20 to 1

Brady Campaign board member Joan Peterson, posting under the name “japete”, recently asked 20 questions of gun rights activists. Sebastian answered with a post of his own as did many others in the comments.

I have been very busy with work and other things the last few days so I haven’t said anything until this morning.

When you let other people do the asking of the questions they get to avoid their weak spots and strike at your weak spots. In general this isn’t the best long term strategy. You can’t really win. At best you won’t lose and most likely you will just lose more slowly than if you did nothing. To make progress (Hey! I’m a progressive!) you must make them defend.

I don’t have 20 questions for the Brady’s. I’m afraid I’m outnumbered 20 to 1.

My response:


I have Just One Question for you:

Can you demonstrate one time or place, throughout all history, where the average person was made safer by restricting access to handheld weapons?

I have to get to work right now but I should have time to answer your questions tonight.

I figure that at 20:1 my odds are better than that 50:50.

Update (September 23, 2010 1200):

japete responded:

Joe-probably all of those domestic homicides, restricting gangs and criminals from guns would save lots of live; I could go on and on. What is your point? So you think that restricting felons, domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill people, terrorist would not have or won’t save lives? That’s hard to believe.

juan commented (and japete chastised him for making such a comment):

We should require an IQ test for gun ownership, that way none of the current crop of gun owning whackos would qualify to even own a gun. Problem solved!

I responded:


Please read the question and the post at the link carefully. I am asking which of those tens of thousands of laws, already in existence, restricting handheld weapons have demonstrated their effectiveness in making people safer. The CDC study concluded there is no evidence to support such a conclusion.

I am interested in actualities not potentialities. My point is that we should, and probably can, agree on replicating laws that produce clear, measurable, results that make societies safer with no appreciable risk and low cost.

If the goal of anti-gun activists is to improve public safety then they should agree, and would get agreement from the pro-gun side, that if a law cannot be shown to provide benefits with low risk and reasonable cost it should not be replicated and in fact should be repealed.

Because it has been repeatedly shown that gun laws do not measurably improve public safety, and have non-zero risk and cost yet anti-gun activists do not agree to repeal ineffective laws we question the claimed motive to improve public safety. There must be some other motive for increasing restrictions on weapons.


You want to require an I.Q. test for gun ownership? Okay, so anyone that takes the test gets to own a firearm. Then anyone capability of sitting still long enough and answering the questions, rightly or wrongly, would be eligible to exercise their specifically enumerate right to keep and bear arms. If all anti-gun activists would go silent with that concession I would concede, even though I disagreed with it on principle and spend my time on other activities. But that surely isn’t what you meant. Presumably you had some minimum score which the prospective gun owner had to achieve on their I.Q. test before they could exercise their rights. Aside from the legal issue of requiring a test to exercise a fundamental right I have to wonder what you think the minimum threshold for gun ownership would be such that “none of the current gun owning whackos would qualify”. And are you smart enough to properly determine that threshold?

My I.Q. is about 150. What is yours?

I’m outnumbered 20:1. I think I’m holding my own so far.

Update (September 24, 2010 1415):

japete responded:

No bragging, Joe. Gun laws in most other industrialized countries are more strict than ours. Gun deaths per 100,000 in these countries don’t even come close to the number in this country. That is proof that some restrictions lead to lower percentages of gun deaths per population.

I responded:


You are avoiding the question again. The question is whether such laws made them safer. Not whether such laws reduced the “gun deaths”. This has been pointed out before here, if in response to firearms restrictions the criminal homicide using a firearm goes to zero but the total homicide and violent crime rate doubles then society has not been made safer.

If more innocent life is taken or permanently injured I take no consolation in the fact that no firearms was involved.

So again, where is the data that shows any restriction on person weapon ownership has made the average person safer?

Update (September 24, 2010 1600):

japete responded:

Joe- this is a new one. So, reduced gun deaths isn’t safer from the public? Please explain.

I responded:


I’m beginning to feel some frustration because I don’t know how to explain it much more clearly. Correct, just because there are fewer criminal uses of firearms does not mean the public is safer. Violent crime may increase even though firearms are not involved. The hypothesis to explain this unexpected (by some) results is that restrictions on the access of firearms may in fact enable crime because the victims are less able to defend themselves.

To the best of my knowledge there are zero peer reviewed studies that clearly show increasing restrictions on firearms has resulted in decreased violent crime. There are indications that criminal use of firearms has decreased but violent crime without a weapon or the substituting of different weapons increased to at least equal the benefits of the decrease in the crimes enabled by the firearms.

Hence, a decrease in the criminal use of firearms does not result in an increase in public safety.

I have read many books, countless peer reviewed studies without finding a satisfactory answer to my Just One Question. There are a few studies that show some hints that there were improvements but critics quickly found holes in them. If you follow the link to the CDC review of the dozens of papers on the topic you will find they conclude just what I am telling you. There is no clear evidence that any firearm restriction improves public safety. It may be that some law has improved public safety but the effect was so small that it was lost in the noise of all the other factors affecting violent crime such as poverty, changing demographic (large numbers of unemployed young men are bad for violent crime statistics), etc. But if the effect is that small then what is the justification for the costs of enforcement, the creation of a black market, and infringing upon a specific enumerated right?

Update (September 24, 2010 2015):

japete responded:

I, too, am frustrated with this thread. We do know that the Brady Law has prevented about 1.7 prohibited purchasers from buying guns. I have heard every argument possible about why that doesn’t prove anything. To me it proves that if we require background checks on all gun sales, we can prohibit people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. Yes, they could go to the black market but they have been stopped in the first place. Some gun deaths are spur of the moment or when someone is quite angry. This is not at all scientific, but it seems logical to me that if you can stop people from buying guns, you may stop some gun injuries and deaths. We don’t know this since we have not tried it yet on a federal level. That’s the only way to make it work since then people couldn’t go to another state to get their gun from a private seller. So if there isn’t a gun around, one could say you have prevented a death in some cases. And since guns account for the highest number of homicides, it seems logical to me. For instance, I believe that my sister would be alive today if her estranged husband hadn’t had a lot of guns around his house when she stopped by to deliver some papers. He knew she was coming-she called him. He got ready with his gun and surprised her. Maybe a knife? She was more athletic than he and would have likely outrun him. A candlestick? Maybe but not likely. A hammer? Unlikely as well. Guns are more deadly- it’s that simple. Facts show that.

Sean D Sorrentino responded…

“Joe- this is a new one. So, reduced gun deaths isn’t safer from the public? Please explain.”
he already did. Let’s do a thought experiment. there is a room with 100 people. in one room there is a gun, and one person will be killed with it. 1 death per hundred, 1 “gun death” per hundred. in another room there are no guns, just a knife. 2 people will be killed. 2 deaths per hundred, but 0 “gun deaths.” which is “safer?”
Using the metric “gun death” doesn’t tell you the total rate.

japete responded:

Huh? totally missed this logic. I don’t think there is any there.

My response:

Since you cannot understand Seand D Sorrentino’s explanation of my case it is clear there is no further point in me saying anything. You are unwilling or incapable of understanding anything I (or any criminologist, or statistician) have to say on the topic. We simply do not have enough shared concepts to make communication possible.

I have recorded this thread on my blog here. It will be a shining example of the mindset of a board member of the Brady Campaign for years if not decades.

Game over.

Thanks for playing.

Update (September 25, 2010 0830):

My most recent response was not posted. She did reply with “Reasoned Discourse”:

There were so many comments to this thread that it’s not possible to answer them in the time I have available. From what I can tell, what you are all saying is that guns are not the problem. I see it differently. I have provided facts to show that gun deaths take more lives than any other means in the U.S. I am concentrating on the U.S. and what is going on here. It is still true that gun deaths per 100,000 are higher in the U.S. than other industrialized countries. You have shown me your own graphs and your own facts. We will have to agree to disagree about this. It is futile to keep going with this thread.


23 thoughts on “20 to 1

  1. I just answered #20, and my answer covers the rest

    I played a similar Q&A game with MikeB302000….it was a total waste of my time, and parts of my answers were quoted out of context to spin the anti-gun message.

    So I feel no need to answer any of her questions to a deaf ear.

    I will be interested to see what she DOES with all this data. (I vote Cranial Explosion)

  2. FYI she just dropped one of the most dismissive and unsupported answers I’ve ever seen. It’d say it beats MikeB302000’s answer of “Yes”.

    I don’t wrestle with swine, especially not from behind her stupid comment moderation cowardice. I will stand outside the pen and point in and say “Look kids, Swine!”

  3. I’m not goin to invest a lot. But a little bit is worthwhile.

    If she dodges again then I can say good-bye without having wasted much of time and should be able to point out her avoidance of reality without difficulty.

  4. True, if she does dodge again that only proves that she is in fact NOT interested in safety.
    The “One question” is pure genius I tell you!

  5. she just dropped one of the most dismissive and unsupported answers I’ve ever seen. It’d say it beats MikeB302000’s answer of “Yes”.

    I asked her a two-part question. Her answer was one word “Yes.” How in the heck can you answer “Yes” to a question that is not a “yes or no” question?

    *Also, I had to ask it anonymously since I’m “not welcome” and have been banned. I’m damn sure I didn’t call her any names. I think I asked her why she thought it was appropriate to exploit her sisters death in order advocate infringement upon the rights of her fellow citizens. Apparently that pissed her off.

  6. I’m surprised it was only 20 questions. Typical leftist M.O. would require at least 100 questions, and while you’re busy answering the 100, they’re busy making up the next 100, lather, rinse, repeat, and they’ll never heed any of your answers. They figure just the act of asking the questions constitutes an answer, and each of your answers is met with another question. Pressed hard enough, forced to walk down the path of their own making, they force their children to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, before drinking it themselves.

  7. Like Ubu, I can’t imagine Joan is as dense as she’s letting onto being per having a lower gun death is somehow better than a larger murder rate where no guns were used.

    I suspect she’s being coy.

  8. Weer’d,

    I think there are too many examples of this same bewilderment in different people to write it off as “being coy”. I think they are fundamentally incapable of understanding the concepts. Their brains are wired so differently that we do not have enough shared concepts to be able to communicate with them.

  9. If you read a large set of their writings you will see that they think in extremely simplest terms. They think at the level of a first grader with the vocabulary and verbosity of a junior high school student.

    There are varying degrees of this of course. MikeB302000 and Joan to a greater extent and ubu52 to a lesser extent. But in any case they quickly fail to follow an adult conversation on the topic.

    If they were being coy I think they would not be able to be so consistent in their “blindness”. It also explains the strong tendency for “Reasoned Discourse”. They are incapable of understanding and the only method they have of avoiding the pain of facing that fact is to silence the source.

  10. I think this old one sums it up nicely:

    Gloria (Joan): 65 percent of the people murdered in the last 10 years were killed by hand guns!
    Archie Bunker (Joe): Would you feel better if they were pushed outta windows?

    Decreased gun deaths but an overall increased murder/violent crime rate is not a win, it is a loss. Apparently Joan thinks it is success.

  11. I’m always wary of throwing around accusations of stupidity and learning disabilities. But holy hell, I just don’t get how it’s possible to fail to grasp such a simple point.

    I’m not ruling out malicious stalling _or_ cognitive dissonance, but it honestly doesn’t matter. Either way, conversation over there is clearly useless, and her inability or unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious is documented on a page with a much higher Google profile than hers. That’s good enough for me.

  12. I think they are fundamentally incapable of understanding the concepts.

    I’m not buying it.

    She is articulate and literate enough to be able to parrot and/or paraphrase the Brady campaign positions.

    She is not stupid to the level that she cannot grasp the simple concept that you were trying to point out.

    Weer’d says she’s being “coy”, I wouldn’t put it so kindly. She is engaging in the same subterfuge and obfuscation that the Brady Campaign has been engaging in since I can remember.

    She is pretending that she doesn’t understand the question in order to avoid having to deal with the implications of it.

    She did the exact same thing to me regarding the “1.7 million” background check denials figure that both she and the Brady’s love to tout. I utterly crushed that argument weeks ago, but she pretended she didn’t understand what I was saying so that she can…weeks later…keep repeating the statistic as if it had some validity.

    She’s not dumb, she’s dishonest. That’s why I stopped even bothering. You can’t have “thoughtful discussion” with a pathological liar.

  13. My opinion? She knows a Higher Truth.


    So any facts, studies, arguments, logic or reason that contract the Higher Truth are by definition false. She doesn’t have to really consider them or respond to them or account for them in future posts because she *KNOWS* they’re not true.

  14. Like Curt said, she’s being coy.

    She knows if we expand to all violent deaths, her argument goes out the window.

    Keep the parameters narrow enough, and you can get the result you want.

  15. I have to admit that I did enjoy her line about “guns are more deadly.” No sweetheart, they are not. Dead is dead. There are not gradients of dead, where one can be more or less dead. If I stab you, you are just as dead as if I shot you.

  16. I don’t think she understood what you were asking – next time use smaller words.

    Breda, she and Joe are speaking entirely different languages. He could spell out each word and she’d still be dumbfounded.

    I tried to post two comments as well, one which pointed out a blatant lie on her part. They were moderated away, surprise, surprise.

  17. Sadly I dont think it s a mater of her knowing a ‘higher truth’ its a mater of her group only works on ‘gun deaths’ not real safety in our society, they dont care about crime rates, they only want to stop the evil gun. Everything else does not mater to them.

  18. Joseph: Not true! Her sister, murdered with a firearm, is somehow more dead than all those Rwandans (disarmed by the government, of course) who were murdered with machetes.

    And none of those 1.7 Million people turned down to buy a firearm at an FFL later went on and bought a firearm through the black market, so of course that’s proof it’s working so well. (And man, since trying to buy a gun when you’re prohibited is illegal, the FBI must have been working triple shifts to arrest and prosecute all those people…)

  19. Breda; hon, I’ve used the smallest words I can with her without being deliberately insulting.

    Her kind aren’t really stupid, just a major disconnect with reality.

    My Commie Political Science Teacher, when confronted with reality in
    the form of rap fans, became one of us. He’s trying to help me get my left arm back.

  20. “gun deaths take more lives than any other means in the U.S”


    Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

    * Heart disease: 616,067

    Liar. Of course, she’s too mendacious to admit that dead is dead no matter what the weapon used, so no point in talking to her, just use her as an example of why anti-gunners fail.
    (Yes, I know she was referring to murders, but that was too good a setup to let go.)

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