Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Defending My Decision to Not Own Guns

We have all met people who are afraid of flying. It can be scary, sure. But flying is safe. Really safe. Anyone who has given even a cursory glance at the statistics knows this. There are routinely more automobile deaths in South Carolina in a given year than there are airplane related deaths in the entire world. Yet, there are people who will still drive all the way across the country because flying is scary, even knowing these statistics. This is called the attentional fallacy. It's paying attention to emotionally-dominant stimuli rather than the actual facts and figures.

Recently, I was chided a bit by a friend for not owning a handgun with "what are you going to do if someone breaks down the door to your house and tries to harm your family?" The correct answer is, "that's probably not going to happen, but I guess the same thing I'm going to do if the wings to the airplane I'm flying in fall off. I guess I'm going to die." So why not own a gun? Because owning that gun carries a risk. Not owning a gun also carries a risk.

Per the FBI, the state I live in has a murder rate of .06 people per 10,000. The County I live in has a homicide rate of .03 per 10,000, half my state average. That means in any given year, my family and I have roughly a .0003% chance of being murdered. Not only is murder rare where I live, but almost 100% of them are drug-related. In addition, 84% of murders in my state occur between friends, family, acquaintances or lovers. That means the chance of some stranger kicking my door in to murder and rape my family is about 0.000252%. Could it happen? Yeah, it could, but it simply doesn't. Furthermore, even if someone broke into my house to rape and murder my family there's no guarantee owning a gun will prevent this attack.

So yes. There's some off-the-wall chance someone will kick in my door and rape and murder my family, but the chances are so low, it's not even on my risk radar.

Now to the risk of keeping a gun in my house. Children often accidentally shoot and kill themselves with their parents guns. Far more often than the phantom rape and murder home invasion scenario. According to the CDC, child death by gunfire is twenty times more likely in homes that own guns. There are some things you can do to mitigate that risk, like keeping your guns locked in a safe. Nonetheless, a gun sitting in a home is six times more likely to harm a member of that home than it is to harm an intruder. That means, strictly by the numbers, owning a firearm for home protection actually puts your family at more risk than not owning them.

That being said, I have no problem with people who own guns. I support the 2nd amendment and people's rights to own firearms. All that being stated, not everyone is fit to be a gun owner. I certainly am not fit to be a gun owner. I am forgetful and absent-minded. There have been many times when, I did own a gun, I would leave it lying around. I lose my keys like every other day because I'm not very good at routine things like putting my keys in the right place, or putting a gun in a safe. So when I had children who were capable of climbing and getting into my closet, knowing my tendencies for forgetfulness, and knowing the statistics on gun violence, I made the proper decision to get rid of my firearms.

That was the right call for me and my family. That doesn’t mean it's the right call for everyone. I have friends who are very responsible gun owners, much more so than I ever was. It could be that their decision to own gun is correct.  However, most people are not aware of the risks of gun ownership or just dismiss them completely because owning a gun "feels right" and home invasion is "scary." But again, attentional fallacy. Emotionally dominant stimuli often times "feels" right, but is in fact, wrong.

Ben Franklin once said, "the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math." On the same token, I think gun ownership in the US is a tax for people who do not understand statistics. And unfortunately they pay that tax with the blood of their children. So, that risk may be acceptable for some, but it's not for me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trump is a 2, 7 off-suit.

It's May 2016. I, like a lot of other Americans, are still in disbelief that Trump has carried the Republican nomination during this election cycle. It's true that most analysts said early on "Trump would never win the Republican nomination." That's because every single poll from the beginning of the election cycle had Trump faring the worst against either Sanders or Clinton in a general election forecast. Therefore, every political analyst reasoned there was no chance that voters would nominate Trump knowing he would crash and burn against the Democrat nominee in November. Yet they voted for him anyway, virtually guaranteeing a Democrat victory for 2016.

Neither Republicans or Democrats are immune to math and statistical probability. The numbers look bad for Trump. Really bad. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. His numbers have been atrocious since the beginning, and that did not affect Republican voters. It's clear that GOP supporters are sick and tired of the status quo, so in response they placed their chips on a losing bet.

Now I'm sure everyone reading has a passing familiarity with poker. Even if you don't you surely can understand that some hands are better than others. That does not guarantee the stronger hand will win. I'm sure we've all seen the World Poker Tour where a guy goes all in with only a 10% chance of winning, and then somehow gets lucky and pulls the one card he needs on the river. It happens. But it was still a stupid bet.

Trump is a stupid bet.

This is not new information. Cruz supporters, Rubio supporters, Bush supporters, Carson supporters, etc. have all begged and pleaded with the electorate not to vote for a guy who is going to get clobbered in the general election. GOP analysts, from the start, have pleaded with Republican voters, telling them "voting for Trump is guaranteeing a Democrat victory." The national Republican party has fought tooth and nail against Trump from the very start because they were well aware of just how abysmal his chances against Clinton or Sanders were.

This information has not bothered Trump supporters one bit. They've gone all-in with a 2, 7 off-suit. The odds are really bad. But, to hell with the odds! Trump all the way! They proudly proclaim that everyone underestimated Trump. But that's not so. No one underestimated Trump. What the political analysts did was way overestimate the competency and rationality of the Republican voter base. Sure they said "Trump would not win the GOP nomination" but what they were really saying is, "Republicans are smarter than to vote for a losing bet." They were wrong.

Republicans have voted to play 2, 7 off-suit and are loud and proud they have done so. Congratulations. In a sense you're right. No one thought you guys would actually vote to do something so unbelievably ill-advised. Yet you did. And now the polls are forecasting possibly the worst loss in a presidential election since 1988.

Now, all that being said, could Trump still win? Absolutely. A lot can happen between now and November, like an indictment, for example. There's a lot that could sway the election between now and then. But, that does not change the fact that Republicans voters made a bet they only had a 12.4% chance of winning. And now they have to hope and pray they hit that one river card, which has an 87% chance of not happening, and Clinton will be laughing all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.

Note: At the time of writing this blog post, every single election forecast has Clinton obliterating Trump in the general election. The most favorable poll to Trump (The Rothenberg & Gonzales poll) still has Trump behind Clinton by a whopping 60 electoral votes. There is a fair chance Trump could lose to Clinton by 256 electoral votes or more. My personal prediction is that Clinton will win by no less than 80 electoral votes and may win by as much as 300.