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Informed debate would be nice [ClearOnMoney]
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Informed debate would be nice

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Commentary

Informed debate would be nice

17 Jan 2013 by Jim Fickett.

Formerly, as a scientist, I was able to avoid spending too much time on the news. Now, as an investor, I find it necessary to spend several hours a day on mostly vacuous nonsense, with the occasional hidden gem. In any case, whatever your profession, it is quite distressing that most policy debates are not anchored by the facts.

I'm not going to get into a deep analysis of gun control. But gun violence is clearly a big issue for the US, and it would be nice if the country could find some sensible middle ground between the interests of gun enthusiasts and those who are more concerned about safety. Unfortunately, neither side seems to be interested in data. I'll give three examples.

Most arguments for gun control lump all gun deaths together. But 2/3 of gun deaths are suicides. Now suicide is also distressing, but the measures to prevent suicides must be completely different from those to prevent murder, especially mass murder. Measures currently on the table are very unlikely to change suicide numbers at all.

High capacity magazines are irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you ban them, and it doesn't matter if you allow them. Those who enjoy sport shooting and hunting will not be affected by having to stop and reload every few shots. Those concerned about self-defense need not worry unduly, as most gunfights are over in three shots. And smaller magazines will not stop massacres, because it is easy to carry as many magazines as you like, and it only takes two seconds to drop out an empty one and put in another. (Assault rifles are also completely irrelevant; a person with a pistol is actually more dangerous in a school or movie theater.)

A substantive issue is semi-automatics (guns that automatically eject an empty shell and load another cartridge from the magazine each time you pull the trigger). This is a point where we could have a real debate. Those concerned about self defense would have a real point – a criminal attacker might have a semi-automatic, and if the victim does not, he/she might be at a real disadvantage. And those concerned about public safety would also have a point – semi-automatic pistols and rifles make a crazy person much more dangerous. And since the majority of US households have a gun, there are doubtless many semi-automatics out there. But, despite the fact that Australia claims to have made real progress against violence by eliminating semi-automatics, this is not under discussion in the US.

Why can't we seem to have meaningful, informed debates in this country?