Important phrases in gun fighting statistics.
“No One Has…”
“At Very Least…”
and … “Why Bother…”
In previous posts we discussed statistics. We all know how polls and stat studies work or don’t work. Unless you like the results then you don’t like the poll or study. We know what statistics officially mean, their goal – “the practice or science of collecting and analyzing numerical data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample.”
We slice and dice these numbers into training doctrine, all in effort to work on what counts and prioritize training time. But what if all those numbers are incorrect and incomplete? In the United States, the FBI Uniformed Crime Reports, is such a go-to source for US statistics reports. The FBI also collects info on police officers shot and killed, which civilians read and willfully or innocently extrapolate over to citizen, self defense, training ideas. The FBI is not just a source for the USA, but folks in other countries read and use the gun numbers also. But, the FBI wants to warn us on the front page, and in sort of the small print…
“Figures used in this Report were submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. In addition, the efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual agencies.”
Yikes! A closer examination details more data collection oddities and exclusions, here are but two:
*Methodology: Data from law enforcement agencies whose resident population falls below 100,000 are published in this table for 2 consecutive years. If the population remains below 100,000 after 2 years, the agency’s data are no longer published in this table.
* Methodology: When the FBI determines that an agency’s data collection methodology does not comply with the national UCR Program’s guidelines, the figure(s) for that agency’s offense(s) is not included in the table and the discrepancy is explained in a footnote.
I recall how some of my old agencies and agencies I knew of, that did and did not send in data through the decades. I even a recall a small Texas city let a city librarian down the hall from the police department, classify crimes for dispatch to the FBI. She had no real idea what crime was what crime.
Yet, “The numbers don’t lie!” they tell us. But how good are those numbers anyway? And from these numbers, comes the slicing and the dicing we all love to hear about, and play with this or that, game conclusions. With these numbers we try to relax, or to scare. We try to define who we might be shooting someday, why we might need a gun or knife within reach, and the type of training we need.
So, we’ll start off with the “one in___” numbers game.
– One if four households are victimized by crime
– One in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence
– One in five college women have been verbally abused by a partner.
– One in eight men and one in 11 women will die from cancer
– One in 315 has a chance of death from gun violence.
– One in this…
– One in that…
– One in the other…
– The “one in” game.
Or how about, the other, “no one has” numbers game. This slice and dice exists too, and is a flip side of the previous.
– No one has reloaded in a civilian shooting.
– No one has reloaded in a police shooting.
– No one grapples/fights with a criminal in shooting incidents.
– No one uses their gun sites within _____ feet.
– No one sees, no hear hears.
– No one this…
– No one that…
– No one the other…
– The “no one” game.
We are left with best collected info, or the “at very least,” we know that…” numbers game.
* “At least one in ten have…”
The Big Picture. I have always believed and looked for the big picture in studies. The collected very least info, is rarely compared to the biggest related number. The big picture number is almost always ignored in studies. Usually the ignorance comes from the fact that “only 2,000 people” were studied, 500 “likely” people were asked. 5,000 people were “tested.” The small people-numbers are a little embarrassing in most research because so few were involved. So you see a lot of “percentage talk.” “25% of people have less back pain from…” We are all supposed to then magnify those percentages over to…say…the 230 million US citizens? Really? The country tick bite problem directly relates to 38% of Bostonians?
What’s a big number. What is the biggest picture number available that relates to this crime subject? What do I mean? An example, using 2017 as a US snapshot.
2017 Uniformed Crime Reports total crime:
* 1,247,321 violent crimes (at very least).
* 7,694,086 property crimes (at very least).
Now we’ll add in a few big numbers for the big picture.
2017 US population – 230 million (big picture)
2017 US guns – 300 million guns of all types and ages “out there”
2017 estimated UCR total crime:
* 1,247,321 violent crimes.
* 7,694,086 property crimes
The population is estimated. The gun amount is estimated. The FBI crime stats are “at very least,” and flawed as we mentioned. But they and we are left with the only numbers we have. At… very… least.
At very least that year we had 8,941,407 total crimes. Alone that is frightening for many. But within 230 million people as a big picture number? Oh and did I, need I mention, that the US of A is 3,531,905 square miles. The crime number in the big world of statistics is not so bad a danger number, in the big picture of people and space. There is more to the “mileage.” Crime is rampant in certain areas that skews perception. Numbers runners say that if we subtract the gun crime in places like parts of Chicago, St. Louis or Baltimore, we start looking like Japan. “Mileage” counts. “Location, location, location!” as business schools yell.
Shooting Criminals as in Shooting the 1,247,321
I am oddly fascinated by that violent crime number each year. In 2017 for example, 1,247,321 violent crimes. At very least that many, as they say. There were an estimated 383 violent crimes per 100,000 people. That is not 383 violent crimes per 100,000 people living in say…Utah! It is way less in Utah. Or, your home city. That’s a “per” (another great stat term) country wide spread. The FBI, which classifies murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault as violent crimes. How many did we, or rather, the FBI miss though? A few more? Quarter more? Half? And, what does this mean in term of shooting criminals in the acts of crimes?
We the people, are only supposed to shoot at violent criminals. Imminently violent criminals. And in the act. That number is about the acts, but how many criminals does it to take to total up to 1,247,321 felonies? Surely not 1,247,321 individual criminals doing individual crimes. No, as history, news, prison, parole and probation studies tell us, at very least, that one criminal will commit several crimes. So, if we shoot one violent criminal, (or imprison one) we usually, often interrupt multiple future crimes. (There is a new boom of prison statistics out in 2019 by the way. See attached chart. Blow this up and look it over.)In the legal “gun world,” guns can be drawn to interrupt imminent violent crimes against you and someone else. So in a country with 230 million people, and some 300 million guns, the populace may theoretically, “legally’ pull/use a gun just about a million and a quarter times in 2017?
Gun threats alone can work and will go statistically unnoticed. Pulled guns alone have scared away both intended violent criminals and property criminals in numbers undocumented. Yes, I know that some US states have an old law or two that you can use deadly force to protect your property with a gun. There will always be some “backwoodsman” stepping up to remind us of this. Sounds nice, but misleading because, try to shoot someone stealing your lawn mower or breaking into your car? See how that works out for you. Try that in 21st Century. Any modern gun instructor with half a brain will warn you against doing that.
So, 1,247,321 violent crimes. Compared to 230 million people. There is a “one-in…” figure in here somewhere. You can do the math. There appears to be a small chance you will use your gun in the US. This is similar to US law enforcement numbers too. I bring this up because the next phase of the “one in,” stat and the “no one” stat discussion, is the follow-up, “why bother” crowd. They ask, “Well, if this is so unlikely, why bother do this,” do that, or do the other?
The “Why Bother” Crowd
After looking at the “One In” numbers and “No One” numbers, people may then start asking “why bother?” If a study of 2,000 people says brushing your teeth three times a day is no better than 2 times, why bother with the third brushing?” If walking for 20 minutes, 3 times a week is as good as running 3 times, why bother running? And so on.
I think that these small number studies, extrapolated upon us into assumed millions, create a lot of thoughtless hypocrisies. We carry a gun to live longer, but still smoke cigarettes. We buckle ourselves in cars and then ride motorcycles. We target-shoot like mad to shoot the 1,247, 321 and survive, and we eat like hell. The list of inconsistencies is long. The mental gymnastics of a totally, logical life can deliver a migraine. I think it’s human nature not to handle all the small hypocrisies we carry, or even just realize them. Perhaps a Tibetan monk has it all figured out, rids himself of everything and then he just sits in a corner contemplating his navel?
With guns, the “why bother” crowd then might ask, “Why bother carrying? I mean, there’s such a small chance I’ll need one. And, I don’t live in Baltimore. My chances are even less.”
It appears many people feel this way. The Center for Crime Prevention says that there are between 15.6 million and 16.3 million concealed carry licences and more and more states are going to no-permit-needed, constitutional carry so they are uncountable. The Dailey Signal reports that, “Studies suggest, however, that only a fraction of Americans who conceal carry actually do so on a routine basis. A recent study of 2015 survey data estimated that 9 million Americans carry at least once a month, while only 3 million do every day—about 1.2 percent of the American adult population.” This is but one study, and the results of others say about the same thing. So we have…at very least, how many actual carriers out there at any given time? They may be asking themselves, “Why bother carrying?” “Always carry?” “Sometimes carry?” “Ever carry at all?”
So what do you think? Why do you bother? If I tell you the base numbers can be wrong and off. If there are numerous other equations with bad numbers to insert in the slice-and-dice conclusions, what do you think about carrying a gun? The odds of shooting the 1,247,321? Are you basing training doctrine on incomplete and skewed, sliced-and-diced information?
I am a skeptic. I am such a skeptic, I am skeptical of my skepticism. So, I wanted to know what makes a good study? Science Based Life suggests this list:
1. Was the study large enough to pass statistical muster?
2. Was it designed well?
3. Did it last long enough?
4. Were there any other possible explanations for the conclusions of the study or reasons to doubt the findings?
5. Do the conclusions fit with other scientific evidence? If not, why?
6. Do you have the full picture?
7. Have the findings been checked by other experts?
8. What are the implications of the research? Any potential problems or applications?
And I must also resort back to the well of the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. It’s a deep well and the model keeps coming back up.
Who collects these numbers? Who do they ask, poll and test?
What is the bias behind the number collection? The number collectors?
Where are these numbers collected from?
When are they collected? After some horrible gun event? Absent such an event?
How are they collected?
Why are they collected. Why do people volunteer to be collectible?
For me, beyond the flaky stats, my bottom line is I have to look at calculating/customizing my life, or any person’s lifestyle. Personalize. With guns, you get a concealed carry license or carry a gun for your lifestyle. Using the best local intelligence information, combined with using the generic risk factors, and the…very least concepts of statistics…
My real message here in this essay? The big numbers are off and incomplete, so do the best you can to customize. And think about these things. Every gun person should think about them. Be able to articulate about them. We are all not a simple statistic. Bad stuff happens everyday. Bad stuff happens to people, happens to somebody, and it can happen to you. There’s another classic line around forever. “When you need a gun, you REALLY need a gun.”
Perhaps a Tibetan monk has it all figured out, thinks about all this “one in,” “no one,” “at least” and “why bother,” and rids himself of everything and then he just sits in a corner contemplating his navel? But, then the damn Chinese soldiers come and…
When it happens to you?
Then it’s a “one in ONE” chance.
“No one”… else. “One per one.”
At “very least” – you!
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
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