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Tuesday, April 19

I'm too lazy to title this post

Some unconnected thoughts:

  1. Today I finished my last stack of grading for my last forced-labour TA assignment, hopefully ever. It's kind of a good feeling, but at the moment I'm more wound up about progress not made in my research.

  2. On that subject, I discovered yesterday that there are other universities that don't do the intendured-labour TA system, and instead actually use teaching assistantships as a way of paying students. This makes me rather more bitter about Case.

  3. More Case incompetence: My tuition is paid for out of a grant, but for entirely opaque reasons the part of the university that handles this money disburses it in monthly instalments, with the last instalment due at the end of May. Meanwhile, tuition was due in March, so I am considered to be in arrears to the university in spite of the university already having the money that will pay my tuition, and the registrar and bursar both knowing that my tuition is accounted for. As a result, there is a hold on my account, and I can't register for next semester without getting special dispensation.

  4. Some people have chalked 3,600 feet on the tarmac of the Case quad, as a protest against the 3,600 abortions that happen every day [I don't know if that statistic is in the US or worldwide]. The slogan is something to the effect of 3,600 abortions. 3,600 families affected. 3,600 feet. Is it just me, or is there a problem with these numbers? As in - how many feet does one fœtus have?
posted @ 11:31 AM -

Wednesday, April 13

Guns and crime

Inspired by an ongoing debate I'm having with a few friends, I have a challenge for my readers. Please show me any respectable statistical evidence either for or against the proposition that allowing private citizens to carry guns reduces the crime rate.

As a little background, I should say that I am agnostic on the matter. I grew up in a country that quite strictly limits people's right to carry weapons (technically I was breaking the law every time I went from kung fu training to the pub without taking my staff—a 6 foot pole that looks like it should hold curtains up—home first), now I live in a state that allows concealed carrying of small firearms, and I don't feel either more or less safe as a result. I choose not to carry a weapon primarily because I don't feel the need, and to some extent because I would be more afraid of it being used against me than reassured by its presence.

I find both sides of the right to bear arms debate pretty frustrating, because both sides seem to make up data, quote irrelevant statistics (important maxim: correlation does not imply causality) and use statistics without appropriate baselines. On the one hand I can see the logic of the argument that legal concealed carry would scare off assailants because a potential victim may turn out to be armed, but on the other hand I dislike the gun lobby for both spreading and exploiting fear. If I really felt the need to pack heat in order to feel safe, I would move to a different city at the drop of a hat.

Update: Vinay took me up in this challenge, and has assembled a collection of links about research on this issue. I have only skimmed it so far, but it does seem to support the proposition that the rate of gun ownership correlates with the rates of gun homicides and gun suicides. I'm inclined to dismiss the suicide point because I'm willing to bet that the overall suicide rate is not correlated, so this is just a shift in how people choose to shuffle off this mortal coil, but I'm less dismissive of the homicide points.
posted @ 12:16 PM -
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