Why are there so few?

Via email from Mike B. (AlphaMike in Idaho, not the other one) I received a link to this episode of Freakonomics: How to think about guns.

It starts out with a different question about mass murders than the media and most politicians, “Why are there so few?” With 300+ million people in the U.S. and a similar number of guns (not to mention many other ways of being able to commit mayhem and murder) why is it so “far out on the tail” that these incidents occur? Think about that. Typically it is about two mass murders (4+ people killed) a year with guns. Out of 300 million people? Only one out of 150 million people per year go nuts enough to kill a bunch of people? That’s pretty amazing if you think about it.

Notable quotes:

  • “Gun buybacks are one of the most ineffectual public policies that have ever been invented in the history of mankind.”
  • I think people are confused with respect to how dangerous a particular gun is. If I’ve done my calculations right, any particular handgun in the United States will kill a person about once every 10,000 years.”
  • “In order to prevent one homicide in a year, you would need to get 10,000 guns brought back in a gun buyback. Okay, but the thing is you don’t get 10,000 guns, and they’re not the guns that are used to kill people. So the typical gun buyback program I would guess saves approximately maybe 0.0001 lives.”
  • “But why is it in the context of guns we don’t think of guns as deterrents, we think about guns as, being this, causing the violence. And the idea here comes out of Canada’s book, Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, which honestly I’ll say is one of the best books I’ve read in my life, and if it’s still in print I would just encourage people to go find it. It’s fantastically insightful.”
  • “Anyone with any sense looks at the current political climate, thinks about the kinds of proposals that are being made and accepts the fact that none of these proposals are going to have any real impact at all.”

The recommended book is available via Amazon:

It is next in my queue after I finish The Android’s Dream (son James thinks it is awesome and I’m liking it a lot).


7 thoughts on “Why are there so few?

    • I was going by the Mother Jones magazine article quoted. Yes, people have some objections to their criteria. I haven’t looked into it but my impression was that the criteria was such that it included, essentially, only those were someone went “nuts” and killed random innocent people. This is opposed to someone killing multiple members of a rival gang, witnesses to their robbery, or people of law office who “ruined their life”.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  1. I’m a big Freakonomics fan and I’ve been both wishing they would so a show on this and dreading it. It turned out pretty good though with minimal liberal crap. Especially loved the the quote on gun buybacks. I’ve already added that book to my list.

  2. Here’s something I would like to ask you, Joe….

    The most recent report I’ve seen on mass shootings showed 43 shootings over the past few years (this is the report I can’t find now). Of the 43 shooters, 4 had concealed weapons permits that the report writers knew about. That’s nearly 10% of the mass shooters, yet the concealed permit owner population out of the general population is only about 1%. Why are permit owners OVER REPRESENTED in the mass shooter population?

    I think this is a statistic gun owners don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole….

    • Unless you can find the report, so we can see what they are counting as a mass shooting, and which ones had the CPL (such as Dorner, a former cop and therefore a special case) it’s not so much a statistic as a rumor of one. And we know what rumors are worth.

  3. Pingback: More on gun "buybacks" | The View From North Central Idaho

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