Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bullets without Brains?

Sebastian has analysis that challenges MAIG's latest study; I felt he did a good job at addressing the issues, and came to good conclusions.  I'm not quite willing to say it's perfect, but more because I don't trust my fuzzy memory of statistics, than because of any flaws Sebastian may have made.

I am a mathematician, after all, and not a statistician.

In his post, however, Sebastian linked to this article from the UK, discussing a UK police department relaxing the requirements for gun registration.  There are a few things in this article that cause me to cringe, and I wanted to point them out, independent from Sebastian's analysis.

First:  "A bullet doesn’t have a brain, its only intention is to kill."  How the heck can something that has no brain have any intentions?  Are bullets shot at a target just itching to kill something?  A bullet is nothing more than some sort of substance--usually metallic, but not necessarily--propelled by some means.

A bullet has no intentions, and it cannot have any intentions, unless we put some sort of decision mechanism in the bullet itself.  It merely follows the laws of acceleration and inertia, and when it comes to its resting place, it merely follows laws of energy transfer, dependent on the materials it comes in contact with.

Thus, this is a stupid statement, meant to rile up emotions against the police department.

Second:  Lucy Cope, of Mothers Against Guns, stated:

“That is a horrendous idea. The one [registrant] they skip could be the one.
“The blood will be on their hands.
"A bullet doesn’t have a brain, its only intention is to kill.
“Are Bedfordshire Police saying we will save money, but not lives?
“It’s sending out a very weak message.
"If they’re not doing checks, how to they know the gun is in the house?”

Mrs. Cope is essentially claiming that the Police can read the minds of those who apply for gun ownership, and that they can magically predict those who will, or who won't, use guns for nefarious purposes.  What makes the Mrs. Cope think that the Police--or any human, for that matter--are able to do this?  And why should the Police be responsible for the actions of any other person than themselves?  And, finally, is Mrs. Cope willing to admit that she herself has blood on her hands, when someone would have defended their life from a mugger, rapist, or murderer, but couldn't, because the gun they would have used has been banned?

The problem with Mrs. Cope's statement is this:  she believes that humans have no free will, and that humans kill each other because "bullets intend to kill" and, because they lack brains, they have to vicariously live their desires through humans.  Unfortunately for her claims, it is humans with brains that have free will, and it is because of this, that the police cannot predict who will, or will not, kill people.

Finally:  "Lucy Cope...created [the] anti-gun campaign group Mothers Against Guns after her son was shot outside a London nightclub in 2002."

This is a story about the registration of shotguns--guns that are very awkward to carry around in a place, like London, where carrying a bicycle chain for self defense purposes is illegal.  Is it possible that he was shot with a shotgun?  Yes.  Is it likely?  Heck no!  It's far more likely that he was shot with a pistol--a pistol that has been banned since 1998.

But it isn't just about handguns.  All sorts of violent crime has increased since the banning of pistols, including gun deaths.  Would Mrs. Cope have been satisfied had her son been stabbed to death instead?  Or strangled with a rope?  Or would she have preferred her son's head to be smashed in with a hammer, or a rock?  Or beat to death with fists and feet?

Mrs. Cope would do well to ask herself:  is she really against guns?  Or is she against violence?  I, for one, am against violence, and I would like to see everyone be committed to non-violent action whenever possible.  An important key to ending violence, however, is legalized, justifiable, self defense.  And pistols are the most important self-defense tool we have.


  1. I'm not a statistician either, but an engineer. My only exposure to statistics was in failure analysis, and that was 15 years ago at this point.