Thursday, January 22, 2015

Facebook Gun "Facts" Fact Checked

Facebook can be a wonderful thing. I have connected with family members I've never met, and found old friends. It is also a microcosm of our culture.
 Memes about every thing popular and every political issue flood the pages daily. With the frequency of mass murders rising the "facts" about guns have been flooding my page. I decided to do a little fact checking on some of the most common Facebook posts.
 For the record, I am a gun owner in favor of sensible gun laws.
Autor: Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
Which group of children, rural or urban, are more likely to die from gunshots?

  • According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children (defined as ages 0-19) in rural and urban areas are equally as likely to die by gunshot, with rates of 4 per 100,000 deaths and 4.6 deaths per 100,000, respectively.

Do the majority of Americans own guns?

  • No, in fact most studies (here and here) are showing fewer Americans own guns than in the past. It is true that there are many more guns, but they are concentrated in the minority of Americans who own guns.

Chart compiled by

Did Hitler ban guns in Germany?

  • Hitler actually liberalized gun laws when he came to power, allowing more citizens to own guns. In 1919, after World War I, guns were banned by the German government. In 1928 the "Law on Firearms and Ammunition" was passed. Germans were now allowed to own, transport, sell and manufacture guns if they had a permit, but this was strictly regulated. Hitler and the Nazi party took complete control of the German government in 1933.
  • The 1938  German gun law supported by Hitler actually expanded ownership to more German citizens by erasing the restrictions on all shotguns and rifles. Handguns still needed a permit to be bought or carried. The law allowed many more citizens to own guns than in the previous 19 years. If a citizen had a hunting permit, they were now allowed to carry a handgun. It lowered the gun ownership age from 20 to 18, and it expanded the life of a permit from one year to three years. In 1938, Hitler banned firearm ownership or manufacturing by Jews and other "undesirables". When Germany invaded a country, the citizens were ordered to turn over all weapons, as would be expected by an occupying army.

Does President Obama's gun control plan mandate registration of all guns or confiscation of them?

  • No. The president's plan calls for a mandatory background check on gun purchases. All information obtained by this check is required by law to be destroyed.
Does Chicago have the strictest gun laws in the country?

  • Chicago's laws are similar to other major cities. The Chicago gun ban was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2010. 

Is crime down in states with conceal-carry or open carry laws?

  • Yes. It is also down in states without conceal-carry laws.

Do states with that allow conceal-carry have lower crime rates then states that don't?

  • No. One study that found a positive correlation between the two, the John Lott study, has been widely discredited. No other study has been able to replicate the results and in fact show no correlation between carrying guns and lower crime rates..

Is the U.K. violent crime rate 4 times higher than the U.S. crime rate?

  •  Since the U.K. includes simple assault, all sexual offenses and other crimes in its tabulation of violent crime that the U.S. doesn't include, it is not possible to compare the two.

Do gun sales pay the NRA leaders' salaries?

  •  No.The NRA does has a program with participating stores which lets a gun owner decide if he/she wants to "round up" the final price of a gun. This money goes to the NRA as a fundraiser. It is strictly voluntary.

Did a virulent anti-gun senator shoot an intruder?

  • Yes and no. The senator in question, Senator Soles of NC, did shoot an intruder. He was not anti-gun, though. He had previously received grades of A's and B's from the NRA.

Remember - just because it's on the internet doesn't make it true.

Working at a grain elevator

A typical old fashioned grain elevator
I am working at a grain elevator, and lately it has looked like Halloween, with grown men stepping from their trucks and carrying small buckets. If they were only in costume they would resemble children hoping for treats. Unlike the children's buckets on Halloween, the buckets the farmers carry hold grain, not sweets.

After a delayed planting due to a late spring snow and followed by weeks of heavy rains, the farmers are anxious to climb into their huge combines and harvest their summer's work. They meet in the scale room, joking with the workers who will test the moisture content of the grain. If the grain is too wet, the harvest must wait. If the grain is too dry, many bushels could be lost onto the ground.

Everyone in the building is anxious for the harvest rush; long hours lie ahead, with the future of the co-op intricately tied to the success or failure of our clients, the farmers. Their anticipation feeds into us and we too become restless, waiting for the grain trucks to begin their yearly parade across the scale which will determine their yield.

Let the harvest begin!

January weather in North Dakota

When I awoke this morning in my hometown of McClusky, ND, I saw that for the second time in two days there was a half-inch of ice coating the bottom seal of my bedroom window. Despite two electric heaters running constantly, my kitchen floor was frigid. I fired up my portable propane heater to take the chill out of my kitchen.
Ice forms on a weeping birch.
Copyright: Gable C Rhoads

Even though I had run my dog's tie-out cable under the front door into my entryway, the cold 25-below-zero temperature had crept up the steel cable and the clasp was frozen shut. I used a lighter to de-ice the clasp as the cold burned my fingers. My 110 pound German Shepherd wasted no time doing his business when he confronted the 25-below-zero temps and a wind chill of minus 50.

The school board had wisely decided to close the schools due to the extreme cold and icy roads so I dropped my son off at Grandpa's house. As I left for work at the local grain elevator, I heard a loud snap. It wasn't a gunshot -- just a tree cracking from the cold.

The wind howled between the buildings at work and I turned my face away to avoid the stabbing pain. I was unable to unlock the door with my thick work gloves on and after a few seconds of fumbling with the keys bare-handed, I retreated to my pick-up to warm my stiff fingers. My second attempt to unlock the door was successful despite my numb hands.

The talk around the coffee pot at work was all about the extreme cold. Whose tractors couldn't be started? Who spent the morning thawing water pipes? How will the cattle fare and how many calves may be lost? Will the deer and pheasant populations be decimated as much as they were during the last extreme cold snap two decades ago?

But the talk in rural North Dakota always turns to the future. This morning it turned to this coming weekend. It will be 30 degrees above zero - shirt-sleeve weather!

The differences in liberal and conservative brains


Is political affiliation determined by biology?

Since humans first walked upright, we have been disagreeing on how to hunt, how to raise our children, and who should be the tribal chieftain. The answer to how we identify with different political ideologies and different religious beliefs may be literally in our heads.
New scientific studies using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans reveal much of what we think is important politically may be greatly influenced by the physiology of our brains. Using these fMRI brain scans and observing what areas of the brain people used during stressful tests, researchers were able to predict what a person's political affiliation was with 71% accuracy.
With the new scientific discoveries, we may be some day be able to understand why some people seem to be ruled by fear, why some people seem to lack compassion for others, and why we all just can't seem to get along.
Remember, these people in these studies were self-identified as conservative and liberal, not Democratic or Republican. Not all conservatives are Republicans, and not all Liberals are Democrats.


How  does the amygdala influence political ideology?

The shaded area is the amygdala. It is part of the
 social brain which regulates fear
The amygdala consists of two almond shaped regions in each hemisphere of the brain. (Amygdala is Latin for almond.) The left amygdala is associated with cognitive thinking and the right amygdala is linked to a persons perceptions of fear and pleasure. The size of the amygdala is directly proportional to the amount of aggression in animals and humans. The larger the right amygdala, the more aggressive an individual is.
Scientists studying the brain found people who identified themselves as conservatives had a larger amygdala on the right side, the area of the brain which is associated with disgust and susceptibility to fear.
According to researcher Kanai of the Kanai/Colin Firth study (Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults, 2011), "Conservatives respond to threatening situations with more aggression than do liberals and are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions..."


Does size matter? (The amygdala's size, that is.)

Rose McDermott is one of the people who researched the link between a person's fear level and his political beliefs. The study revealed that people who identified themselves as more conservative tended to be more fearful and less tolerant of people who were of another race. They were also more tolerant of inequality, and reacted with more emotion when exposed to threatening pictures.
McDermott clarifies, "It's not that conservative people are more fearful, it's that fearful people are more conservative."
Is the larger size of the amygdala in self-identified conservatives responsible for this greater fear and xenophobia?


Which came first, the fear or the enlarged amygdala?

One researcher at the University of Exeter in the U.K,, Darren Schreiber believes that the size of one's amygdala may be related to one's life experiences. That is, experiencing fear and traumatic experiences may increase the size of the amygdala. If that is the case, having a larger amygdala may be the result of a person being fearful through some part of his life, probably childhood or young adulthood. The enlarged amygdala may be the symptom, not the cause.
If, on the other hand, the size of a person's amygdala is determined at birth, that means that life experiences and education will probably not affect a person's level of fear perception.
The exaggerated level of imagined threats may be why conservatives are big on defense, anti-immigration, anti-gun control, and anti-gay rights. Conservatives may see the world as a scary, threatening place, liberals not so much.


What influence does gray matter have on the thought processes?

Sagittal MRI slice with highlighting indicating
the location of the anterior cingulate cortex.
 Liberals have more gray matter.
Source: Geoff B Hal
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is one of the four main divisions of the cingulate cortex. The ACC performs many functions from regulating heart rate and blood pressure to regulating our conscious decisions regarding decision making, empathy, impulse control, and reward anticipation. During times of stress, the ACC regulates how much emotional arousal a person exhibits.
People who suffer from schizophrenia have abnormally functioning ACCs, and are unable to process the "importance" of information received by the brain. When all information is treated as equally important, rational thinking is impaired. Psychopaths in general have abnormally small ACCs.
During the fMRI study, participants who identified themselves as liberals had more gray matter in the ACC. It is theorized that the greater size of the ACC helps the individual to make calmer, more rational decisions in chaotic situations, and to be less aggressive. The liberals were more flexible and able to adapt when confronted with change in the experiments.

So, what does this all mean?

By analyzing the data, we can theorize that liberals are more likely to accept analytical data and scientific proof, and to reason problems out. Conservatives are more emotion based and more resistant to change, seemingly unshakeable in their beliefs.
Much more research is needed before we know if our political beliefs are formed early in our life, or if it is a physiological based ideology which cannot be changed. What scientists do know is that are brains change even tiny bits every time we do something active, be it thinking, reading, reading or exercising.
Is this why liberals tend to be more educated then their conservative counterparts? Or does education make people more liberal? Can a conservative's belief in a strict definition of morality and patriotism be related to their upbringings? With the advance of imaging machines which allow us to "peek" inside people's heads, we may someday know the answer.


Interesting Links

Do ultra - conservatives value beauty over brains?

Hillary Needs a Facelift?

Won't it be nice when the time comes when women won't be judged on their appearance, but on their abilities and accomplishments.
Hillary Clinton, our former Secretary of State, is still judged by her attractiveness even though she is an accomplished stateswoman.
During this year's CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) convention, a neanderthal interrupted Paul Begala, a CNN contributor and invited speaker. Begala had the perfect comeback when the man suggested Hillary Clinton get "a facelift". Begala quipped, "No, not get a facelift. She's not a Republican society lady, she's a real woman."
The "get a facelift" comment was very telling about what conservatives value in women. It didn't matter that Hillary is much admired in the US and around the world; she is aging, so her value as a woman is diminishing in the eyes of many conservatives.

What Conservatives Seem to Value in Women

If you watch Fox News it doesn't take long to notice that conservatives value sexiness in their female counterparts.
Fox News has educated, well-spoken women commentators, and almost all wear short tight skirts and clingy shirts. There is nothing wrong with a woman being attractive and competent, but don't most women - excluding strippers and prostitutes - want to be recognized more for their abilities, not their bodies?
Really, how seriously would we take CNN if the male anchors were all chosen because they were hunky and wore tight pants and shirts? I personally would like to look at the men, but I couldn't take CNN's message seriously when they had to resort to sexiness over substance.
A Fox News Viewer's Opinion
I ran across this comment on Right Even some conservative women are questioning the women's appearance.

"As I've said before, I get irritated by the way women are portrayed on FOX. It seems like a channel for dirty old geezers to me. Otherwise they would not gussy up their women like Barbie Dolls. The thing is, they are all very attractive, without having to show so much skin, and without the gallons of make-up. It really diminishes them, IMO. It's hard to take them seriously. Not only that, most look like they are about 25 years old. What is up with that?!"

Women Conservatives Adore

Conservatives adore Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin. They are both strong women who have worked hard in their private lives. But would they have accomplished as much as they have if they didn't wear so much makeup and wear heels all the time? They seem to be the queens of silly soundbites, fearmongering, and "everybody picks on conservatives" whining.
Dan Quayle's political career was over after a few stupid political gaffes. But in conservative circles, Bachmann and Palin seem to be above their own outrageous gaffes. I know more than a few conservative men who adore these women because they are "hot." Funny, they never talk about how smart or capable Palin and Bachmann are.

Sex and Conservatives

All this conservative emphasis on sexiness makes me wonder why conservatives are so hung up on it. The women are supposed to be sexy and feminine, but not actual sexual beings. A woman can be eye candy to a man, but may not engage in sexual activity until marriage. Doesn't that make a woman a tease?
If a woman chooses to have sex she is a slut. If she gets pregnant, it is all her fault because she was a slut. But we will have to save sex and conservatives until another day, lest this short article becomes a 10,000 word essay

Hillary has Earned Her Wrinkles

It is time to value our female politicians on their abilities and brains - not just on how sexy they look in heels. I see the objectification of women as sex objects the rule for conservatives. Hopefully, some day they can have their own Hillary Clinton to admire.
Hillary may have earned her wrinkles in different ways than most women - Lord knows I'm sure Bill gave her many - but she wears them well, and she wears them proudly. We all should be accepting of the body that time, and life, has given us. Let us be real women, not plastic society women grasping at a lost youth.