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(17,671 posts)
Sun Dec 11, 2011, 11:50 AM Dec 2011

About that "police blotter".

I don't mind it. Those stories serve as reminders of the reality of people's lives. Doors do get kicked in by multiple assailants. People do get carjacked. Sometimes the gun helps, sometimes it doesn't.

And by the same token, people do some profoundly stupid stuff with guns. They shoot themselves in the ass in the restroom. They wave them around needlessly. They leave them where kids can find them.

Discussion about what people actually do is how we learn about ourselves and others who have experiences with which we are not familiar. That's what people do. It's an important way for us to find common ground. When the discussion is confined to the abstractions of policy and statistics we stop thinking about people and we only defend pet ideologies.

I might suggest that if anyone wants to post human interest stuff, try to find news items that include some back story. That will give the tacticians something to figure out and the humanists something with which to empathize. Those on both sides of the debate can be both if we give them something to work with.

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(10,136 posts)
1. Most posts of this type are just spam (from both sides).
Sun Dec 11, 2011, 12:46 PM
Dec 2011

If one wants to post a current events story and start a discussion by adding comments about what they want to discuss, that is great.

Dumping gun related stories into this forum with no indication as to why the story was posted beyond it containing a gun reference is not useful to anyone.


(17,671 posts)
3. Statistics sre important.
Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:04 PM
Dec 2011

They can tell us how many. But they can't tell us who. And the most important question in people's minds is, "Who, me?"

When it comes to building political coalitions you just have to find common ground. Proposing policy based in statistics and abstract studies just tells people that one cares more about ideology than the people it is supposed to serve.

Statistics can only measure what has already happened. People's safety concerns lie in the future.


(17,671 posts)
5. They can if used right. But how often does that actually happen?
Sun Dec 11, 2011, 04:04 PM
Dec 2011

Mostly what they predict is someone's personal opinion.

How many times have the same numbers been flung back and forth? How many times have the same charts and graphs been posted? Statistics are just data that we might use to form an opinion. Anecdotes are just data of another kind.

Statistics can help predict trends in large groups if you can figure out what you're supposed to be counting. Anecdotes help us predict our own individual behaivor. They prompt us to ask , "What would I do in this situation?" or "Why would anyone do a thing like that?" or What should they have done?". It seems to me that's how the best threads start.

Spam is spam whether it's columns of numbers, peer review studies, or news reports. Anecdotes are no better or worse than any other source. It all depends on what you do with it, and why.


(24,331 posts)
6. First off, no, statistics do bring clarity to the future.
Mon Dec 12, 2011, 04:18 AM
Dec 2011

For instance, statistics show that crime has decreased almost constantly since 1993, so it's reasonable to assume it will continue to be relatively low.

Furthermore, what you're describing is an argument from emotion: this thing affected this person this way, therefore... except that one example doesn't really mean anything for everyone. One person might end up drinking themselves to death, but that doesn't mean millions of others can't have a little alcohol safely and responsibly.


(17,671 posts)
7. Statistics are predictive,
Mon Dec 12, 2011, 11:45 AM
Dec 2011

but not individually so or in the face of unpredictable anomalies, like the vagaries of human emotion.

Sure it's an argument from emotion. That's the (fuzzy) point. That's how people think. If you put a thousand people in a room and convinced them that three of their number would be assaulted or killed, five hundred of them would go out and buy a gun tomorrow.

And indeed the predictability of statistics can be applied to an individual. That's how CCW laws and drivers licences work. But in those cases the statistics are wedded to individual experience and emotion. People will say to themselves some variation of, "I'm a good citizen so I get a permit." That's the real value of CCW laws. It weds education and positive individual action to political involvement. Some call it civic duty.

Statistics are of course important, but they really don't work all that well when it comes to changing people's minds. In fact, I've seen a few books and articles that seem to indicate that "just the facts" make people dig in their heels even if they've obviously been proven wrong. How many times does that happen around here?

Statistics can predict trends based on available evidence. But sometimes shit happens. And the arguments on both sides of the debate hinge on the unpredictability of future human behavior. It's either the pro gun, "I might get assaulted" or the anti gun "somebody might fuck up". Both of those possibilities and positions are much more emotion than objective fact.

For example, if the crime rate is going down fewer people are actually experiencing crime. So why are gun sales still climbing? I don't think it's because of a Democratic president. Especially since Democratic gun owners are the fastest growing demographic according to political affiliation (Gallup). But Democrats are much more aware of our future economic, environmental, and energy difficulties. Every progressive worth his salt believes in peak oil and labor unrest. I suspect that's what's selling all those guns. It ain't facts, its the heebie geebies.

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