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Fritz Feds

Monday, April 28, 2003

I really should be studying, but after reading today's editorial, I couldn't resist.

The editorial starts, of course, with a thinly-veiled attempt to make anyone who would support such "insane" legislation a crazed gun-nut.
What kind of person would bring a loaded handgun into the Metrodome? And should that kind of person be catered to politically? Such are the questions facing Minnesota state senators as they consider a bill that would ease requirements for concealed handgun permits.

The silly stereotyping is bad enough, but even worse is that the editorial board didn't even get their facts straight first. The reference to the Metrodome is based on the following assertion:
Whereas legislators would be protected by a stipulation in the bill barring concealed weapons from state government facilities, places like Minneapolis City Hall, the Metrodome, public parks and the State Fair are directly specified to be free range for gun-toting “enthusiasts.”

This suggests that Twins and Vikings games would be declared by state law to be zones in which guns could not be prohibited. However, the Minnesota Daily editorial board is apparently the only group of journalists that have noticed this part of the legislation, which is presumably written in disappearing invisible ink, the kind you made with lemon juice when you were a kid that only appears when you hold it next to a light bulb. Even the Star Tribune engages in less scaremongering about the legislation when they actually report on the concerns of those in charge of public facilities. According to the Strib:
Under the proposed law, a public building leased or controlled even temporarily by a private organization -- say, the Vikings during a game at the Metrodome or a music promoter during a concert at Xcel Energy Center -- could post signs prohibiting firearms.

In other words, the editorial staff is either being deliberately misleading or they simply have already made up their minds about their bill and don't want to be confused with the facts. The concern of people running facilities like the Metrodome is not the illegality of their attempts to prohibit guns. They are concerned that with more people carrying guns, more people will try to bring them into the facilities. However, people can carry guns now if they don't get caught, and as a result, the Metrodome, Target Center, and the Xcel Center already have security that is supposed to catch gun carriers. If that security is unable to take care of the problem after this bill is passed, there is no reason to believe spectators at those places are any safer without the bill.

Then the editorial board steps in way over their collective heads.
While most gun lovers are responsible citizens, the idea that a heavily armed citizenry is a deterrent for crime is highly debatable and unverifiable. Studies have shown concealed handguns deter criminals. Studies have also shown more guns encourage more gun deaths. In the end, the sources for gun-related studies tend to be more important than the actual information. These studies are extremely difficult to conduct, are often based correlation rather than proven causation and are highly dependent on who is paying for the information.

This claim would be interesting if it wasn't vague enough to be almost unfalsifiable. Citing some of the unnamed studies would be helpful, for example. However, I say almost unfalsifiable because it isn't even internally consistent. They start with this claim, "the idea that a heavily armed citizenry is a deterrent for crime is highly debatable and unverifiable." However, they follow by conceding that studies "have shown concealed handguns deter criminals." Come again? I thought that idea was highly debateable and unverifiable. This, of course, requires us to ask, What exactly is the debate? Surely, there must be some studies that go the other direction, suggesting that concealed handguns don't deter criminals. However, the editorial writer doesn't even make such a claim, only pointing to studies that have "shown more guns encourage more gun deaths" - a very different and non-responsive claim. It might be true that more concealed handguns both deter criminals and that more accidental gun deaths occur. Since unsubstantiated speculation is all the rage, apparently, let me indulge myself. Because a person doesn't actually have to have a gun to deter a criminal, the criminal only needs to think they might have a gun, the number of deterred crimes would be much higher than the comparative increase in gun accidents. However, even if you concede to the Daily the full weight of the argument they make here, they still aren't showing that the costs of the bill are greater than the benefits. They are, at best, saying that they don't know.

So, since they have no empirical reason to oppose the bill, they return to their silly scare tactics.
Although feeding citizen paranoia could be positive for some people’s security and others’ freedom, the thought of a stadium filled with armed tailgaters or bars filled with drunken, pistol-toting cowboys ought to be enough to disparage the positive qualities of this bill.

I'm not sure who the Daily staff is referring to is paranoid, but considering the demonstrable falsity of this silliness, I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Then, they conclude with this gem.
Whether because of paranoia or posturing, if people want to carry around lethal weapons, they should move to somewhere where public safety is not handed to the judgment of private individuals.

First of all, who is editing the editorial board? This is one of the most confusing sentences I have read this side of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. Second, where is this place where "public safety is not handed to the judgment of private individuals"? Minnesota certainly isn't one of those places, regardless of whether a conceal and carry bill passes. The only real question is whether public safety is handed to all private individuals or just those willing to break the law. Third, this "if you don't like it just move" is one of the all-time worst arguments known to the human race. The same could be said of those opposing the bill, or to anyone who opposed the war in Iraq, or to those who prefer a Canadian-style health care system.

Maybe there are good arguments against a conceal and carry bill. In fact, I bet there are. The editorial board of the Minnesota Daily hasn't stumbled on any of them.


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