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Gun Nuts Ain’t Scientists

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Gun violence and mass shootings are virtually an everyday occurrence in this country. And after the news breaks that the latest atrocity has taken place, you’re likely to hear a mixed-bag of “gun nuts” popping off in public about it. Time after time, they lose their heads about some untested solution that they swear to all things holy to be the silver bullet.

“Everyone needs a gun!” they cry.

Of course, there are many incarnations of this gambit afoot America these days. Some of these nuts fancy arms – and the right to bear them – to be a preventative measure. Others consider it a matter of defense. And still, others abide by all kinds of fiery and foolhardy hallucinatory machinations about a country, an America, that packs so-called peacemakers and polices (read terrorizes) itself.

Essentially, though, what these unthinking apes want is for all of us to become borderline extra-legal batmen and batwomen. But ask them why they pay taxes or worship the constitution if they so ardently favor an armed-and-dangerous citizenry—i.e., a public who’ll do the ‘dirty work’ before the authorities even get the chance to make the scene. Go ahead and ask. Watch them wig-out while their brains fumble around inside their thick, thick skulls. Watch as they struggle to contemplate the contradiction that is their beloved and assumedly patriotic paradigm.

The truth is, their general paradox is miserably real. And should you engage them, count yourself among the lucky if they don’t disembowel right in front of you—what, with that noisome, ignorant excrement they normally spew… “But if we just had more people shooting each other, we’d have less people shooting each other!”

More guns, less shootings? You don’t say!

The thing of it is, lots of gun-toting patriots are Americans that simply don’t worship at the altar of science, and so they don’t seem to know a good solution from a bad one when it comes to all things Second Amendment. Still, another question is, If America at large gets a taste of the holy waters of empiricism, would a whole mess of folks – not the least of which are these bellicose imbeciles – get more scientific about the shooting crisis in America? Maybe not, but at least the idea that “more guns” will solve the gun violence problem might be put to rout.

Now, scientists normally believe that the easiest way to “correct a certain kind of measurement” is simply to increase sample size (and so suggest the gun nuts in their argument albeit without any scientific aims). Though this is a fairly common pillar in quantitative work, it’s nonetheless important to ask what kind of error it aims to correct and why it works. Equally important to scientists is knowing what kind of error an increase in sample size would not tend to correct and why not.

There are two kinds of measurement errors, and they happen to contradict one another. The first kind of error, “Type 1,” has to do with defining that the hypothesized statement is true – that ‘x’ causes ‘y’ – when in fact it is false. The second kind of error, “Type 2,” is tantamount to defining that a hypothesized statement is false when in fact it is true.

Interestingly enough, the correction for the Type 1 error could relatively threaten the occurrence of a Type 2 error and vice versa. And it’s important to note that, rather than a Type 1 error, it is more advantageous to commit second type. Why? As a result of the first kind of error, the Type 1 error, the probable gun nut error, bad things happen and people die when scientists say that something is true when, in all actuality, it is false.

Yet another thing scientists consider is that the larger the sample is, the “more normal” distribution is likely to be. This means that the larger the sample is, the more conservative and sure researchers can be that they are correct when stating that ‘x’ indeed causes ‘y’, which in turn makes them more precise in their measurement. Hence, it stands to reason that a large enough sample size allows for researchers in general to have a true test, which is the basis for all causal analysis, or the best way in which researchers can reliably assert truths.

Insert the gun nut solution: If more people have guns, fewer people will shoot each other. Now, consider what it would take to test for Type 1 error. The only way to scientifically test this hypothesis would be to arm as many people as possible and observe, or “see,” what happens.

Yikes!

It isn’t hard to see how ethically suspect the gun nut “arm-everyone” solution really is. Not only are gun nuts willing to risk a Type 1 error of catastrophic social proportions; they’re effectively happy to risk as many human lives as possible just to test their silver bullet. But even if it were true that having more armed people leads to less gun atrocities (which, scientifically speaking, would require clearly very morally questionable testing), society would clearly risk the blowback from a very real, and probably, Type 1 error. Ultimately, were gun nuts scientific at all, this is precisely what the Second Amendment crusade would entail. And it is precisely why gun nuts aren’t scientists, plain and simple.

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Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him on Twitter @mateo_pimentel.

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