Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Proof that Concealed Carry permit holders live in a dream world?

Proof that Concealed Carry permit holders live in a dream world-at least according to the producers at ABC's 20/20.

In fact the experiment they set up is biased toward the result they want the experiment to produce and even at that still doesn't really prove their point.

The producers argue that having concealed carry permit holders will do nothing to stop mass shootings. But part one of their expose does not support their case.

The analysis below is written on the assumption that the read has viewed the segment linked to in the post.

To test the proposition that ordinary citizens will not be able to respond effectively to a mass shooting the producers put 5 ordinary people through a short training course with fire arms. The producers point out that even this is more training than most concealed carry permit holders get (though formal training is not the only thing that might make a difference in how one responds to a mass shooting). They are then put into a classroom where they are told there will be more training but where, in fact, a mass shooting will be staged.

A first question to ask of such experiments is how well they reproduce the actual conditions, the actual causes and effects we are trying to understand. Here the cause is at two causes, mass shootings and the presence of a civilian with minimal training and a concealed weapon, and one effect, the results of mass shootings. In particular, we want to know if the outcomes of mass shootings are better when there is an armed civilian present. Are more innocent people likely to get hurt? Is the shooter more likely to be stopped and apprehended?

Against this we should compare the likely outcomes of doing what the authorities recommend--not confronting the shooter, doing what he says (I am not aware of any female perpetrated mass shootings, though their may be some),   and hiding or playing dead.

The first independent variable, the mass shooting, is hard to replicate. Is it really possible to replicate the terror of a mass shooting? No matter how realistic the acting is the person in the experiment must know at some level that they are not really going to be killed. So, even if the person reacts well in the experiment we still cannot be sure that they would have done as well in a real mass shooting. On the other hand, if they fail in the simulation they would presumably, all other things being equal, do even worse in the real event.

On the other hand, there is the possibility that factors might be introduced that would bias the experiment in the other direction, make it less like the real event in ways that make it less likely for the armed citizen to improve the outcome. Here there seem to be several things about the set up that make it seem, well, like a set up.

For one thing, the subjects in the experiment are all put in clothes that seem both unusual and likely to make effective response less likely. They are supposedly in a classroom where they are being taught something about emergency response that involves putting on gloves and a full helmet/face-mask apparatus of some sort. Also, all of the subjects are apparently made to wear a tee-shirt that is both unusually long and tight fitting so that it must be pulled up in order to make the gun available. The gloved hand and the obstructive tee-shirt make drawing the gun rather more difficult. The helmet is also a problem. In addition to being quite unusual--I can't imagine a situation in which college students would be wearing helmets and face-masks in a college classroom--it reinforces what the program later explains is one of the primary reasons untrained citizens are unlikely to be effective in responding to mass-shootings: the tendency of the brain to impose on our perception a kind of tunnel vision in the midsts of crisises. The tunnel vision blinds us to things outside of the threat itself that would otherwise be caught by our peripheral vision. Such as, presumably, innocent bystanders. I have not been able to find part two of the series where the last two subjects are put through the experiment but I am willing to wager that one or both of them ends up hitting an innocent bystander.

But there is another thing that might cut off our peripheral vision--a head covering helmet that has a plastic mask in front for us to see out of. Whether this plays an actual role in the outcome I do not not but if it has any effect at all it could nothing other than to decrease peripheral vision, reinforcing one of the very effects that is said to call for trained professionals only to carry firearms and to make untrained or minimally trained civilians ineffectual or dangerous in a crisis. Given that the only possible effect of the helmets could have would be to bias the experiment in the direction of the results the experimenters are seeking, the introduction of this unusual and unnecessary factor into the experiment can only raise doubts about the competence if not the integrity of the designers of the experiment.

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