An inconvenient gun fact for Nicholas Kristof, and David Leyonjhelm

Nicholas Kristof has a column in the NY Times, headlined Some Inconvenient Gun Facts for Liberals . The headline, though presumably not chosen by Kristof, is a pretty accurate summary of the article, which berates liberals for proposing various ineffectual gun control measures, and concludes:

Let’s make America’s gun battles less ideological and more driven by evidence of what works.

If Kristof wants to be taken seriously, he ought to acknowledge the actual evidence of what works, namely, measures that drastically reduce the number of guns and restrict their availability. I discussed the evidence a bit more in this post, with links.

Of course, such measures aren’t politically feasible in the US, and have to be disavowed by politicians seeking even limited progress. But if Kristof started by admitting this, he’d end up with a very different analysis than the one he’s putting forward. The primary criterion for any gun control policy in the US has to be to maximize the ratio of long-term harm reduction to political cost. I don’t have any particularly good ideas about political strategies. Still, it’s clear that Kristof’s operating assumption that sweet reason will be sufficient, or even helpful, is way off the mark.

In the Australian context, it’s notable that the only people who deny the obvious facts about gun control are those who have a strong ideological or personal motive for doing so. It’s scarcely surprising that gun enthusiasts want to resist any measures that would inconvenience them, and are willing to employ spurious arguments to do so – that’s true for just about any group.

What’s more striking is the attitude of David Leyonjhelm, the Senate representative of the Liberal Democratic Party. When dealing with something he doesn’t like, such as wind turbines, he’s willing to accept utterly bogus claims of health risks. When it’s something he likes, such as guns whose only purpose is to kill, he’s just as happy to reject the evidence.

Unfortunately, this combination of attitudes is very common among self-described libertarians. The implication is that, as a libertarian, you can oppose any government restriction you dislike, while supporting any you favor – you just need to make up your own facts.

69 thoughts on “An inconvenient gun fact for Nicholas Kristof, and David Leyonjhelm

  1. John Quiggin :
    @Terje More silly-clever stuff. Don’t you ever get tired of it?

    When I get tired of the silly stuff on this site I take a break from it. But occasionally I’m a sucker for punishment and I visit again.

  2. TerjeP, you might be surprised to discover that the methodology for proving these things has been developed and used. To quote the suicidals, “Just because you don’t understand it don’t mean it don’t make no sense”. Here is an example of a statistical comparison of mass shootings in NZ and Australia from my blog. It shows that if there are no mass shootings in Australia by 2017 or 2023 (depending on your required degree of rigor) we can conclude that John Howard’s scheme prevented mass shootings.

    I could probably include data from the USA, in which case I’d be able to show without a shadow of a doubt that the gun buyback scheme prevented mass shootings. I’m thinking of updating it from its bodgy current form to a full formal difference-in-difference analysis, but I really don’t think it’s worth it. Everyone knows that controlling gun use reduces gun deaths, which is why all your arguments rely on suppositions and fantastical examples rather than concrete research results.

  3. From your blog:-


    It is not possible to conclude at this stage that the National Firearms Agreement reduced the rate of mass shootings, and we will need a much larger period of study before we can.

    Fair enough. So lets scrap it.

  4. You really don’t understand how to assess these things do you TerjeP? The events are rare, so we need long periods of time to study the effect. This isn’t a flaw of the scheme, it’s a simple statistical fact of life. I wrote that post in, what, 2014? We’re one year away from the point where we can conclude an effect. One more year without mass shootings adn we can conclude it had an effect. As I said above, we’d likely be able to get the conclusion sooner if we included a time series of US mass shootings in the data, since that time series would boost the numbers and give a much larger difference in outcome.

    I am not surprised that you would cherry pick the finding and twist the implications. It’s your style, isn’t it?

  5. As ought to be clear by now, there’s no point debating Terje on anything. His political analysis is the following form, made famous by South Park

    (a) Libertarian policy axioms
    (b) … ???
    (c) Predetermined policy conclusions

    You fill in the dots by inventing whatever facts are needed. If you want to justify the use of deadly force by individuals against others, invent the fact that guns don’t kill people. If you want to stop action on climate change, invent your own climate science. If you want to ban something for culture war reasons, invent science to show that it is harmful.

    Debating the facts is pointless. As shown above, if the facts don’t stand up to statistical scrutiny, you just invent your own statistical theory (see, for example, “no warming for 18 years”)

  6. @John Quiggin

    Thanks, that has saved me from gnawing off my typing fingers at the knuckles. It was the only way I was going to stop myself from making a post I would regret.

  7. You fill in the dots by inventing whatever facts are needed.

    You’re the one who calls “debate over” on account of “facts” you invented. All your reference links circle back to earlier opinion pieces by yourself. You’re either blinded by your own arrogance or completely duplicitous. I suspect it’s the former, proped up by echo chambers such as this place. But I don’t rule out the possibility that it’s the latter.

  8. This is Terje.
    Terje is a libertarian
    Terje doesn’t know that he has ‘issues’ and personality problems
    Terje thinks other people are the problem
    Terje is an unhappy man
    Don’t be like Terje.

  9. Shall we exchange insults? I thought it was against the rules of the site but maybe the rule expired or some such thing.

  10. @TerjeP

    Hey you talking to me?

    Define insult and then compare and contrast your last comment about “arrogant and/or duplicitious” with my little funny internet thingy – have you been to the site where you can find these silly little funnies?

    And do remember that you can’t sue me because I own nothing; I told you that last time you threatened me. Do you think calling someone like JQ arrogant and/or duplicitious could be an inappropriate thing to do as well as revealing how needy and irritated you are lately?

    What are you doing here? Why not get a life, redeem yourself for your bad choices, concentrate on raising your children better than your were raised and that way we can make all people free.

  11. Terje, this is a waste of all our time. I previously banned you because you lined up with pro-Pinochet MP Peter Phelps. I’ve seen nothing from you that suggests you have distanced yourself in any way from Phelps, or, for that matter, Pinochet.

    So, in the absence of a statement explicit enough to show that you repudiate both, I’m going to reinstate the ban.

  12. Pinochet I will happily distance myself from. He was brutal and immoral and ultimately a tyrant. But I’ll stand with Phelps regarding his criticism of Allende. It was right to topple Allende. Allende was a criminal who flouted the constitution. He too was a tyrant.

    Thanks for that clarification, and goodbye – JQ

  13. Four people were shot in a gun store in the United States in an argument over a $25 fee. The gun store owner and his son were shot dead by their customers:

    This tragedy does make me wonder how many guns I need to have in the United States before people will be deterred from shooting me. If n represents the number of guns in a gun store then presumably it would have to be at least n+1.

  14. @Ronald Brak

    I agree, that sums it up.

    It seems to me that any country could be said to have a good civil order situation (say Japan) or a bad civil order situation (say Brazil) if one used the metric of murders and suicides. These good or bad situations could arise due to any number of factors but I suspect that poverty and inequality would be high on the list of causes for a bad civil order situation.

    Then, in any given national civil order situation one could, theoretically, add a lot of gun ownership as a thought experiment. It is very hard to see how making citizens more lethal to each other (guns instead of fists, knives and iron bars) or to themselves (guns aid impulsive suicide) would reduce the death rate. The deterrence theory is not credible as multiple events in the US demonstrate, including the one Ronald Brak mentions.

  15. Ikonoclast – I think that if you’re interest in civil order, as measured by murder and suicide, then firearm control laws, whether positive or negative, are a long way down the list of significant factors. Even within the USA there is a vast variation in civic order by those metrics when you divide the country by locality (eg New Hampshire very civil) or by race (eg Black America very violent). Some of that can no doubt be explained by poverty but also by culture. And I think other policies like the war on drugs also matter.

  16. JQ: if you’re going to ban the man actually do it. Edit them to say, “deleted because he doesn’t get to say anything here any more”, and stick to that. Don’t let him do things you’ve asked — told — him to stop doing.

    Otherwise it won’t stick. Boundary-pushing, see. You’ve drawn a line and he steps over it. And you let him, and then he knows you won’t stand by what you say.

    Edit the posts. Please.

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