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Category Archives: Information

Recently, the Bloomberg backed Everytown.org website posted a chilling map depicting the sites of gun violence on campuses in America. There is no one who can be unaffected by such tragedy, especially as one pictures children having to flee a gunman in one of the places they should feel the safest. Individuals, news media and pundits were understandably outraged.

The headline read “There have been 74 School Shootings since Sandy Hook”.

There is, however, a problem with that number: it’s incorrect.

First, on Everytown’s website, they note the following:

Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.

Now by this criteria, there have been 74 shootings that have occurred on a campus. The issue is what they are defining as a “school shooting” is misleading.

On Twitter, a journalist whose handle is @ChuckCJohonson looked into the details of the shootings on the list and found some did not involve students or faculty, many only involving violence that incidentally happened on school grounds. Many were gang related shootings that took place at or near a school. At least one involved a gun going off in someone’s pocket. One involved a guy who had shot his girlfriend dumping her body in the school parking lot. One was a shooting over a dice game that occurred in another school parking lot. Some were suicides involving no one but the person who took their own life. Some simply took place in a dorm room on a college campus.

By his estimate, the number is seven, one tenth of Everytown’s estimate.

CNN also published a story, limiting the list to “a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school” and came up with fifteen incidents, which they listed in detail.

Now, no one saying that those shootings that occurred that weren’t what we usually think of as “school shootings” are irrelevant. However, dealing with someone whose gun went off in their pants the same as someone who murdered their classmates seems disingenuous at best.

What I think we can learn from this is that Everytown.org is not interested in facts, nuance or truth, but in using whatever number will back their push for additional restrictions on firearms ownership. That, and that the news media isn’t really bothering to check its sources before publishing shocking news, but then again, that’s nothing new.

More to come.

Before Apple’s success encouraged advertisers to append a lower case “i” onto every noun they could find, there was a similar interest in using the word “smart” as a modifier. The idea was that “Smart” things were controlled by computers in such a way s they were more effective than with just manual controls, as opposed to reality in which many simple devices only gain the feature to crash and require reboot.

The term “smartgun” was one such iteration of this.

The term goes back at least to the 1980’s. Various versions of the concept existed prior to that, however, in novels and in film. But what does it mean, you ask?

The term gets applied to weapons that either have some form of firing mechanism that makes them super-humanly accurate with minimal targeting or that only fire when pointed at a genuine threat.

Generally, the former version involves some sort of fire control computer which does the targeting for the shooter, who then gives the go ahead to actually discharge a round. Up until recently, this was pretty much fiction when it came to personal firearms, though a company has produced a rifle that promises even novice shooters the kind of accuracy produced by expert snipers.

The Trackingpoint rifle

The firearm costs as much as a reasonable Toyota but if you put it’s targeting system to work, the rest should pretty much be foolproof.

The second definition is also in the works as well. There are several companies that have been trying to use various widgets so that guns only fire in the hands of their users. Some use fingerprint recognition while others require the shooter to wear a ring or carry some device to let the gun know that it’s allowed to fire.

The big issue I personally (as well as many others have) is that the effects of a firearm not firing when it is needed most likely would end in tears. Admittedly, so do negligent discharges or guns getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, but I’m not sure I want to find out the hard way that my handgun won’t fire because the batteries went dead.

The auto-targeting marvels coming down the pipe also come with their own sets of concerns, though the one most often bandied about by people alarmed with any functional firearm (“Criminals will get it!”) seems to be overblown, mostly because of the technologies high dollar barrier to entry and the fact that manually targeted firearms suit their purposes just as much and are already widely available.

The advancements in firearms tech do not change that a gun is mostly a tube with a spring on one end. Still, there are some interesting and impressive developments and it’s only a matter of time before they’re affordable.

But today, the only way for most people to have a smartgun is to have a gun and be smart, a thing that no computer will ever entirely replace and that has historically always been a rare commodity.

The Us Department of Justice released numbers on firearms violence for 2011. With the current debate and the impression left that guns are dripping off the American populace, to be gathered up and turned on the innocent with no delay, it’s interesting to see what the real numbers we’re working with are.

Some highlights that I found interesting:

-Between 2007 and 2011, there were 235,700 recorded cases of people defending themselves with firearms from violent attackers, just shy of 1% of victims. Another 103,000 used one to defend against property crime. I didn’t see any numbers on how successful or unsuccessful they were in their self defense.
-Per statistics from 2004, less than two percent of armed criminals say they got their guns at a gun show. Ten percent got one from a store. The rest, in pretty close percentages, either got them from family or friends, or from an illegal source.
-The most common setting for victims of violent crime was their home.
-The most commonly used firearm type in  violent crime is a handgun.
-70% of homicides involved a firearm, but only 8% of other non-fatal violent crimes.

The statistics poke at both the pro- and anti- gun control arguments. On the one hand, assault weapons don’t appear to be the scourge of our society. On the other hand, the surveyed number of times people use firearms in self defense  over a five year period tallies up to what some say occurs every year, or even every few months.

If this is a subject on which you have any opinion, though, I highly recommend looking at the data available. Knowing is still half the battle.

The other half? Judicious application of munitions.