'Anti-Gun' Statistician Explains Why Gun Control Is Not the Answer
3 months of research caused Leah Libresco to change her views
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2017 2:48 PM CDT
With the US Capitol in the background, gun control advocates protest against the National Rifle Association outside of the hotel where the NRA was having a news conference in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(Newser) – Statistician and writer Leah Libresco used to yearn for what she once considered "common-sense gun-control reforms." Then she and her colleagues at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 gun deaths the US sees per year, and her whole perspective changed. The sad truth is that the broad policies many people call for, like "banning assault weapons," actually wouldn't save the vast majority of those people, she writes. In the Washington Post, she delves into specific reasons why—in the case of an assault-weapons ban, gun hobbyists can easily turn a semi-automatic into an assault weapon, while skilled shooters can change magazines so quickly that limiting them might be "meaningless." She also explains why it's actually not useful to compare US gun laws with the strictly tightened laws in Britain and Australia.

So what could work in the US? "Narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns." That means individualized attention, like identifying gang members for intervention, putting police priority on women who are endangered by specific men, or getting older men (who make up the biggest share of gun suicides) access to care and help. In the end, Libresco "was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners," she writes. "But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. ... We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves." Read her full column.

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