Vox gun control article/video: rebuttal to the rebuttal?
May 10, 2018 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Vox made a called "America's Gun Problem, Explained". A right wing guy made what looks like a legitimate rebuttal. What is the rebuttal to the rebuttal?

I've been debating gun control with a friend. I pointed him to this Vox article and video.

And he pointed me to this rebuttal by Steven Crowder, which claims that Vox is misleading and manipulates statistics. Yes, it's rude and snarky, but I'm ignoring that and considering what he actually says.

The Goog is not giving me any rebuttal to the rebuttal. Has anyone viewed both and broken down claims? I have my own opinions here, but I'd like to hear others' thoughts.
posted by 4midori to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Take a step back and look at the meta-debate here. Your friend's reaction to "Here's a bunch of statistics" was "How can I disprove this?" Your reaction to the rebuttal was "How can I disprove that?" This is natural, but neither of you is really trying to make up your mind about the issue, you're just looking for ways to support the stance you've already adopted. Neither of you is going to be able to convince the other of your gun-control position with just one more relevant chart. Just shrug, resolve not to discuss the issue with that friend anymore, and move on with your day.

Or, to answer the actual question: Of course Lopez was "manipulating" statistics or being misleading by "only" counting ones that support his position. So was Crowder. Because they're just like you and your friend -- one wants more gun control, one wants less. If there's evidence of the opposite position, it doesn't prove anything, it's just misleading.

And by the way, statistics are manipulated by computing them, by saying "We're going to start counting things here and stop counting them there, and counting this as different from that."
posted by Etrigan at 12:24 PM on May 10, 2018 [20 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not going to watch a video rebuttal.

From looking just at Crowder's sources, he appears to be talking past Vox's argument. For example, Vox says that the US has the highest gun homicides rate in the DEVELOPED world. Crowder provides a source for his rebuttal that the US is at #28 if you look at ALL countries. These are two different facts. One doesn't rebut the other. Vox is saying "compared to our economic neighbors, we have way more gun deaths." This appears to be true. Crowder appears to be saying "compared to, say, Honduras, we're doing pretty good despite having more guns per capita than Honduras." This is also true, but they're two different arguments.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on May 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this is one of the usual things that happens - people are looking at different statistics because they are saying things that don’t resonate with the other person, and you can’t really use them against each other because the statistics are based on prior assumptions and positions.

So, for example - Vox talks about gun deaths including suicides. Many people feel suicides shouldn’t be counted in negative gun death statistics, because people are choosing to use their firearms in those ways and we can’t judge other people’s choices about their deaths. Others think that’s crazy and they should absolutely be counted because any loss of life is tragic and should be avoided. But there’s no statistic or rebuttal that can resolve that gulf - because it’s a fundamental disagreement about whether a fact, which can be objectively measured, is good or bad, which cannot be objectively measured.
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @Etrigan: Smart point. To me, the evidence, both factual/statistical and cultural, shows overwhelmingly that the USA has a serious problem with guns. I brought in the Crowder rebuttal because I wanted to make sure I'm not missing something in the Vox piece that's inaccurate or unfairly presented.
posted by 4midori at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2018

I follow the politics of gun control. I'm neither a gun owner nor a gun prohibitionist. I don't accept any gun control argument for either side that depends on any statistical analysis beyond simple counts. The poor quality of the underlying data and the complexity of the issues make it insupportable.

And, the more hotly contested an issue, the greater the exaggerations and less disciplined the arguments on both sides. Here is an example from the Vox article which illustrates the point:

2) More guns mean more gun deaths. Period.

In recent years, the number of guns in private hands has increased a lot. It has actually doubled in the last decade, while gun deaths have been about constant. So, I would say the statement is facially wrong. Now the Vox author was probably saying that the US has a higher rate of gun deaths than because we have more guns per capita, but that's not what he wrote. He probably should have said "more gun owners", or something like that.

IMHO: The worst argument on the pro-gun side is that they deny there is a problem when there clearly is. The worst argument on the pro-gun control side is that they think they have a viable solution when they don't.

posted by SemiSalt at 4:46 PM on May 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have my own opinions here, but I'd like to hear others' thoughts.

I think you need to ask yourself if you’re genuinely open to changing your mind about the subject, if presented with solid facts and statistics. That’s when those rebuttals may be useful.
posted by Kwadeng at 6:36 PM on May 10, 2018

Best answer: " pro-gun control side is that they think they have a viable solution when they don't"


Violent crime rates are decreasing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States
Gun deaths are increasing: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

Pro-gun arguments are not made in good faith. I de-friend and ignore the people that make them. You should too. Life is too short.
posted by pdoege at 7:49 PM on May 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Pro-gun arguments are not made in good faith.

There's no way to know this in any particular case. 4midori described the person he was talking with as a friend. My presumption is that my friends make arguments in good faith. Experience can change my opinion about that, just as they could, potentially, about other questions, such as gun control.

We each have to choose our own line; I'm not going to debate anything or ever be friends with a committed Holocaust denier, for example (though I might try to inform a specific person if I thought it was done out of complete ignorance, not malice). But for me, and apparently for 4midori, gun control doesn't cross that line.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I would be more concerned with the fact that your friend is using Crowder as a source, especially given that his video isn't even the first result when I Google Vox gun control rebuttal (there are plenty of extreme-right sites crowing about how Crowder "debunked" Vox, however). Crowder hangs with people like Milo Y. and Alex Jones and is a racist, homophobic, misogynistic liar. Among other things, he recently helped to originate the victim-blaming lie that Emma Gonzalez bullied the Parkland shooter in an attempt to discredit her activism. Maybe reasonable people can disagree about gun control, but Crowder is not a reasonable person and I wouldn't take his word on what day of the week it is, never mind trust his statistical analysis or listen to his Gish gallop rhetorical "style".
posted by camyram at 10:19 PM on May 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Re: guns and suicide. I'm sure I read within the past year that 2 states changed their gun laws - in the state where they started requiring longer wait-times and better checks on buying guns the suicide rate reduced dramatically. In the other state, where wait times and checks were reduced, the opposite happened. Sorry, I can't remember the states or anything else, but I do remember the fact because it was a totally unexpected result.
posted by Enid Lareg at 8:21 AM on May 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Enid Lareg: I've recently come across two articles about the effectiveness of gun control similar to what you are talking about.

The first examines the effect of Connecticut laws passed just after the Sandy Hook shootings.

The second is looking at the effects of laws passed in Connecticut back in 1995.

Both claim some positive benefit. Are they credible? I don't know. Were they published in a journal that would be open to publishing an article with negative results? I don't know.

The best reason to think that gun control laws help reduce gun deaths is that the northern states plus California that have strong gun control (by US standards) have much lower rates of gun deaths than the states with the most lenient laws. The reason for this may not be the obvious one, however.

OTOH, the federal background check program requiring background checks on all purchases at retail has not had a big effect if any. I've not seen any studies on waiting lists, but I doubt that's very important. The really effective thing is requiring training classes and permits.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:11 AM on May 12, 2018

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