Michael Shermer usually does pretty good analysis, but one of his lesser-effort essays is being circulated around the Facebook these days: *#147;The Science of Guns Proves Arming Untrained Citizens Is a Bad Idea. Dr. J. forwarded the Czar this essay, and we eagerly read it.
Naturally so, because the Czar believes a modicum of training is essential in responsible firearm ownership. Training is inexpensive and even free if you have some generous friends with experience.
First sentence in the article, though, is blatantly misleading and a frequently quoted fact. Shermer says that in 2010, 31,672 people died by guns, according ot the CDC. This is a fact. But it is an unexplored fact: accidents, suicides, criminals-on-criminals, etc., are not broken out; instead, Shermer continues with the non-fact: a staggering number that is orders of magnitude higher than that of comparable Western democracies. The Czar is uncertain what he means by comparable, but if he means places like England, Australia, and Canada, he is intentionally misleading. When that number is divided by the percentage of the population, America has one of the lowest rates because our population is greater than all those other democracies combined. We hear this staggering number quoted as canon, but it simply is not true. Or if that is how we should play it, then America kills more children through abortion by far than the entire world combined. How about that?
The rest of Shermers essay is a bit of a forced pointof which we are often guilty. But his essay seems to use only two sources: a 1998 study (when gun control was substantially higher than it is today), and a 2013 study. In each case, Shermer throws out a lot of numbers about shootings and suicides and deaths and injuries. But shootings, injurious or fatal, are less than those cause by other weapons or even bare hands.
Shermers intellectual error is that he is not being skepticalhe is pre-concluding and using confirmation bias. Where is his analysis of counter-claims? Where is any tear-down of the now emerging facts that relaxation of gun control laws is producing lower crime rates nationally? Is there a causal link, or is this just post hoc ergo propter hoc? What about reliable police reports of people who deterred crimes by presenting firearms? Why are gun-free zones so frequently targeted by multiple victim shooters?
Shermer doesnt analyze the counterarguments because he knows what hell find: something that he cant explain.
As a skeptic, his first question to both sides is How good is the evidence? He has done neither.
Anyone who supports gun rights that sees this essay referenced could do quite well by referring its supporters to the comments section, in which his analysis is taken to task in considerable detail.
Disclosure: the Czar presently receives Scientific American as part of an ongoing subscription; due to its dramatic left-wing all-in-for-Obama turn in early 2012, he is declining offers to resubscribe.