phil’s Phobias, Urticating Caterpillars and the Gun Debate

One of the joys of publishing written diatribe for public consumption is the comments and feedback from the… internet. Consider this recent example.

Phil from Australia writes…

I’m glad I live in Australia, with controlled gun ownership, where all guns must be locked away. EG. I read a story where a 3 year old boy shoots himself…….go figure.

Well there you have it. A random anecdote trumps decades of factual data, at least in Phil’s mind.

But when you step back and look at a comment like this, it just illustrates the real challenge behind the gun debate. You see, Phil is not alone. Think about how many people have their views about gun policy shaped by random “I heard that…” anecdotes.

I heard about a shark attack once. But that didn’t stop me from taking showers. For long.(Tweet This)

If one invests about four minutes to research the gun debate, it becomes pretty darn clear that guns themselves aren’t the driving issue for crime. Gun ownership is way up. Crime is way down. When folks aren’t robbed of their rights of self-protection, crime falls. Accidents are at an all time low. The vast majority of gun-related crime involves convicted felons. Guns are used far, far more frequently to prevent people from getting hurt than for hurting people. Let me repeat that.

Guns are used far, far more frequently to prevent people from getting hurt than for hurting people. (Tweet This)

In other words, a rational look at the data to examine the pros and cons of gun use yields a clear result. Guns save lives.

So what has so much power to trump decades of historical data and cause people to hold so dearly to viewpoints that have no basis in fact?

Hint: It’s fear.

You see, the power of fear is mind-bottling. You know, just like Chazz Michael Michaels so eloquently explained. “You know, when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped, like in a bottle?”

Phil is a perfect example of the power of the fear mentality.

You see, Phil lives in a country where children are 94.3 times more likely to be eaten by a crocodile than win a regional spelling bee.

Well, maybe I made that statistic up, but I’m sure it’s happened at least once, so that pretty much settles the argument.

Conclusion? If you don’t want to become croc-lunch, practice spelling the word “insouciant.”

I decided to consult famed behavioral psychiatrist, Dr. Emil Shuffhausen, to explore Phil’s case further. Based on preliminary analysis, there are a number of other things that frighten Phil.

Australian Phil's Fears

Australian Phil’s Fears

 At risk of causing Phil more undue stress, I want to point out some other hazards of living in Australia.

  • 715 people died tripping, slipping and stumbling, which makes one think Fosters Beer should be locked away.
  • 26 Australians fell off chairs to their earthly end. Consider working in the Lotus position. Yoga is all the rage right now.
  • 58 people died just falling out of bed, although there are not footnotes on which activity immediately proceeded these tragic accidents.
  • Australians are equally susceptible to death from human bites as dog bites. No comment.
  • More venomous arthropod warning signs might be in order, as urticating caterpillars are more likely to kill than crocodile attacks or earthquakes.

But here’s the thing. People like Phil aren’t really concerned with all these other potential hazards. Why?

Fear dominates attitude towards guns because people don’t assign any potential benefits to gun ownership – they only consider the negatives. (Tweet This)

That’s right. When subconsciously evaluating the cost / benefit of various life activities, which might kill us, people always consider the benefit side of the equation for things like swimming, walking, sitting, sleeping and even keeping pet urticating caterpillars. Yes, any of these activities can be lethal, but that’s OK because a larger upside is perceived to balance the risks.

We all just assume there are plenty of benefits to sleeping, sitting and caterpillar husbandry, right? (Tweet This)

So Phil, and others like you: Be intellectually honest about the debate. There are always two sides to any decision. Even a fart has benefits, so consider the other side of the scale before opining on gun control.

Oh, and Phil. One more thing. Nine people died in Australia last year as a result of horse-drawn vehicle incidents.

I sure am glad I live in a country with controlled horsepower transportation, where New York’s new Mayor is banning horse-drawn carriage tours. (Tweet This)

 

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The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    I still like Australia.

    Australia……………………had 188 gun deaths in 2011 with a population of 21,515,754,

    and it is falling since stricter gun control were introduced after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.

    United Kingdom……………had 146 gun deaths in 2011 with a population of 62, 348,447

    Surprisingly the UK had a lower death rate from guns than Australia, even though it has about 3 times the population.

    and the

    United States……………….. had 32,163 gun deaths in 2011 with a population of 310,248,4

    WHY IS IT SO ? …………… these are all facts

    Aussie Phil………..(hope you print this reply to your humorous essay)

    • Look up Switzerland and Iceland. Even higher gun ownership than the USA and almost no gun deaths. Why don’t you include Australia’s and the UK’s non firearm homicide rates? Guarantee its high. What because people don’t have guns they don’t kill right? Grow up and open your eyes sheep. Not to mention I bet those countries have far harsher penalties for violent crimes than the USA. Many gun related deaths are from already convicted FELONS! If they had gotten a stiffer punishment they wouldn’t be back on the street shooting people. It’s a matter of lousy justice system and mental health system, not guns. Plus cars killed 3 times more people than guns last year in the USA. Ban these death machines! I’m sure your country regulates those too. Guess that’s why the Australian car export industry isn’t flourishing? ;)

  2. Alright Phil! Now we’re cookin’ with peanut oil! (That’s an American expression that means something like ‘we’re off the races’, although that may be kind of an American thing too.)

    Anyway, you are giving me a beautiful setup to my next essay (thanks for that, I’ll send you a Fosters!)

    It will be called something long the lines of “I don’t give a hoot about “gun” deaths!”

    What are “gun deaths” really? Does that mean we don’t care about “knife deaths?” Or “bat deaths?” Or “beating deaths?”

    Lest you think me insensitive, allow me to explain with a simple example. Let’s suppose we live in Obama-Topia, a place with 100 murders per year, and 70 of those murders involve guns and 30 some other murderous weapon. Now, we get smart, and use our disappearing gun ray to remove all the guns. Yet, we still have 100 murders a year, but none of them involve guns. Yay! Zero gun deaths! But the people who have been “death-ed” by some means other than guns really don’t feel much better, do they?

    My point is, both Australia and the UK have had either unchanged, or in the case of the UK, INCREASING murder rates since their major gun control initiatives. Guns or no guns. In fact, in the UK, the “gun related” murder rate has actually gone up since their gun ban. And of course their overall murder rate has gone UP since their gun ban. Australia’s has stayed relatively flat before, during and after.

    By the way, things like assault and forcible rape are 2 to 4 times more likely in the UK and Australia, respectively, as the US. Just sayin’ you know.

    Another side note, gun ownership in Australia is essentially back to where it was before the 96/97 buyback, yet the murder rate really hasn’t changed as a percentage. Huh? If you’re going to make major changes, you would expect the crime rates to change as a result, no?

    So, if crime, murder, rape, assault, armed robbery et al really do not change regardless of the tools used, who cares? I want CRIME down. Not gun crime. Or electric stapler crime. Or Silly Putty crime. The only thing that’s relevant is the overall crime rate.

    If I’m to be murdered, I certainly won’t consider it a moral victory if I’m murdered with something other than a gun. If I’m the murderee, then a gun control policy that ensures I was murdered with something other than a gun really doesn’t help me.

    PS – I like Australia too!

  3. Tom,

    There are 4 sorts of Guns deaths listed in the statistics I found on the www. listed below

    Homicides……………..
    Suicides…………………
    Unintentional………..
    Undetermined……….

    List of countries by firearm-related death rate
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate
    —————————————————————————————————-
    From the figures below in the USA 10.3/100,000 people are killed with guns
    as compared with 0.25/100,000 people in the UK.

    (there is a good case for gun control in the USA)…as if this would happen !!!
    ————————————————————————————————–
    Firearm-related death rate per 100,000 population

    ……………………………….Total -homicides -suicides -unintentional -undetermined.
    United States 10.3 (2011) 3.60 (2011) 6.30 (2011) 0.30 (2011) 0.10 (2011)

    Australia .06 (2010) 0.13 (2010) 0.73 (2010) 0.07 (2010) 0.13 (2010)

    United Kingdom 0.25 (2010) 0.04 (2010) 0.18 (2010) 0.01 (2010) 0.02 (2010)

    There was some information on knife deaths, they were about a third of gun deaths.
    (Hope you can read the figures but it is difficult to keep them in line)
    Cheers…………..Aussie Phil

  4. But Phil, you’re missing the whole point!

    The flaw in your argument is that if you remove the guns (or knives or whatever) then those crimes go away. They don’t.

    That. Has. Never. Happened. Ever.

    In every single case where gun control has been implemented, the crime / murder / suicide / whatever rate has stayed the same and usually gone UP.

    Crime / murder / suicide is a behavior that depends not on the tools. Heck, Japan has no guns, yet twice our suicide rate.

    If you remove one or more tools, the crimes still happen, just in different ways.

  5. Phil, you seem km to have your facts straight on gun deaths, so do some research on the number of lives saved by someone using a firearm. One you have the numbers, I think that you will find that someone using a firearm to protect themcelfs and others will far outnumber gun deaths.

  6. Looking purely at gun deaths is flawed. Unintentional and suicide should first be removed since those people would have probably died by some other means. Need to look at pure homicide. Now compare total intentional homicide in the USA with some other countries with strict gun control. Also mix in some extremely pro gun countries such as Iceland and Switzerland or Israel and compare their total homicide rates as homicide per X amount of people. Il you’ve done is taken the slanted parts of the statistics like everyone else that skew the data in your favor.

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  1. […] flawed assumption smacked me upside the head with a recent discussion with Phil the Australian. Phil seems to be a really nice guy, and I enjoyed a very polite and civil discussion with him […]

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