Guy Smith: Founder of the Gun Facts Project

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Guy Smith: Founder of the Gun Facts Project
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Guy Smith podcast coverPlease welcome Guy Smith, a 25-year gun control policy researcher and the founder of the Gun Facts Project.  He’s also the author of “Guns and Control”, has appeared on Fox News, AlJazeera America, and is a frequent talk radio and podcast guest where he shares his team’s learnings from conducting data-based investigations into criminology, public safety, and constitutional law.

The slogan for the Gun Facts Project is “We are neither pro-gun nor anti-gun. We are pro-math and anti-BS.”  And Guy personally is not “a member of any organization — not the NRA, not Everytown for Gun Safety, not the Second Amendment Foundation, not the Brady Campaign. Nada. Not even any political party. Someone once bought (him) a membership in the California Rifle and Pistol Association, and (he) immediately demanded to be removed from the membership roster.

Let’s hear what Guy has to say.

Who Is Guy Smith?

Guy Smith is a distinguished figure in the realm of gun control policy research, with a career spanning over 25 years dedicated to unraveling the complexities of gun legislation and its societal impacts. His journey began with an academic pursuit in public policy and sociology, leading him to specialize in the empirical analysis of gun laws and their effectiveness in preventing violence. Smith’s work is rooted in a steadfast belief in data-driven policymaking, where decisions are guided by empirical evidence rather than political ideology or popular sentiment.

Throughout his career, Smith has been at the forefront of critical debates, offering nuanced insights into the multifaceted nature of gun violence and the legislative efforts to curb it. His research has shed light on the localized dimensions of gun violence, highlighting how socio-economic, cultural, and demographic factors intertwine to influence the incidence and nature of gun-related incidents across different communities.

As an advocate for rational skepticism, Smith encourages stakeholders in the gun control debate to question assumptions and examine data meticulously, promoting a balanced and informed approach to policy formulation. His contributions extend beyond academia to influence public discourse, aiming to bridge the divide with reasoned argumentation and evidence-based conclusions.

Guy Smith’s work is characterized by his unwavering commitment to understanding the intricate dynamics of gun control, his dedication to fostering informed dialogue, and his influence on shaping policies that strive to address the root causes of gun violence while respecting individual freedoms.

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of Data-Driven Approach in Policy Making: Smith emphasizes the significance of relying on empirical data rather than ideology when forming policies, particularly in contentious areas like gun control. This underscores the broader principle that policies should be informed by evidence and rigorous analysis to effectively address societal issues.
  • Critical Thinking and Skepticism: The conversation highlights the value of critical thinking and skepticism, especially when confronted with sensationalized narratives or political propaganda. This approach is vital beyond gun policy debates, encouraging individuals to question and analyze information critically, irrespective of the topic.
  • Localized Nature of Gun Violence: Smith points out that gun violence in the U.S. is highly localized, with significant concentrations in specific counties. This suggests that broad, one-size-fits-all policies may not be as effective as targeted interventions addressing the unique conditions of these areas. This principle of localized intervention can apply to various public health and safety issues.
  • Impact of Social and Demographic Factors on Violence and Suicide Rates: The discussion reveals how factors like community social structures, demographic profiles, and even religious beliefs can influence rates of violence and suicide. This underscores the complexity of such issues and the need for multifaceted approaches that consider these underlying factors, applicable in various social science and public policy contexts. 

Favorite Guy Smith Quote

Guy Smith quote on critical thinking

“What I wish of any person in any field of political thinking is: be rationally skeptical. You don’t have to be a denier. You don’t have to be a disbeliever, you just have to go: What does the data really tell us?” – Guy Smith

This quote emphasizes the importance of rational skepticism in political and policy discussions, suggesting that one should critically evaluate data without necessarily being adversarial or dismissive. It advocates for an analytical approach to understanding complex issues, highlighting the value of questioning and analyzing data to form informed opinions. This perspective is relevant in an era where information can be overwhelming and biased, underscoring the need for discernment and evidence-based decision-making in public discourse.

Additional Resources

Final Thoughts

We gained profound insights into the complexities of gun control policy through the lens of Guy Smith’s extensive research and rational skepticism. We delved into the importance of data-driven decisions, the localized nature of gun violence, and the crucial role of societal factors in shaping policy outcomes. This conversation not only illuminated the nuanced debate around gun control but also underscored the value of questioning and analyzing information critically.

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Full Transcript of Our Conversation

Introduction: Guy Smith’s Background and the Gun Facts Project

00:00.00 – Brian Crane
Please welcome Guy Smith, a 25-year gun control policy researcher and the founder of the gun facts project. He’s also the author of guns in control has appeared on Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and is a frequent talk radio and podcast guest. Where he shares his team’s learnings from conducting database investigations into criminology, public safety and constitutional law the slogan for the gun facts project project is we are neither pro-gun nor anti-gun. We are pro math and “anti-bs” and guy personally is not a quote unquote. Member of any organization. Not every town is for gun safety. Not the second amendment foundation. Not the Brady campaign. Not even any political party someone once bought him a membership in the California rifle and pistol association and he immediately demanded to be removed from the membership roster. Let’s hear what the guy has to say, okay guy. Thank you for being here. Thank you. Yeah, thank you for telling me a little bit about your journey into starting gun facts I’ve read on your site.

01:00.77 – Guy
Great to be with you good morning.

01:10.97 – Brian Crane
What’s the impetus for your for your research here.

The Origins and Evolution of the Gun Facts Project

01:17.91 – Guy
Well, the impetus is twofold. I was raised in the family of engineers and scientists. My dad was one of McNamara’s whiz kids. I’ll give you an idea as to, how I was brought up particularly in terms of, you know, critical thinking and fidelity to scientific pursuits. So somewhere along the way I just started to get interested in the topic of gun violence and it happened one night when I was watching the evening news and whatever talking head was on that particular network said that we had this national epidemic of gun violence and in the town that I grew up in. You know, close to 20 years no one had ever been shot except for one woman and that was a crazed woman wielding a knife attacking a cop and the cop had to shoot her out of self-defense right away I was going. Okay, people are telling us this is a national epidemic. But. That doesn’t play true where I live. Why the difference? What explains? yeah this disconnect in perceptions. Well like in your rabbit hole once you start to dig into that one piece of data. You start to become overwhelmingly consumed by the topic and I would gather my notes together and ah you know, rapidly fell into this pattern of listening to the public discourse and saying no, that’s not right?

Now, you’ve got to get a better handle on the situation by putting all of this stuff into a cheat sheet and then one day I shared the cheat sheet with a friend and he echoed back and he said this is phenomenal. Do you mind if I share this with somebody I said go for it I don’t care and about a week later I’d gotten 5 inquiries from people I did not know who he did and they said hey can you put me on your distribution list I said I don’t have a distribution list but I guess I’ll start one then somebody said I don’t have Ms. Word. Can you do that in a pdf.

Well okay I’ll do it. Well, one thing led to another. 25 years of digging into the data and assembling in a way that not only shed new light on the subject but you know clarified ah routine issues that kept popping up in the public discourse but became valuable to people so I set the mission of. Let’s have a source that is not aligned with anybody for any reason and we will gladly take pot shots at program factions anti-gun factions and get the cleanest, most simple to understand information in front of the public.

Impact of Gun Facts on Public Discourse and Misinformation

04:05.63 – Guy
And in a nearly copyright free way. So that people can share it and actually have an informed discussion which up until we came along I don’t think was happening.

04:16.39 – Brian Crane
And when you look at what’s happened with gun facts in terms of how people have responded to it is there a sense of that like it’s worked like do you see that. Yeah, do you feel like your efforts have been worthwhile right?

So this started as ah I would say a hobby or an interest of yours. Not really a hobby but like you know it started here. You share with a friend that friend shares it with 5 you start the distribution list you continue to kind of like let’s say pull on a string.

Different pieces of the string leads different places for lack of a better analogy and now having been at this for 25 years and written 2 books on it in both in terms of I would say gun policy and criminology specifically and then also. In terms of the propaganda or the framing around gun policy. Do you feel like it’s been effective? Do you feel like a gun you know gun faxes hit its mark?

05:24.35 – Guy
I think it’s hit its mark , but it’s a siphon process. The people who are ideologically driven 1 way or another are never going to give up. Ah, they will find whatever propaganda means they have in order to try to achieve their end goals. Whatever those end goals are but I think we came along at the same time that the American public started to walk away. From the two major parties there is in America something called the walkaway movement and if you look at Gallup Polls trending chart on party affiliation.

You’ll see that most Americans are like me. We don’t belong to a political party , and I think in terms of gun violence. A lot of people absorb things from gun facts and maybe other sources and they quickly come to the realization that a lot of the memes that they were hearing and still hearing just simply weren’t true and because of that they take a more educated and. Nuanced I’ll tell you one? Great example , my book that came out in 2020 guns in control. My favorite Amazon reader review and I don’t think I’m paraphrasing at all here.

He said, “I was in favor of gun control before I read this book. I’m in favor of gun control after I’ve read this book but Guy showed me that a couple of policy points that I was advocating weren’t going to have the effect that I thought they were going to have so now instead of fighting the fight for this issue I’m going to spend all my time fighting the fight for this issue.”

And yeah, that’s fair dinkum. You know he read, he absorbed, he understood. He still is an advocate but he’s now an informed advocate and he’s yeah, not going to denigrate his side by, you know, chasing white elephants. That’s a mixed metaphor. But yeah.

07:27.18 – Brian Crane
Yeah, yeah no I get it, yeah I read that review on Amazon as ah in terms of doing show prep. So yeah, what is it that you are not affiliated with a party of this sort of walkaway movement?

07:29.28 – Guy
I think it comes across.

07:45.21 – Brian Crane
One of the things I asked you in the lead up to the show was about this. I would like to hear your data analysis on this but this increase in skepticism in particular towards the federal government.

That started in let’s say the Clinton years and was in my understanding centered around Ruby Ridge and then Waco and led into the Oklahoma city bombings or bombing I should say and so in the 90 s this belief that. You know the centralized power didn’t have your and my best interest at heart also potentially to the start of the walkaway movement or just a general saying like I’m not republican I’m not democrat and are the 2 correlated is there is that about the same time to both. That they kicked off.

08:41.91 – Guy
Well, they did but the secret sauce is the internet as a backstory I spent all of my formal career in the high-tech industry not to sound like I’m bragging but my first job out of college was writing software at Kennedy Space Center so I was into it up to here. , the internet started to become commercialized in the 1990 s this allowed the free sharing of information between individuals you no longer went through gatekeepers in the mainstream media. .

09:08.90 – Brian Crane
And

09:19.12 – Guy
There’s always been tight coordination between the mainstream media people in politics and the political media complex. It’s been named. There’s even a Wikipedia web page on that. , and so the fifth estate took.

09:31.13 – Brian Crane
Political media complexes.

09:36.51 – Guy
Yeah, the fifth estate we the hoi polloi have taken over the narrative from the fourth estate and it’s through the sharing of data and repetitious exposure of the propagandist and how they work. that has led some people. You know, to this state of disenchantment where they don’t believe any of the elites in power and yeah that that generally is a healthy thing. I may have helped accelerate it. I wrote a book a long time ago called shooting the bull which basically just looked at the misinformation in. Gun control. arena but what that book was was it was actually a tutorial on how to do propaganda analysis in real time and the fact that I wrote a book on propaganda analysis and didn’t tell anyone it was a book on propaganda analysis was. Probably in its own way a bit of propaganda but , the whole point was I was part of that internet based ah movement which said we have to be skeptical and critical about everything we’re being told because we’re often not being told the truth.

10:52.43 – Brian Crane
And you were learning. Also I think at the time you’re like okay cool you’re getting connected whether the person is in North Carolina, North Dakota, or Northern California like there is, there’s a sense that like popcorn were these different.

11:10.41 – Brian Crane
Yeah, people are people who are waking up and and and they’re able to connect online and find Kindred Souls Let’s say and and not feel so isolated in their skepticism towards. yeah towards ah towards some of the narratives that they’re that they’re being fed. That’s a bad Mary. With me so when you look at the yeah when you look at Gun Policy Now what is your ideal state like what is the or what? what? What? Yeah if you were made a benevolent dictator. How would you like it? Architect gun policy.

11:50.28 – Guy
Well I wouldn’t , we at gun facts are rather an odd duck in that we almost never talk about policy. Ah, we don’t advocate one way or the other. We don’t say that this is great or this is bad. The closest we ever come is we say what you’re proposing probably isn’t going to work the way that you think it will. Here’s the data that indicates that . What I will say is after 25 years of grinding through the data and criminologists have identified this as well. , the fact is that in the United States at least gun violence is extremely localized. . We at the end of last year did a major research project. We studied gun violence down to the county level. We tested against 24 different variables. , and what you see right? off the top is that 25% of gun homicides in this country. Occur in just 15 one 5 counties we have over 3100 counties in this country in any given year about half of the counties have no gun homicides whatsoever now granted a lot of those counties you know are basically empty. They have more cattle than they have people.

But it still goes to show that most of the country is violence free 15 counties account for a quarter of all the gun violence. So from a policy standpoint what I would say is this is what we need to pay attention to in terms of gun homicides.

13:34.79 – Brian Crane
So yeah.

13:39.00 – Guy
What makes these 15 counties different and we tested against those 24 variables and what we found was that all of these countries have high street gang participation rates and all of these countries have substandard police staffing. So there aren’t as many patrol officers on the street as a side effect of understaffing both patrol officers and detectives. They also have extremely low homicide clearance rates which means they never figure out who pulled the trigger. They don’t even develop a lead suspect. So those 2 factors are a lot of street gangs. Very little policing cause 15 counties to just become war zones and it’s always the same culprit year after year Cook County Chicago Illinois Houston Texas Los Angeles south central then when you zoom in on these counties and you you know, try to develop a homicide heat map what you discover is that it’s concentrated still further so concentrated first into 15 violent counties and inside of each of these 15 violent counties. Very specific small neighborhoods where the killing happens every single day. So if politicians actually gave a damn about poor people of color. They would be staffing police and staffing courts and trying to get you to know these?

Predators off of the streets and save the innocent people who are just trying to get through the day alive in those neighborhoods but the fact is that politicians only care about poor people of color at election time because the only thing a poor person can give them is their vote.

15:20.52 – Brian Crane
Yeah.

15:25.87 – Guy
And after the election is over. They go back to hobnobbing with you know the rich people who finance their election until that mindset changes until the mothers and the fathers in these poor neighborhoods go and stand on people’s desks and scream in their faces until they get adequate policing.

15:45.90 – Brian Crane
And you want to talk briefly about the s mer of Floyd Let’s say and the response there as far as yeah, the even further staffing of policing or even the narrative around police being so negative that recruitment.

15:45.17 – Guy
It’s not going to change.

16:04.62 – Brian Crane
And a lot of these cities probably dried up in response to the vlm riots.

16:11.47 – Guy
There was a lot of questioning whether it was intentional or a side effect. I have it right under my left hand. I have two criminology papers I’ve read but I haven’t distilled the content for the website yet. But. Both of them study what they call either the Ferguson effect or the Minneapolis effect and it’s basically saying what happens when there are fewer police on the street during Twenty We had the George Floyd riots so there was more activity on the street. But we also had covid and a lot of police officers pulled back from the public not because of the riots but because they were under orders not to engage people unnecessarily to help prevent the spread of covid. We can debate whether that was rational policy or not but a lot of officers pulled back because of that then there’s this general and rather weird ah statements being made by people that you know cops are evil we need to defund the police blah blah blah. A lot of police became demoralized and so even if they stayed on the force they weren’t you know going to stick their necks out in certain situations. Well anyway, these 2 academic papers. Ah both measured the rate of increase of violence.

17:30.19 – Brian Crane
And

Analyzing the Role of Street Gangs in Gun Violence

17:38.40 – Guy
Vis-a-vis the rate of police pullback and the cause and effect of statistically speaking was significant may not be the only cause but the fact is that when police pull back out of the public. This allows people who have. Criminal ways criminal intent criminal lifestyles if you will to be out on the streets and doing their business 1 Interesting a bit of data which has been popping up on my radar screen a lot lately is that of street gangs. Are notorious for public crime. There’s gun violence of all sorts of varieties but street gangs do all of their business out in public whether it’s stealing drugs or whether it’s shooting Rival Gang members. So when you take the police off of the streets and out of the patrol Cars. Street Gang members have absolutely no fear of being caught, apprehended, charged , thrown into prison and so when the policing is low the gang activity in public is high.

18:41.58 – Brian Crane
And and and is there a distinction. Yeah, when you talk about gun violence and you’re talking about these street gangs I’m ass ing and this might be wrong I’m ass in that they. Acquired The weapons acquired the guns illegally to begin with right? These are not legally possessed guns that they’re using in their lives in their crimes.

19:10.20 – Guy
That’s correct, a bureau of justice statistics about every decade does a study and to find out where crime guns came from last one they did was in 162 so I’m looking forward to 2026? , in that. They discovered that a rock bottom minimum of 43% of crime guns come from street sources not from gun shows not from retail not from buying it. You know through a straw man purchase they came from street sources another 17% which makes the math handy. , come from what euphemistically called other sources. But you know this includes things like a different criminal brought the gun to the scene and then the perpetrator who actually pulled the trigger used his buddies’ gun something like that. So between the 2 ah, that’s ah, 60% right? The number of crime guns coming from completely unreliable sources contrasts this with 10% of crime guns coming from retail and that includes pawn shops and gun shows. .

20:21.83 – Brian Crane
So?

20:25.80 – Guy
So we see right off the bat this huge disparity this many from you know what we can regulate this many from what we can not regulate so from a policy standpoint the interval. Yeah, go ahead.

20:35.22 – Brian Crane
So where does it go, where does the other 30% yeah where does the other 30% go and what if you’ve got 10 percent that come from retail and 60 from. yeah, these other 2 these 2 sources go ahead.

20:43.41 – Guy
Yeah, yeah, the next big bucket is 27% and it’s what’s called personal transfers and this does include a lot of different things which unfortunately there’s not a good statistical breakdown. This includes people who did legal sales but the gun ended up being sold to somebody who was legal to own one but then committed a crime probably a small number this includes straw men’s sales which is a known felonious activity. Ah, this also includes wink nudge. You know we’re going to give Vinny a gun. We know he’s not allowed to own one but you know he ticked off some people with a mob and he needs some protection. You know that kind of thing. Ah so 27% come from people- to- people transfers. , but there’s some unknown. Portions of that which are known felonious activities and that is a piece of data I would love to have cannot find it anywhere. I don’t think it’s remotely possible to study that without just you know some criminologists receiving a huge grant from somebody I mean this.

21:42.37 – Brian Crane
And

21:59.00 – Guy
Quite seriously is probably a three quarter of a million dollar study.

22:01.82 – Brian Crane
Yeah, okay, yeah, and so then so yeah, so let’s see that I don’t know maybe one one out of 10 or 3 out of 10 are from. Either nominally legal sources or nominally nominally legal sources is that a fair assumption somewhere between 1 and 3 out of 10 or.

22:28.43 – Guy
Yeah, well, we’ll say on the high end between the twenty seven and ten percent ah on the high end 37% either come from legal sources or personal transfers some of which may be legal.

22:44.21 – Brian Crane
Yeah, okay, so then when gun control is talked about, how do I say this in a nonjudgmental way? But when you have a discussion that’s taking place. And you see the imagery or the yeah the numbers that are given around advocating for gun control and the story that’s told let’s say that it’s . Like the family in Missouri who is standing on their front porch during the riots and that one of them was holding ah an ar fifteen and they’re painted as this you know somebody to be demonized like what what is what? what? what? What did I do? what? What’s the difference between the 2 like what’s the demographics if it’s race based? If it’s also income based like who is actually committing a lot of the crimes and how does that square with the narrative of who gun control advocates are supposedly going after.

23:52.26 – Guy
Right? That is an interesting and tricky question but there are some clean answers to it. , you can go to the center for disease control and see who gets shot. Ah, this is oddly enough more reliable than trying to ask who did the shooting because a lot of murders just simply go unsolved but we can tell you who’s lying on the slab in the coroner’s office. , and what you see is that there are outrageous skewings. Ah, between urbanization, race and age that tweaked my interest a long time ago because way back in the early part of this century. The federal government had created the National Gang Center and they spent a lot of time studying. What are street gangs who are in them? Why they do what they do blah blah blah and they had demographic profiles of your typical street gang members and so I took each of those variables and I said okay we know from the data that. Ah, for example, white people mainly kill white people black people mainly kill black people. Hispanics mainly kill Hispanics. So as a proxy we’re going to look at who died and map it against these street gang profiles and we were going to ask you know you know is there some sort of.

Rational correlation here and what you see from the chart and we’ve got 1 beautiful chart up on our site is that if you are between the ages of 14 and 24 and you’re african american and you live in a city. Your odds of getting shot are miles above everybody else. So while we were doing this research we said okay we know a lot about gangs. How can we? you know, find adjunct measures. Well. There was a documentary that talked about just the war between these crypts and the bloods which started way back in the 1980 s out in Los Angeles in the 30 year war between just those 2 gangs they estimate that there have been about. 15000 murders to give you perspective about this during the entire 20 year afghan war we lost 2400 service members 2400 versus 15000 .

26:32.72 – Brian Crane
Just between 2 gangs and one city.

26:35.39 – Guy
So this gives you an idea. Well no two these gangs are now national so you know they’re racking up points in every big city but just those 2 gangs and keep in mind that there are plenty of gangs. , and you will see.

26:39.98 – Brian Crane
And

26:53.90 – Guy
That there’s higher rates among young Male Urban Hispanics Young Male Urban whites even though demographically that’s a small number. , and so the correlation between the gun homicides and gang activity ah seems to be . Yeah, high order of magnitude I don’t recall our calculations but using an R squared correlation measure I think we came up with the idea that you know you could explain about 85% of Gun homicides just on St Street gangs.

27:29.99 – Brian Crane
You may be okay, wow yeah, you touched on something on gun facts that I was reading earlier and it’s also in line with that forty if you’re 14 and 24 and you’re black and you live in a city. I don’t know what the order of magnitude is but you’re much higher at , your risk your risk is a much higher to be shot the one that I read about on gun facts I’d like you to talk about is this children and guns narrative and that. That is also one where how people like define child number 1 whether it’s ah from birth to 17 or birth to 13 and then you have teenagers and then also ah where the teenager or where the where the child lives and their race. , that those 3 factors alone really really influence. , yeah, that they change the outcome of that statement and that saying like I try to remember the exact phrase I think it’s that children. Yeah, if you’re a child in the Us. . You’re what fills me in on this your biggest risk to your safety is a gun I don’t know how to phrase it but something along those lines.

28:48.46 – Guy
Hey they’re saying incorrectly that guns are the leading killer of children in America , here’s.

28:57.44 – Brian Crane
Thank you? yeah.

29:01.97 – Guy
And this particular meaning ticks me off in ways that I’m rarely ticked off in both the criminology and the epidemiology field. There is a clear and bright dividing line between children, people who have yet to reach puberty and teenagers. And there’s really good reasons for having that bright line because anyone who has had teenage children Underfoot will tell you that they are occasionally caustic Antagonistic and uncivilized Beings. And that’s part of being a teenager that’s part of growing up. , so the behavior patterns of children who mainly stay at home who mainly stay in their own little tight neighborhood and who haven’t been exposed to you know some of the horrors of the world and aren’t. You know, pushing the envelope and challenging parental Authority they are much different than teenagers and you take a child who grows up in the inner City in tough neighborhoods where trust basically is 0 between anybody about anything. Ah, there was a wonderful paper called a heaven of our own which you know delved into Inner-city ah psychology and one of the statements in there was if you live in this neighborhood. Everyone rips off everyone else so you take a child you raise them in that kind of environment and they become a teenager.

They may not have a father figure. He may be dead from gang violence. He may be in prison, etc, etc. And you now have fraternity with other males in a street gang. Your path into a violent lifestyle is almost predestined. . So we have to treat children and teenagers as different elements and we have a chart ah in the page titled children and guns which maps out gun and non-gun death rates for all ages except for 0 through 1 .

And it shows that up until age 14 Basically no one dies from guns here in America in terms of accidental gun deaths. The gun death rate for children is one child per state per year. So about 50

31:21.65 – Brian Crane
And

31:25.57 – Guy
Children accidentally die from guns every year for a population of over 350000000 that’s that’s so low. It’s not even statistical noise. It is functionally 0 you get up to age 14 and above and suddenly that curve for gun deaths goes way up and. It’s all highly urban and it’s all highly race-based and it’s all highly associated with low income.

31:52.47 – Brian Crane
Yeah, yeah, and and yeah and I think that that’s what’s upsetting to me is that I think it’s disingenuous when I hear phrases. about that we’re passing this legislation for the kids. , or that you know 1 death is one too many and it’s sort of like it’s very emotion-based as opposed to fact-based or reason-based can you talk a little bit about.

Ah, you have a background in psychology and I think sociology as Well. At least in terms of your understanding of both whether or not you studied them I don’t know but this emotion based yeah emotion-based policy narratives. Versus fact-based policy narratives and what I mean by that is that immediately following a horrific shooting that’s on the news that the politicians have latched onto for lack of a better way to put it. It is emotion-based. Push for some sort of gun control now whether that gun control actually deals with the heinous act that they claim to be trying to stop is I would say pretty negligible but yeah. Yeah, what? what is going on with this like this emotion-based policy narrative versus a reasoned or a fact-based approach to some of these things.

33:25.48 – Guy
Well in my book shooting the bull where we discuss propaganda techniques the very first one was the lie of fear. Fear is an interesting topic in a lot of ways and the reason that politicians like to use the lie of fear. Is that fear will push you past critical thinking and into action I mean when you are scared you want a solution and you want it yesterday and anything that sounds remotely plausible. what I call believable superstition. .

33:57.95 – Brian Crane
So.

34:01.62 – Guy
Is something that people will latch onto. Ah so if you’re in favor of gun control and something horrific happens in some little corner of the country. Ah and you can make people scared, you will get at least a few adherents ah to your policy. . But yeah, I know just to make sure that we play both sides of the street. I spend way too much time on Twitter and the pro pro-gun crowd there. , they always talk about the government taking your guns away which is also you know a fear tactic. Ah, maybe a legitimate one I don’t know. But , the fact is emotions cause people to take action in the short term, logic and reason cause people to not take action in the long term. And so if you’re a champion of reason and data and ah rational thinking and critical thinking. Yeah, you got to play the long game you got to just you know, wear down your opponent with Intel when I am on. One of the things I’m painfully aware of when I correct somebody is that I’m not going to change their mind and I’m not actually trying to change their mind but people watching that thread are going to see the hard data and they’re going to become rationally skeptical.

35:27.85 – Brian Crane
Yeah, yeah.

35:30.80 – Guy
And that’s what I would wish for any person in any field of political thinking to be rationally skeptical. You don’t have to be a denier. You don’t have to be a disbeliever, you just have to go. What does the data really tell us?

35:43.77 – Brian Crane
Yeah, that’s rational skepticism. Yeah I think it’s admirable to spread it. Let’s ah, let’s say right? like little seeds of it across Twitter on these ah these different threads. .

36:00.67 – Guy
Well and just just to tick somebody off a little bit. There’s a fellow by the name of Michael I don’t know if you’re familiar with him but he heads the skeptics society he has a podcast you know which is all about skeptical thinking. Well one day on Twitter he.

36:01.36 – Brian Crane
1 of the other topics you go to? yeah.

36:19.40 – Guy
He put up an anti-gun meme which just had really bad data and I couldn’t help myself and I replied and I said Michael you need to actually be skeptical. You know which was. Like twisting the knife in the wound and then I provided him with a link to my book. I said get me on your show. Let’s actually talk about the hard data zero response. So here’s a guy who professes to be a skeptic ah posting memes that are completely incorrect and he hasn’t taken the time to check.

36:40.15 – Brian Crane
Oh.

36:52.12 – Guy
Even the most basic facts and then when somebody says hey let’s have an ah adult discussion about this because I think you’re going off in a ah non-skeptical direction. Yeah, he doesn’t echo back. So even among people you know who.

37:09.62 – Guy
Present themselves as rational skeptical thinkers. You’re going to find chinks in the armor.

37:15.24 – Brian Crane
Yeah I think in his case it would be maybe intellectually honest if he messaged you privately and said hey I don’t want to have you on the show but he deletes the post or deletes the thing that was incorrect right? and at least acknowledges your effort.

37:28.15 – Guy
Them.

37:30.73 – Brian Crane
You know? Yeah, so what? What now?

37:33.00 – Guy
Well and that honesty is a big thing I mean there was a post that we did on Twitter one day and we fat fingered it. We didn’t present bad information. But we, you know, stated in such a way that caused a dozen people to think the wrong thing. We had the option of deleting that post to save embarrassment but we didn’t. We created a thread and we said wow we made a mistake by using sloppy language here’s the data more clearly explained this is what we were trying to communicate I would value people. Who leaves their post and then explains why the communication failed more than anything else. That is to me the height of integrity.

38:23.30 – Brian Crane
Yeah, yeah, then then then then as a community people can learn and they can see both sides of it right? , or all sides. Let’s say yeah yeah, and another area that you go into on gun facts I Found very interesting was around the.

De-institutionalization and Its Effects on Public Safety and Mass Shootings

38:29.90 – Guy
Yeah .

38:38.62 – Brian Crane
Think he used the term deinstitutionalization as far as mental Health care goes. Yeah I see you nodding and smiling at the denationalization coupled with this increase.

38:43.62 – Guy
Yeah.

38:52.99 – Brian Crane
Ah, use of what are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Ssris coupled with yeah, the werther effect for lack of a better way to put it which is this copycat phenomenon of school shootings. Do you want to talk about. How all these things inter interrelate from a data perspective.

39:18.30 – Guy
Yeah I will but I’ll put up a provaso in that there’s , ah data fragility in some places ah mass public shootings which has a strict definition of. Fourplus people killed not including the perpetrator in a public place in a single event. , those are very few. There’s 1 or 2 a year on average. , but they’re horrific and they’re frightening because you can’t prepare for that. You. We all know not to go to the Atm at 3 in the morning. We know where the sketchy neighborhoods are and we avoid them. We tend not to have mates who are, you know, gratuitously violent. , but we can’t control mass public shooters. Yeah that’s why they are scared. So anyway, back in the 1980 s I was so surprised to find this I found in academic papers the psychological community or the psychiatric community. Initiated deinstitutionalization which means that they felt a lot of people who are institutionalized think one flew over the cuckoo’s nest shouldn’t be there so that they would have better outcomes and better mental health.

Improvements if they were forced to stay in society and deal with the ebb and flow of daily life. I won’t second guess them on that it sounds intuitively reasonable. You know to keep people engaged with other people as part of therapy. . But all the people who want to blame it on 1 party or another or one politician or another get it wrong. It was the psych community who said let’s have fewer psychiatric beds and the politician said oh we can save a boatload of money by shutting down psychiatric beds here’s the scary data. From the early 1980 s to today we have shuddered about one third of the psychiatric beds in America all while the population was increasing . I failed to do the math when I was doing that but you know. We can come to the conclusion that effectively nearly half of the people who may have gotten treatment before are not getting the same kind of treatment. 1 of the reasons the psychiatric community thought they could do this. Is that in the early nineteen eighty s there were several new classes of Psychotropic Medications 1 of those being the ssris that you pointed out so their ideal stated too. Coarsely was.

Let’s send these people home with a pocket full of pills tell them to take their meds and tell them to show up for counseling once a week well people with mental health problems are not the most reliable h an beings the number 1 reason people stop taking psychotropic medications is that they simply don’t like the way it makes them feel. So this causes two problems: you have people with mental fragility who quit taking their meds, some of them cold turkey withdraw and the labels on ssris and other medications say whatever you do. Do not do a cold turkey withdrawal you have to taper off of your meds slowly here’s a scary bit col bine shooters basement tapes one of them 1 of the 2 perps clearly stated on the basement tape. That he was going to do a cold turkey withdrawal from his ssr I in order to amp up his rage on the day of the event. So. It’s back in the late 1990’s it was a well-known phenomenon and well known to the point that a mass murder. Used it as a tool to carry out his activities. So what we see with deinstitutionalization afterwards we see a rise in the homeless population and I really want to study this but finding quality data is tough.

And we also see a steady rise in mass public shootings now. This isn’t to say that deinstitutionalization alone is the cause of either of these but given a different study that we did the reported rates of adverse effects from. Psychotropic Medications according to an Fda database. , there’s a seventy plus percent correlation between the reported adverse effects from these medications and mass public shootings. . Now. There’s a lot of problems with the data. I would not want anyone to stake their reputation on that. But you see psychiatric beds go down, you see mass public shootings and homelessness go up even while the economy is booming. Ah, life in general becomes more meaningful and interesting. , and I have to believe that that’s contributory in at least a large way.

44:29.90 – Brian Crane
Excellent. Okay I mean tragic, excellent both excellent analysis and also a tragic story. I think that part of that story, part of that story which you touched on also, is if I’m. Yeah let’s ah, let’s see that I have mental mental health issues. I’m handed Ssris and there are few as far as I understand there are a few mechanisms by which to check that I actually. Like there’s nobody who comes around and checks on me. It’s sort of voluntary that I then go to ah counseling. It’s also voluntary that I continue to take the meds. It’s voluntary that I tell the truth let’s say to this ah to this counselor and there’s a.

If It’s a pendulum that swung from at a you know prior to one flew over the cuckoo’s nest to this person is clearly a danger to himself and other people and we are going to commit them. , maybe even involuntarily to We are now going to shutter. The entire apparatus, not just the beds but the entire apparatus around involuntary. , you know involuntarily committing somebody coupled with now we’re going to make it all voluntary that you do the prescribed treatment. Yeah, it seems like a recipe for disaster insofar as there’s just a tremendous amount of places for people to fall through the cracks in that sort of scenario.

46:09.53 – Guy
Yeah, if somebody is institutionalized and we won’t for the moment debate whether they should or shouldn’t be but if they are then you have daily 24 hour a day observations, supervision, etc et cetera I mean if you. Ah, remember the scene out of 1 flew over the cuckoo’s nest. The fellow walks up to the med window and nurses cratchit. You know, give him his meds and then say open your mouth and show me under your tongue and it goes like that to prove they actually swallowed the magnifications then. You know you have some degree of control over the situation by going home like you say it’s perfectly voluntary at that point. , you know the ability to fall through the cracks and then to do things that are ill-advised such as cold turkey withdrawals just goes.

47:06.46 – Brian Crane
Am yeah.

47:07.62 – Guy
Through the roof because there is no hands on supervising if you have a family member. You know who lives with you and will you know, prompt you and proctor you ah you know the chance of doing things correctly goes way up, but. We’ve seen at least a couple of mass shootings where people were under psychiatric care. , who had been prescribed medications who had family members and still carried out the act the most notable of recent history was the one in Nashville Tennessee. Ah, at the christian elementary school that person had talked to their counselor at her parents’ insistence the day before , so even though she wasn’t institutionalized and maybe should have been. They were at least trying to do as much hands-on work as they could , but this was the case of somebody who was enough off the rails that the psychiatrist in charge may have made a mistake by not insisting on institutionalization. And psychiatrists I think are a little bit like engineers. I have a phrase called the arrogance of engineers which is that they think they know a subject so well that you know they make just a pointless or well not pointless but incorrect.

Analysis because they’re so sure of what they know. Ah the Challenger space shuttle blew up because of the arrogance of engineers. I think psychiatrists may be the same way. They may see a person who really does need to be institutionalized but they are so.

48:44.38 – Brian Crane
And

48:57.37 – Guy
Deep into their own belief of their knowledge of the situation of psychiatric care of the efficacy of certain medications that they believe that they have it under control when it’s not.

49:12.12 – Brian Crane
How does that tie in with yeah for those who aren’t familiar before I ask this question so if one of the things that’s come out in some of these mass public shootings is mental health records. Being sealed off from the public or being sealed off from examination and it’s also something you talked about on gun facts which is some of these people who they never Yeahre there that their medical right is a very weird dynamic where like under. Medical privacy legislation I don’t know if it’s hipaa or something else. There is this tendency towards not allowing somebody’s medical history to be exposed to the public, maybe buried if there are some clues as to what happened or didn’t happen. We’re also going to. , so that’s sacrosanct. They’re medical history sacrosanct it also then kind of means that the psychiatrist is then not held to account because they’re not actually examined as far as what’s in that person’s file. Or at least not publicly examined. So how is it? Yeah, as somebody who looks at this is it possible. It’s a very leading question but is it possible. .

50:33.36 – Brian Crane
Yeah, what? What do you do around trying to actually get to the medical histories and the psychiatric files for some of this stuff so that you can get to the root of what’s happening here.

50:46.54 – Guy
Well, here’s a twofer. As a quick aside, there’s an organization called the violence project and they were kickstarter by the federal government if I remember. Because of their insane level of funding they have had unprecedented access to the background of mass Public shooters. They run into the same problem. Yeah, the laws prevent them from walking up and you know getting like the pharmaceutical history of a shooter. But they fly out and they talk to everyone who knows the shooter and so they pick up a lot of data on the side such as the parents of a shooter said. Oh yeah, he was taking this medication here’s the prescription slip you know so they get some data that way. It’s my personal belief and I won’t say this on behalf of gun facts. But it’s my personal belief that the laws need to change at least for mass Public shootings. But maybe even for all homicides. that the perpetrator’s criminal background. Medical Background psychological background pharmaceutical background all needs to become open sourced as part of due process. If you’re willing to kill a bunch of strangers in a public place. Yeah.

52:00.94 – Brian Crane
So you Forgo your privacy to have met into medical privacy. Yeah.

52:10.40 – Guy
Exactly and the constitution says you can be deprived of any right, including the right to continue breathing as long as you get due process and I think if you’re a mass public shooter either dead on the spot or convicting a court later we open source your Background. . And the reason I say that is that you can’t solve a problem unless you understand a problem and we can’t understand the problem unless we have all the information and so these laws do get in the way of perfecting our knowledge and thus finding solutions.

52:44.33 – Brian Crane
And so how does this impact legislation around red flag laws because that’s also partially what is brought up as one of the. Solutions and I want to use air quotes around that but solutions as far as keeping guns out of the hands of people who are deemed to be dangerous.

Exploring Solutions: The Efficacy of Red Flag Laws and Suicide Prevention

53:03.53 – Guy
Yeah I need to redo a study that we did when we looked at red flag laws but we did a time when there were only two states that had had red flag laws long enough for us to do a real before and after look at the data. Ah, those 2 states were Indiana and Connecticut. What we discovered was that red flag laws make absolutely no difference in terms of homicides and this kind of makes sense because people who commit homicides either do it as part of a criminal lifestyle. Or they do it very spontaneously. You know, kind of hot head moments. Very few people do a premeditated Agatha Criski kind of murder. , so the red flag laws don’t affect homicides whatsoever. We’ll cover our attention though. Was in indiana red flag laws made no difference in terms of suicides but in Connecticut they did and so we looked at the 2 laws and we said what’s happening what’s different well in Indiana cop comes takes your guns away and then he leaves.

54:01.00 – Brian Crane
And

54:13.68 – Guy
Well, if you’re having a mental health crisis or a substance abuse crisis and they take your guns away and you have suicidal ideation. You just find a different way to do it. Suffocation is the n ber 2 form of suicide in the country and it’s going up at a rate faster than gun suicides are going up. , so. In Indiana people keep killing themselves in Connecticut when the cop comes and takes your gun away. He gets to make a snap decision as to whether you’re having mental health or substance abuse issues and he gets to put you in the squad car and take you to the hospital. Where you get an immediate and I mean like within a couple of hours evaluation by a qualified medical professional in Connecticut half of the people if I remember the data correctly half the people who got taken to the hospital.

Cultural and Demographic Factors Influencing Gun Violence and Suicide Rates

55:05.78 – Guy
Got referred on for either psychiatric or substance abuse treatment think about that half of the people they took guns away from who had possible suicidal ideation were suddenly getting help of those people who got forwarded for help. If I remember correctly only 24% of them had ever had any kind of help before so in other words in Connecticut they did something very h an. They said you obviously need help. We’re going to get you some help and their suicide rate went down and it’s not because.

55:27.32 – Brian Crane
So.

55:42.34 – Guy
They took the guns away that was just kind of like a starting point. It’s because they got actual real treatment. So , red flag laws kind of get painted as you know? Ah, ah the godsend the mother low the the ultimate thing. But we’re talking about a fractional part of the society. We’re talking about one half of that the homicides being completely irrelevant and then the last part the suicides you got a factor in the handholding. Ah, otherwise you know it’s a meaningless gesture.

56:18.11 – Brian Crane
Yeah, it’s interesting. There’s 2 things that come up when you say that one is it’s red flag red flag laws rfls are not painted publicly speaking as a suicide prevention tool they’re painted as being. , past for stopping you know stopping homicides. Let’s say or yes, stopping violence and not and violence against other people is not necessarily violence against yourself. So it’s ah , they’re actually beneficial for stopping suicides insofar as there is also. Treatment recommended or perhaps forcibly given if the police officer makes a decision in Connecticut to put that person in the squad car and take them to a hospital ah that that flows out of it so there was another one on gun facts. That I was reading and I thought was super interesting which is also around suicide that is concentrations of highly catholic areas have a lower suicide gun suicide rate than other areas. You want to talk about that or how I butchered that one but I think you know which piece I’m going to start describing.

57:30.52 – Guy
Yeah, yeah, , I’m rarely surprised by data because I’ve been at this for so long but one day on Twitter ah, you know somebody had mentioned that Massachusetts had strict gun control and and. Low gun death rates I looked at the suicide data and I said well you know mainly they have lower suicide rates and yeah, we all know that due to substitution a means that yeah that gun laws are kind of irrelevant there and somebody else chimed in and said well yeah, but they’re also heavily catholic and it’s against the catechism and I went. Okay, I’ve been trying to study. What are the social psychology aspects to violence. But what are the social psychology aspects to suicide because attitudes toward suicide are radically different around the world. .

58:16.42 – Brian Crane
And

58:25.33 – Guy
Within inside of America are their pockets of different attitudes towards suicide. So I found reliable data sources that told me what percentage of each state were all the different religious denominations and it plays out mathematically that. If a state is hiring catholics or higher in eastern religions. Ah definitely higher in buddhist religions that the suicide rate is lower and it’s lower for whatever means whether it’s guns suffocationt etc et cetera. Well this got interesting because I spent 22 years in California in the San Francisco area during Gavin Newsom’s political ascendancy. Quick aside Gavin Newsom has only 2 talents one is propaganda and the other one’s being smug. . And he’s lousy and propaganda and he’s way too good at being smug. , so I went digging in and California is almost a model for low suicides based on social attributions the highest so gun suicide rate is among.

Old rural white males. Let me repeat that because it’s a phenomenal statement old men living in rural areas are most likely to shoot themselves of any other demographic. And it kind of makes sense if you’re old and your kids have moved off to the city. You’re socially isolated. Ah you lived a rural lifestyle so you’re probably not rich and you’re going through old age financial issues. You may have lost your spouse, you may have some sort of. Hard illness or even a terminal illness and you’ve always had this stand on your own two feet mentality you’re going to check out and if you’ve owned guns your whole life. Well, that’s going to probably become your top choice because you know how they work, you know what they can do in California.

01:00:20.65 – Brian Crane
And

01:00:28.17 – Guy
Has near the bottom of the list of old people per capita for any other state near the bottom of the list for white people. Ah, as a State. For their cities make up most of their population. So they’re heavily Urban not rural and their rate of catholicism and Eastern religions is I believe the highest nearly the highest in the country So Demographically their suicide rate is real low.

01:00:56.50 – Brian Crane
And

01:01:01.61 – Guy
Just because of social functions and demographics. But if you hear Gavin Newsom right yeah you know he goes well we have the fewest gun stuff gun death rates but that includes suicides. When I did that same study I said okay, well let’s just see.

01:01:03.21 – Brian Crane
Not because of gun control laws.

01:01:20.51 – Guy
Who’s dying from gun homicides California is right in between so ah, right in between Kansas and Colorado in terms of gun homicide rates Colorado has lightweight gun control. Kansas they hand you an ar fifteen at the visitor center on the interstate when you come into town you know, but yet they’re all in this nice little tight cluster in terms of homicide rates. So you know if gun control laws by themselves were the issue. Then California would not be anywhere near Colorado and Kansas.

01:01:54.92 – Brian Crane
It’s fascinating. Yeah, you want to talk as well. I think these topics are super interesting. Let’s say the hidden hand of some of this data. You know the yeah the things that are unexplored are the things that.

The substructure of which is driving some of this when you look at yeah when you look in at the states and you look at different states is there 1 . Like is there is there a movement that you see whether it’s yeah whether it’s permitless carry whether it is , you have you have this divergence you have you have let’s say red states and blue states and red states going more in the favor of making constitutional carry or permitless carry and you have blue states which are. More in favor of passing gun control. You know, gun taxes different different types of gun control in different ways and formats like is there 1 policy that both sides would agree to that actually has a demonstrable effect as far as yeah, like.

Let’s say let’s see that we’re looking for a gun. We want to. We want to reduce gun violence now well let’s just say we want to reduce gun violence like what? what? What is a what? What is a policy that both sides should get behind?

01:03:27.96 – Guy
Bluntly speaking. It’s incarcerating bad actors. There is a beautiful chart up on gun facts and by the way for your listeners if you click on any chart on.

01:03:32.54 – Brian Crane
Okay, okay.

01:03:43.66 – Guy
Gun facts website. You’ll get a larger version of it and our copyright is that as long as you don’t change the graphic. You’re free to share it. So by all mea