8 Ball In The Wind

Monday, January 7, 2013

"If it saves one life, it will be worth it."

I have been looking at things lately, and I have begun to wonder at the way some people are so worried about trying to protect others  from seemingly remotely possible dangers.  They pass legislation to "protect" us.  But rarely do they have any factual knowledge of what they are legislating about.  They seem to legislate more from an overly developed "do-gooder" mentality.  Or perhaps it is a lack of a relationship with risk.  The tragic death of a child caused by an injury due to a extraordinary accident with a playpen latch causes them to ban that type of playpen from sale in the US.  Often reciting the same phrase again and again; "If it saves one life, it will be worth it."

There is the problem.  How do you measure "lives saved"?  If the loss of life of this kind was at a very low rate statistically, let us say a fraction of a percentage point to begin with, is there really anyway of measuring whether they had actually done any real good to society?  I remember watching CSPAN several years ago during a debate on a piece of legislation that would ban the production and sale of a device which was already owned by millions of Americans.  Over and over, I kept hearing the politicians admit they felt voting on the Bill would be little more than a "symbolic vote", but "If it saves one life, it will be worth it."

It was even shown that several of the Representatives in Congress didn't even know what the purpose of the items they wished to ban actually was.  They didn't really care.  All they knew was that a tragedy might be averted if they voted to ban the manufacture and sale of these devices.  "If it saves one life, it will be worth it."  They did not remove the playpens already in so many homes in America.  But they knew their "symbolic vote" would prevent further tragedies from happening.

If memory serves correctly, there were only three young children who were killed in those playpens over a span of two or three years.  Statistically barely even a bump in the national death toll for infants and toddlers.  Much was made of the good that was done, and how much safer the infants of America would be.  But since there were already so many of the same playpens still in American homes, did they really do any good?  The more affluent members of Society simply discarded their playpens, others donated them to thrift stores, and others even lower in the economic strata of America had little choice but keep the playpens they already had.
These same "do-gooders" seem to have the mentality that since they have been elected to lead, they know what is best for the rest of America.  If the rest of their fellow citizens don't agree, it is because they don't know better and need to be shown how best to be safe.

This same mentality has been brought to bear on several issues over the past couple of decades.  Each time, as if reading from the same script, I have heard the old phrases that worked so well repeated again and again.  "If it saves one life, it will be worth it."

Once again, after another tragic incident, there is a hue and cry for another ban.  This time for a reinstatement of the old (and dubiously effective) "Assault Rifle & High Capacity Magazine" ban.  Once again, as tragic as these "Mass Shootings" have been, they are only a small percentage of the nations murder rate.  But it is, if not statistically significant, highly emotionally significant.  The previous Assault Weapons Ban did quite little to affect "violent crime".  All the weapons that were banned accounted for LESS THAN 2% of "violent crime" in the US.

Of the features that were listed that qualified a gun as an "Assault Rifle" few of them had anything to do with the function of the gun.  They were virtually all cosmetic features.  Only the "High Capacity Magazine", and the flash suppressor had much in functional ability.  The flash suppressor allowed the gun to be fired with less vertical recoil, so it allowed for better accuracy.  The "High Capacity Magazine" simply allowed the person firing the gun to shoot more rounds before changing clips.  Which can be done in four or five seconds by a skilled shooter.

Most of the public, when they hear the term "Assault Rifle" visualize a machine gun like they see in the movies.  A fully automatic weapon that fires at a rate of hundreds of rounds per minute.  Not a semi-automatic weapon that only fires one bullet with each squeeze of the trigger.  This point is lost on most people, and thus they go along with the idea that these weapons are used for nothing but murdering people.  That any other use is just a sham played out by gun owners with an overly developed sense of machismo.  They have fallen prey to their perceptions...and in politics, it is the perception, and not the reality that is important.

A brief sample of facts will give (I hope) some balance to the scale of the "Assault Rifle" crisis in the US today.  In 2011, there were over 12,000 murders in the US.  Of these, just over 9,000 were committed with guns.  Out of these 9,000 plus gun related murders, 363 were committed with rifles.  Not just "Assault Rifles" but any type of rifle.  The FBI doesn't specify between "Rifle" and "Assault Rifle" in their murder statistics.  Even assuming for arguments sake that all of these rifles were "Assault Rifles" that still brings the rate down to 0.24% of all murders in the US.  T

Like the tragedy of an airliner crashing, these "Mass Shootings" are a quite vivid and horrendous thing to happen, and emotionally quite disturbing.  However statistically speaking, they account for only a very small amount of the violent deaths due to firearms.  But the images in peoples minds become quite visually connected to their own impressions gleaned from decades of watching action movies, and playing video games.

With so many "Assault Rifles" already in the hands of citizens, will instituting another "symbolic vote" on another ineffective "Assault Rifle" ban really do anything significant to lower violence in the US?  Keep your ears open to the Representatives pushing for this ban.  See how many times you hear the same old phrase; "If it saves one life, it will be worth it."  I can already hear the echoes beginning.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

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