Re: Guns in Florida
Thu, 9 Jul 1998 08:59:17 EDT

In a message dated 98-07-09 05:06:00 EDT, (Harvey Newstrom) write:

> I was born here and have lived here most of my life.  When I was

> younger, I don't remember all the violence we have now. Every day there
> is some sort of armed robbery or shooting reported in the local paper.
> Often there are three or four shootings. Every few weeks a child is
> shot accidentally.

As I've written before in connection with discussions of "tort reform", mass media accounts of any emotionally charged subject are a poor source of authority upon which to form an opinion. In the tort reform debate, the operation of what I call the "sensation filter" is obvious to anyone who actually works with the subject matter on a day-to-day basis. Lawsuits that DON'T result in large verdicts simply aren't reported, because they aren't sensational. Therefore, counting news reports of large verdicts is a completely meaningless exercise, if one is trying to really guage the impact of the tort system on various social issues. Likewise, an account of a person who owns and may carry a gun, but who never uses it, or simply deters a crime by brandishing the weapon isn't "newsworthy". One rarely sees a news account of a dog that DOESN'T bite a person. Accordingly one can draw few meaningful conclusions about the safety of dog-ownership from news stories about dog bites.

The rigorous collection and analysis of statistical information about social phenomena is itself a relatively boring enterprise. Newspapers and television channels make money by reporting interesting things. See, for instance, the recent flap about CNN's apparently erroneous report about the use of nerve gas on defectors in Laos durng the US war there. Unfortunately, mass media stories have a very great impact on the formation of public and private opinion on important social issues. Sober analysis of rigorously collected statistics takes a back seat to sensation.

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
	   Attorney  :::  Director, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
	           "Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must
	              be driven into practice with courageous impatience."