Why we disagree on guns

This is certainly a depressing chronicle of death and tragedy. But Rubio’s statement stands up to scrutiny — at least for the recent past, as he framed it.

Overall, the effects of Britain’s and Australia’s gun buybacks aren’t as clear as headlines after U.S. mass shootings suggest when urging U.S. officials to follow their lead. Some of the possible positive effects — in particular, a reduction in mass shootings — are hard to measure because the phenomenon itself is rare before and after. When it comes to gun homicides and suicides, neither reform has a clear, positive record.

“One basic problem with how we understand scary news is that our brains care a lot more about stories, and they do about statistics. We’re not very good at math, so we often judge the severity of a risk by how often we encounter it. That’s Bruce Schneier. He’s a security expert who’s written a lot about why our brains overreact to scary news stories. And those stories stick to us more than the data does. So we make risk decisions more based on the stories than the reality. So if we see a bunch of stories about shark attacks, we think shark attacks are common. If we see a story about a plane crash, we will overestimate the risks of flying. We don’t do this because we’re dumb. “It’s a basic psychological problem. News, by definition, is something that almost never happens. But that’s not the way our brains work. If it’s in the news, if it’s talked about, if we hear about it a lot, we confuse that with it being common. And you can see this problem most clearly when it comes to terrorism. The chances of you or someone, you know, dying from terrorism are virtually zero. Terrorism looks scary, but it kills a shockingly low number of Americans. You are way less likely to die from terrorism than you are from choking on food while watching TV also causes us to pursue security measures that sound good but don’t actually make us safer. And Schneier invented a term for it. He calls it security theater. Security theater is a security measure that looks good but doesn’t do anything. And they’re not going to make us safer. But they’re big, they’re public. And there’s a segment of the United States that is scared and sees those things and feels safer. It’s not just that these strategies don’t work. It’s that the opposite of the types of strategies that actually do make us safer if we actually want to be safer. Often the best things to do are the things that don’t make a splash.”



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