Gun control and data corruption
Last week, a woman in Loganville, Georgia was home with her two 9-year-old children when a burglar invaded her home. She took the kids and hid in the attic while the intruder, Paul Ali Slater – who has a hefty rap sheet, and just got out of prison after serving time for assault – broke in with a crowbar and ransacked the house. When he discovered the homeowner and her children hiding in the attic, she shot him five times with a .38 revolver.
Slater was not entirely incapacitated by his wounds. The woman had to bluff her way past him by asserting her willingness to plug him again, even though she was actually out of bullets. (She fired six times, but missed once.) She took her kids and fled, leaving Slater to drag himself to his car. Deputies found him parked a short distance from the house, pleading for his life. He is expected to survive his wounds.
Total national media coverage of this story: zero. Anne Sorock at Legal Insurrection took stock of the coverage as of Sunday afternoon:
The story has been completed ignored by national media. The only non-local source that had covered the story, reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution this past Friday, has been from another country: Britain’s Daily Mail. A slew of local outlets picked up on the AJC’s story covered it, including WSB-TV in Georgia, a local FOX affiliate in North Carolina. By Sunday morning, FOX news national published the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s January 4 writeup on their site.
It took a foreign newspaper and Facebook to bring news relevant to the gun-control debate to my attention. The institutional news media is getting beaten to stories and news. So long as information flows freely, their irrelevancy will be assured.
And yet, this incident is at least as relevant to the national gun-control debate as the Newtown massacre. Who knows what might have happened to this woman and her children if she had been disarmed?
And five hits from a .38 were not enough to stop her assailant cold. She had a fairly perfect shooting opportunity – it doesn’t get much better than a “jack in the box” volley at a guy who rips open a door and meets a hail of gunfire – but she still missed once. Nevertheless, that’s some impressive marksmanship. A sheriff’s deputy quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said he was “impressed with the woman’s resolve” and said she “handled her first shooting better than he had.” In less ideal circumstances, or if this heroic woman had been less skilled and self-assured, she might have missed more than once… at which point a higher ammunition capacity would have made the difference between life and death. Limited to six shots, she and her children might have met their doom at the business end of a crowbar, wielded by a larger, stronger, more vicious criminal attacker.
The gun control debate is a classic example of what a computer technician would identify as data corruption. The public is expected to evaluate a crucial element of liberty – the right to keep and bear arms – based on deliberately faulty information, in which some data points are greatly magnified, while others are minimized or hidden.
Very little media attention is paid to even the more spectacular examples of firearms used by law-abiding Americans in self-defense. Even less is paid to instances where criminal assaults were averted by the possession or display of a gun that wasn’t actually fired. The ratio of gun crimes to lawful gun owners is very small – more fatalities result from relatively uncontroversial technologies, such as the automobile – but that’s not considered either. The lawful ownership of firearms is evaluated almost entirely based on carefully selected negative data points. A computer would crash if asked to process such distorted information.