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BBC Analysis did a show on political prejudice.

I urge you to listen to it, 27:45 long though it may be.

Podcast link for those not keen on the BBC iPlayer. You'll want the Sept. 17, 2012 programme.
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Am I completely off-base in saying that
1) We cannot place a monetary value on the life of an individual, but
2) policymakers can -- and must -- place a monetary value on human life in aggregate?
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Here is an essay on gun control. I'm not pointing fingers at Holly; this is merely the first place I'd come across it.

Without too much digging,[edit: Okay, so I've been digging for two hours now. Scrap that "quick thought" part] some thoughts:

First, the examples, and fine and assorted they are. In the Soviet Union, 20 million were rounded up and sent to the camps or executed. Without personal firearms they were clearly unable to defend themselves.

Reality check, people: Do you honestly think that if the authorities wanted to take you, your measly nine-shot pistol would hold them off? Presumably, these weren't twenty million people who trained in firearms use and small units tactics on a daily basis. The people who came for them were professionals, and did. Perhaps there would have been a tad more noise if some number of these dissidents were armed. Who cares? What, you think there would have been a huge public outcry and the repressions would have stopped? Watch some movies on the subject. Read some books. They generally came for you in the middle of the night, or grabbed you on the street, so unless you were wearing your gun around the clock, it would have done you no good whatsoever, anyway. And everybody believed you were an enemy of the state. Everybody. Just like in Germany, where the majority of the people supported Hitler's government, in Russia, popular support was behind the state. Vocal dissidents didn't exist inside Russia, or they didn't exist for very long.

Next, there's the whole issue of government types in the varying examples. Every country mentioned with the exception of Australia was a totalitarian regime or a dictatorship at the time. Australia, at last check, was neither. Gun control might have been an indicator of totalitarian rule, but it was hardly the deciding factor or even an important one. Unless you're a proponent of privately owned anti-tank weapons, you can't expect that any of your weapons can stop a heavily armed, well-trained and -armored force.

Finally, what do the statistics on Australia tell us?
Welcome to a concept that seems to be new to some people. It's called "transition period." Remember when automobiles were first introduced? If anything, they were an expensive, loud, noxious alternative to the familiar horse. A decade or two later, automobiles ruled the roads. Anyone care to exchange their car for the more environmentally friendly horse team?

Of course there would be a spike in gun-related crime at first. The difference is that now, anyone with a gun isn't just an ordinary citizen who may or may not have criminal intent -- it's an armed criminal. But you know what guns also need? That's right; ammo. And since guns are illegal, no one will be selling ammo anymore. You better be countin' those bullets, because once they're gone, who knows where you're going to get more. All the Australian authorities need to do is let the police do their job, and watch the numbers drop again -- and drop lower than the pre-gun confiscation rates.

This article goes on and on about how low guns in the home are on the cause accidental injury and death list. It also succeeds in completely avoiding any numbers concerning the actual number of deaths and injuries caused in non-defensive gun use incidents.

According to the CDC non-fatal injury database, in the US in 2002, firearms have caused just over 17,000 non-fatal injuries. That's 0.007 per cent of the population. How's that for insignificant? (BB/pellet guns have caused over 22,000 injuries in the same year, while cars have caused just under 4.5 million). Firearm deaths in the year 2001 (data unavailable for 2002, I am assuming no huge statistically significant change) is 29.5 thousand. Total firearm injuries and deaths in that year is at about 45,000. 0.016 per cent of the population were harmed by firearms.

But let's look at some other statistics. In 2001, there were 51,326 violence-related deaths (CDC mortality database). Of these, 28,540 involved firearms; That's not 0.016 per cent anymore; more like 55.6 per cent.

Same year, 101,537 total unintentional deaths, and only 802 of these involved firearms. I won't even bother calculating the percentage.

So it seems most deaths by firearm are intentional. But let's look a bit deeper, at the breakdown of violent deaths by gunshot wound. a mere 323 were due to legal intervention. SWAT teams don't make much use of their guns, I'd say. Another 11,348 were homicide shootings. The largest share, the remaining 16,869 deaths?

It seems that a gun, when used for its intended purpose, is a very effective tool. It doesn't fail and kill someone; it tends to work properly -- and kills someone.

That is the fundamental difference most gun rights proponents seem to marginalize. The automobile, which in 2001 had killed almost 44 thousand people (less than twice as many as guns have), has as its primary purpose the act of transportation of persons and cargo. Poisonings, suffocations and smoke inhalation deaths are all accidental -- they take place when something goes wrong or when someone screws up. Accidental deaths involving a firearm aren't about someone misreading a label -- they're about someone using the gun just as it was intended to be used, just not on the "right" target.

To me, it's about the mindset of the user. When you get into a car, you expect to use it to get somewhere. When you point a gun at your classmate, your expectation is that the gun, a fairly mecahnically simple device, will not work. Talk about mental model conflict!

Guns in the home may or may not prevent armed robberies; I don't know the statistics of that, and no one can conduct a survey among armed robbers as to the psychological effect the possibility of a gun in a mark's home has on them. But guns in the home doubtlessly can and do cause accidental and intentional harm to the gun owner, and in greater numbers than any deaths or injuries to any intruder.

I wasn't going to touch this subject, but what the hell; I found some interesting figures.
From the Department of Justice violent crimes report on the self-defense use of handguns include: 20% of victims who defended themselves with a firearm were injured, as compared to half of victims defending themselves with a non-firearm weapon or unarmed. "Ah-HAH," you may be tempted to say, except that... A mere 35% of the firearm-wielding victims faced an opponent who also had a firearm. The statistics also include attacks on police officers, who are unquestionably better trained in firearm use.

But in the same year, 341,000 cases of firearm theft were recorded. For every case of a victim defending themselves with a firearm, four firearms were stolen by a criminal, most of them handguns.

Until we start branding criminals or institute a pre-crime unit, providing firearms to law-abiding but careless citizens will be equivalent to supplying criminals with guns. Or to legalizing euthanasia. Or to letting ten-year-olds drag race. Hey, now there is an idea for a reality show!


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