I made a mistake the other day of responding to a Tweet about the Sandy Hook school shooting. Got a flurry of replies and personal messages from folks saying things like “quit living in fantasy land”, “gun laws don’t work” and “I protect my children with a Glock”.The mistake I made was saying “Correlation does not imply causation.” I thought it was a reasonable thing to remind people that a relationship between two variables does not mean one causes the other. The argument was something like this:
- Mass shootings have taken place in locations that prohibit guns like schools and movie theaters. [true premise]
- When there is a mass shooting, the shooter chooses the location because they know no one there will be armed. [false premise]
- Therefore, the prohibitions on weapons cause mass shootings. [false conclusion]
The solution being of course that conceal and carry should be a universal right across the US, especially in elementary schools. This illogical argument is very popular despite its flaws, and you will find it all over the Internet “discussions” about gun control. I continue to try to understand the pro-gun arguments, but facts and logic are often irrelevant.
There is a lot of information about mass shootings over the last 30 years, including how many of the weapons were semi-automatic handguns like a Glock (68/142), the race of the shooters (44/62 white males) and the locations. The motives, even factoring in the complication of mental illness, have been boiled down to anger at a someone (boss/ex-wife etc.), anger at a group (immigrants, Muslims, co-workers etc.), or desire to kill innocents. No mention of the prohibition of guns being a factor.
So my revised holiday wish list (even though I already got my Hanukkah present & other shopping is probably completed) includes people learning:
- Just because you have an opinion or belief doesn’t mean its true.
- There is a difference between a reason and an excuse (e.g. there is a reason why Lanza killed 27 people, there is no excuse).
- Correlation does not imply causation (this is a logical fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc).
If I get even one of those in my stocking it will be a Christmas miracle. Meanwhile, I will keep wishing. And Tweeting. And arguing (logically).