Zoiks! A sensible response at MHN.

Apologies for the Larry Correia theme :). This post had link to Larry Correia’s blog and Larry commented on the post without reading it (or at least he said he hadn’t read and I believe him). So that led to a series of comments and replies but let’s just say they weren’t of the same calibre as John C Wright’s commenters. There was one about a dolphin which was OK and another about a scenario in which I have my hands ied behind my back and the commenter hits me repeatedly in the face which oddly wasn’t as bad as it sounds (or quite as kinky – I think they thought it was a helpful point rather than a self applied ad-hominem). Anyway, it got boring and I said bye-bye.

Since then there was an actual substantive comment. Larry’s website seems to be having some connection issues at the moment, so I’ll post it here and reply.

David Crum
10 hours 21 minutes ago

Well, Larry said I could read it so I did. Your article isn’t as original as you think. You kill a lot of words saying two things. First, the teacher would probably be slow to react so he couldn’t stop the active shooter. Second, there would be accidental shootings.

In your first argument you forget: 1) it is not always fatal to be shot so even if the teacher fires second they might still stop the incident. 2) the second teacher on the scene would be arriving with knowledge of what they were walking into. 3) A slim chance of the teacher defending their classroom is still better than nothing.

You somewhat deal with the fact that a slim chance is better than nothing by posing a cost in accidental shootings. At first you postulate that these will occur 1% of the time. I don’t know, maybe that’s reasonable! I don’t carry or even own a gun, but Larry does. As I understand it he’s almost always armed. So, Larry, do you shoot 1% of the people you meet? Is that a reasonable estimate of your false positive rate on the decision tree for “people I need to shoot”?

Camestros anticipates that people might not like his numbers so he walks it back. Perhaps our hypothetical teach only erroneously kills .01% of the people he meets. How about that Larry, do you shoot around 1 in 10,000 random strangers upon first meeting? It probably takes you a while to meet 10,000 people, but you do go to those cons, so I assume you’ve shot at least 3 or 4 innocents people by now. You’ve also trained and armed teachers, so they’ve probably shot some people by now as well. What would you say the false positive rate is? Is it tens, hundreds, or thousands killed by now?

Honestly it doesn’t matter; the math is clear! We need a false positive rate of nearly 0 if lives are to be saved in the aggregate. How could such inhuman perfection be achieved in assessing someone’s intent? Why, you’d have to wait until they actually did something harmful before confronting them and no one with a gun can be expected to live up to that mad standard.

So in reply and taking it step by step.

“In your first argument you forget: 1) it is not always fatal to be shot so even if the teacher fires second they might still stop the incident. 2) the second teacher on the scene would be arriving with knowledge of what they were walking into. 3) A slim chance of the teacher defending their classroom is still better than nothing.”

Not quite – you’ve misunderstood. The point about the teacher possibly being slow to react is not an attempt to suggest the teacher won’t stop the killing. I’ll take it as granted that the armed teacher in this hypothetical scenario will stop the killing. The point about them possibly being slow to react is to inform the next section. Yes, they may shoot second but they can’t plan to do so i.e. the choice isn’t likely to be ‘I’ll just let this guy shoot at me just to be sure.’ Now before we get the chorus of ‘you don’t know about guns’ we can simply look at the choices that some (not all) armed police officers make.

So in terms of the argument I make assume rather than a slim chance the teacher has a good or excellent chance.

“At first you postulate that these will occur 1% of the time. I don’t know, maybe that’s reasonable! I don’t carry or even own a gun, but Larry does. As I understand it he’s almost always armed. So, Larry, do you shoot 1% of the people you meet?”

1% of the time that somebody makes that evaluation – i.e. considers whether they need to draw their gun or not. Does Larry do that EVERY time he meets somebody when he is carrying a gun – a sort of armed perpetual state of cat like awareness? I do hope not. I assume it would be fewer occasions than every encounter with another human. I used a notional 100 outcomes in a year. Perhaps teachers in the US don’t encounter many people in a year. Is a 100 too high? That’s OK knock that down to 1 if you like. The point is to work out what parameters to use and then find best estimates.

“How about that Larry, do you shoot around 1 in 10,000 random strangers upon first meeting?”

Same error – presumably there are many, many random strangers Larry never even things about whether he needs to draw his weapon. I do hope so.

“You’ve also trained and armed teachers, so they’ve probably shot some people by now as well. ”

Lets say 100 teachers and 5 years (pick other numbers if you like) Work it out 0.0001*100*0.2*100*5=0.01 deaths. So on the 1 in 10000 figure, probably not.

“Honestly it doesn’t matter; the math is clear! We need a false positive rate of nearly 0 if lives are to be saved in the aggregate. How could such inhuman perfection be achieved in assessing someone’s intent? Why, you’d have to wait until they actually did something harmful before confronting them and no one with a gun can be expected to live up to that mad standard.”

Now you are starting to get it. Because there are lots of schools, and lots of school days and proportionally much fewer mass school shootings (although the few there are is too many) you need close to 0 associated deaths. Now I just dealt with the false-positives but that number of associated deaths would include related firearm accidents as well.

Now you have a suggestion – if the teacher only engages in the event of an unambiguous threat then SOME lives maybe saved in the event of a school shooting but there were will be no false-positive shooting by that teacher. Which is fine – but this ‘mad standard’ only achieves an aggregate 0 false-positive if close to zero of the nation’s armed teacher are this level headed. How likely is this?  OK pick a number.

So for this supposedly non-fantastical scheme to work, you need many armed teachers (otherwise most schools remain ‘gun free zones’) who have almost no gun related accidents, who ALL (or very nearly all) only ever fire their weapons when the threat is wholly unambiguous AND they manage to intervene at a point that makes a measurable difference to number of casualties. In other words AT ITS VERY BEST the scheme is barely any different in lives saved than do NOTHING AT ALL. Hence why I called it a fantasy. The only people who benefit are people who make guns, sell guns or who offer firearms training.

 

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7 thoughts on “Zoiks! A sensible response at MHN.

  1. Different user name, same guy.

    So, I’m inclined to attempt to define, or at least hint at, what we’re talking about up front. Are we suggesting we arm all teachers in an attempt to stop all school shootings? If so, then that’s something Corriea has specifically addressed (not that there’s much point in talking about him now that we’re over on *your* blog but it did start there….). To summarize his position and mine: no body wants that. So if that’s a fantasy it’s not his fantasy nor is it mine.

    What he wants, what he fought for in the Utah legislature, was allowing the percentage of teachers who already own, use, and are licensed to carry guns to carry those guns in school. What! Stop! I know what you’re thinking. We can both multiply even when there are fractions involved, so we both realize the implications of that statement. I’ll get to them in line because you bring it up below.

    > Now you have a suggestion – if the teacher only engages in the event of an unambiguous threat then SOME lives maybe
    > saved in the event of a school shooting but there were will be no false-positive shooting by that teacher. Which is fine – but
    > this ‘mad standard’ only achieves an aggregate 0 false-positive if close to zero of the nation’s armed teacher are this level
    > headed. How likely is this? OK pick a number.

    Very. See, this is a concrete spot where the lack of knowledge about the gun domain is hurting you, and me as well, as I also don’t use guns. However, I’m the one who’s here because the major gun enthusiasts are really sick of talking about this. However, as I understand it, concealed carry holders are stunningly unlikely to do bad things with their guns.

    The crime rate is the portion of the “bad things” super-category that gets quoted all the time, so I had to look up an estimate for causing a death accidentally and what I found was 1 in 56,666. The majority of those accidents are hunting incidents that involve a rifle. The handguns we’d be talking about are actually considerably safer

    If we focus only on false positives, and assume the teacher won’t be cleaning their gun in class, practicing with targets against the back wall of their room, or filming videos for youtube gun videos the number is, indeed, very close to zero. You talk about including other accidents in the total, but I’m disinclined to do that if we accept that we’re talking about a plan that doesn’t call for arming teachers who would otherwise have nothing to do with guns.

    > So for this supposedly non-fantastical scheme to work, you need many armed teachers (otherwise most schools remain ‘gun > free zones’) who have almost no gun related accidents, who ALL (or very nearly all) only ever fire their weapons when the
    > threat is wholly unambiguous AND they manage to intervene at a point that makes a measurable difference to number of
    > casualties. In other words AT ITS VERY BEST the scheme is barely any different in lives saved than do NOTHING AT ALL.
    > Hence why I called it a fantasy. The only people who benefit are people who make guns, sell guns or who offer firearms
    > training.

    Alright, this is the “getting to it in line” I promised above. If by “work” we’re talking about a situation where an armed teacher is always the first responder to an active shooter in a school then you are right. However, and I repeat myself here, no one is pushing for that. Or at least I’m not and Corriea is not. If someone else is, I don’t know them and I refuse to defend their opinion.

    What we’re talking about is a tiny number of lives saved by people are simultaneously lucky enough to have a gun and unlucky enough to get caught up in a mass shooting. It’s availability bias at its finest. I could link an article about an assistant principle who stopped an active shooter, but I won’t because I think we’re on the same page here: the two or three lives he might have saved don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. If you mean “not terribly important” by “fantasy” then I concede to the accuracy of your opinion if not your use of that word.

    However, if it’s unimportant, riddle me this: why are we making laws against it? Why not let teachers who can otherwise legally carry guns carry them while teaching? That’s what Correa actually testified in support of, and its all I want. It won’t solve the school shooting problem, but what I do think is important is A) not making laws against generally safe practices just because someone might put an eye out and B) not allowing ourselves to treat guns as some sort of totemic evil and thus become distracted from the real problems.

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  2. So first of all, thanks for a reasoned argument.
    I want to deal with something about Larry’s position first. I agree that when focused on a specific plan, what Larry offers is something very limited – existing gun owners, well trained with CCW permits being allowed to have those permits at schools. If we assume that this is a relatively small number (i.e. does not involve a significant expansion in the number of CCW permits among teachers wanting to arm themselves expressly to protect themselves from school attacks) and the ones that do only engage in wholly unambiguous situations then the balance between lives inadvertently lost v lives intentionally saved becomes hard to determine because the numbers get to be so low or we simply don’t have good data. But let’s assume it is even a balance in favor of lives saved – it causes a net reduction (if tiny) in the number of lives lost from school shootings. Let’s take all that as a given.

    Now I’ll compare that with the kind of rhetoric Larry uses e.g. in his recent post “Any time there’s another mass murder, almost always somewhere with strict gun control, usually in a Gun Free Zone, the buzzards swoop in. ” – later he walks that back a fair bit but it is a standard line that focuses on somewhere being a ‘gun-free-zone’ when, as we’ve just discussed in the idealized scenario NOT being a gun-free zone wouldn’t make much difference when we aggregate it.

    Second example “On the contrary, my tribe is the one who stops the school shooters, terrorists, and registered democrats off their meds.” – well again as we can see Larry’s scheme (and hence his ‘tribe’ assuming he means private citizens with concealed carry gun permits – he sort of includes veterans and cops as well but that is a stretch) are not particularly effective at stopping school shooters etc – indeed they are unlikely too even in the most favorable account we can give them. It is primarily a fantasy that requires a combination of both bad and good luck.

    To your final paragraph: hmmm. That is a good question. In some place where concealed carry is relatively common and the training and permit regulations are such that CCW holders are PARTICULARLY safe and the proposal didn’t imply an increase in people carrying guns? It boils down to will letting them do so in school making any MARGINAL difference to gun deaths? Probably not. Will it make any MARGINAL difference in reducing deaths in school shootings? Probably not. The balance of evidence would lie with the person making the proposal and if I was a legislator in this circumstance:
    1. I’d want to see good epidemiological evidence of the safety claims
    2. The kind of rhetoric Larry used above would count against him, as it encourages dangerous behavior that Larry himself repudiates when he gets down to details: “The mistake many people make is that they think permit holders are supposed to be cops or junior danger rangers.” Pick a scheme I’d support, such as equipping home owners in forest fire zones with training and equipment to help them in the event of a fire, you get a bozo contingent among the vast majority of people in such a scheme who listen to the experts and are serious in knowing what their limitations are. Larry’s rhetoric is a direct appeal to the bozo contingent – that being a CCW is like joining MHI. He then effectively says no, no , no people shouldn’t be like that but that mismatch would worry me if I was a legislator.
    So, in the end COST v BENEFIT. The benefit side is small. Tighten the scenario (as in Larry’s scheme) and the benefit gets a bit smaller (but it was already small even if we imagined a teacher being capable of stopping the shooting before it starts in earnest). The cost? Possibly small. It is notable that the NRA has never been keen on epidemiological research into accidental gun deaths.

    So when Larry says something like “If you are serious about actually stopping school shootings, contact your state representative and tell them to look into allowing someone at your kid’s school to be armed.” then I know he either doesn’t know what he is talking about (and apparently he does) or he is throwing BS out.

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    1. > Now I’ll compare that with the kind of rhetoric Larry uses…

      Well it’s interesting that you should use the word rhetoric. Wikipedia, um, I mean reading Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” in the original tells me that, “dialectic is a tool for philosophical debate; it is a means for skilled audiences to test probable knowledge in order to learn. Conversely, rhetoric is a tool for practical debate”. Larry’s particular spin on that is his oft stated belief that you win an internet argument by being entertaining. I’ve watched him do it a couple of times and he’s got an oddly predictable approach. First he’ll make a fairly solid and well supported argument. Next, he’ll refer back to that, and finally he’ll resort to ad homina and well mostly more ad homina.

      I’m not saying that’s right or fair. Actually, I refuse to form an opinion about how another person argues on the Internet. However, that’s why he’s all over the map.

      > as we’ve just discussed in the idealized scenario NOT being a gun-free zone wouldn’t
      > make much difference when we aggregate it.

      Sure, when we aggregate it to the national (or whatever) level most places will still be gun free zones. However, consider this, if Larry chooses to carry a gun 100% of the time, then 100% of the mass shoots he’s caught up in will not be in gun free zones. It’s important to consider the statistical aggregate, and that gets discussed a lot, but it’s also important to consider the individual situation. When you quote Larry there at the end of your reply he talks about a specific (if hypothetical) school with a specific (if still hypothetical) individual being allowed to go armed.

      > The balance of evidence would lie with the person making the proposal

      Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit, A? That’s fair, but I do so love a good argument about who gets to be the null hypothesis, and in this situation I’ll point out we’re talking about getting one part of the government (the department of education) to stop stopping what another part of the government (whoever issues the permits) has already allowed. That lessens the burden of proof in my mind because I’m not sure a “change” is actually being requested: just issue the concealed carry permits to people who won’t shoot children in schools in addition to not shooting other people outside of those schools.

      The number of people who can handle a CC safely is also not a static proposition. The current small number of them (not to mention the near nonexistence of mad gunmen) makes the evidence you’d like to see hard to gather. However, let’s say a few active shooters get stopped by CC holders, that’s going to inspire more people to get their CC and to train harder in the correct use of a gun. Gun free zones will get statistically less likely where they aren’t created by law, and more shooters will be stopped by random citizens. You could look at the comments made by a couple of public figures about confronting active shooters as the start of this.

      Now, I would be engaging in rhetoric, cruel rhetoric, if I don’t acknowledge, this will probably never happen.

      Gun violence has been declining such that the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010 than 1993 and the absolute number of deaths had dropped even though the population increased and the number of gun owners has skyrocketed. BUT if the average student actually faced a meaningful, and increasing, risk from gun wielding madmen then the population as a whole would need to try many solutions and if CC holders going armed was effective it would become more common despite its current rarity. Assuming we don’t make it illegal to even *try* that solution.

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      1. //I’m not saying that’s right or fair. Actually, I refuse to form an opinion about how another person argues on the Internet. However, that’s why he’s all over the map.//

        OK, but why somebody advances a position doesn’t change that they advance that position. In this case Larry present both a simplistic gun-free-zones-are-bad type argument and a more limited position about CCW permit holder being potentially a speed bump etc.

        //Sure, when we aggregate it to the national (or whatever) level most places will still be gun free zones. However, consider this, if Larry chooses to carry a gun 100% of the time, then 100% of the mass shoots he’s caught up in will not be in gun free zones. It’s important to consider the statistical aggregate, and that gets discussed a lot, but it’s also important to consider the individual situation.//

        When discussing which gun policies save lives you need to look at the aggregate. What is the other choice? You can look at the individual cases every time but then it comes down to whatever the media hypes or doesn’t hype.

        Consider as well that the number of mass shootings that Larry is likely to be caught up in will be zero (assuming he doesn’t change profession and join a law enforcement agency and even then the odds are small).

        //I’ll point out we’re talking about getting one part of the government (the department of education) to stop stopping what another part of the government (whoever issues the permits) has already allowed//

        Not really. A school is not a public-space in the sense of a place that the general public can wander into at will. Schools regulate who can enter their premises and on what basis. You don’t have a general right to walk into a (public) school even though it is publicly owned and you have a right to freedom of movement.

        While an accidental shooting of a child by a CCW permit holding student is unlikely (nigh on impossible to get numbers on that for obvious reasons) accidental shootings of children are not so infrequent as to be wholly ignored.

        //The number of people who can handle a CC safely is also not a static proposition. The current small number of them (not to mention the near nonexistence of mad gunmen) makes the evidence you’d like to see hard to gather. However, let’s say a few active shooters get stopped by CC holders, that’s going to inspire more people to get their CC and to train harder in the correct use of a gun. Gun free zones will get statistically less likely where they aren’t created by law, and more shooters will be stopped by random citizens. You could look at the comments made by a couple of public figures about confronting active shooters as the start of this.//

        If anything the opposite is the case. The flip side of my original argument is this: if the *perceived* risk of a mass shooting is high then the perceived advantage in carrying a gun will be higher. So you would expect mass shootings to drive up sales rather than somebody preventing one.

        //Gun violence has been declining such that the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010 than 1993 and the absolute number of deaths had dropped even though the population increased and the number of gun owners has skyrocketed.//

        The number of gun owners has not sky rocketed – if anything that has probably fallen. What may have sky-rocketed is the number of guns *owned*.

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    1. I have read it, and I just reread it. As far as I can tell, this is a place where it’s a problem that we don’t know anything about guns. He presents decent evidence and his core point (irresponsible people cannot be made over into responsible people by some set of laws) seems reasonable to me, but I don’t know about guns or training people in their use so I can’t say if maybe if some blend of training standards would improve the concealed carry program.

      He still talks about training people, though, he just trains them on different stuff. I think most of what he dislikes is standards for how strait people should be required to shoot before they can get the permit.

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      1. I think his point about how accurately a person shoots being not that relevant makes sense – particularly if the notion is that it is the threat of a gun in the case of a burglar or robbery that is the main role of a gun. In the alternate ‘speed bump’ scenario in which a school shooter (or similar) is being shot at by a CCW holder on the premises then one would hope that *some* degree of accuracy was there.

        However that is a side point. What is relevant is:
        1. irresponsible people exist and apply for CCW permits. Larry says there is no point training them to shoot more accurately (his point is sound) and therefore we shouldn’t bother (this point is not sound – the right response is that they shouldn’t be armed).
        2. Larry argues that the training he gave was both useful and rare i.e. it wasn’t the norm.
        3. “being able to hit your target is important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of making good decisions. I can teach a monkey to shoot a piece of paper. Teaching you to react intelligently under stress is a whole lot harder.” You’ll note that this is a point I lead with in my original argument. Shooting under stress is not easy and involves raid decision making under stressful conditions. It is also *difficult* to teach people how to do this AND some people (according to Larry) just aren’t teachable.
        4. A school/mass shooting is exactly one of those situations in which the scenario presented of a CCW intervening requires rapid decisions under stressful conditions. If we take Larry at his word *some* people with CCW permits have “giant egos assume that what they know is good enough, and you can’t teach them anything anyway.” How many? Well it is a non-trivial number if Larry has experienced enough of them to make that generalization.
        5. Many (most?) CCW permit holders Larry encountered had a “serious lack of knowledge on the law or how violence worked.” Again add that to our consideration of the CCW ‘speed bump’ scenario.
        6. Aside from Larry’s training the training people got in Utah at the time had “almost nothing in there about use of force, when you can shoot, why you should shoot, and absolutely nothing at all about tactic”. Safe to assume that apart from those CCW permit holders who have training or experience from elsewhere (e.g. police officers, veterans) are unlikely to have a good understanding of when they can or should shoot and know very little about tactics unless they have done a course like Larry’s (I’m assuming his course is effective for the sake of argument)
        7. Worse even INSTRUCTORS are deficient in these areas “I also discovered that a bunch of so called experts knew how to punch paper on the range, but knew jack squat about how violent encounters actually unfolded.” If we take Larry at his word even a CCW instructor may be inadequate in the ‘speed-bump’ scenario.
        8. Larry used role-play o help educate his students and that prior to that many felt a violent encounter “usually it is some variant of them being John McClane”

        Now these aren’t the things Larry brings up when discussing CCW permit holders being a “speed bump” in a school shooting.However they all paint a picture of many or possibly most permit holders being poorly mentally equipped for such a scenario. Many will be ineffective, some will be positively dangerous (I’m thinking the ones who have both the big egos AND think they are starring in Die Hard).

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