It would appear we are at some sort of major crossroads in our country's history. For the better part of the last twenty years there has been a rather heated debate brewing regarding our handling of weapons (or, if you're liberal - our lack of handling weapons). For the most part there was often three sides to this debate - with a lot of people supporting that status quo, a good chunk supporting tightening regulations, and a good chunk supporting massive gun bans on many types of weapons and magazines. The fringe still seem to be "total ban of all weapons" though that position becomes less and less obscure as time goes on.
Now I'm going to desperately attempt to remove my bias from all of this as, after all, this article is largely about bias in the gun debate. However, I figure it's still worth openly stating my position (without a soapbox) briefly so the reader knows where I stand and can make their predictably terrible conspiracy theories afterward (or during).
Above all, I'm a scientist and believe that not only are data correlations and causations important, but they're also nuanced. For instance, if you look at something like, say, the unemployment rate of the last eight years under Obama you could make a fairly strong argument that more people are working. You'd be right. You'd also then assume that if unemployment is down then people are making plenty of money to feed their families. You'd be pretty wrong about that one - but only partially. You see, it's not enough to say "the economy is doing great" just by looking at one factor or the other. The housing market, inflation, fuel prices, cost of education, relative cost of living, a lot of things can be up or down and ten economists will give ten different grades for the economy at the exact same moment. In the truest sense of the words, all of them are both right and wrong. The Golden State Warriors played a game where they were badly out-rebounded, badly out-shot (look it up, its a word!), and turned the ball over more - and they won (primarily from getting to the free throw line). A week later they played one of their best games of the year and lost. Health is nuanced and has to be compared against a number of factors and before you say anything - there is no actual "score" to the economy. Not yet anyway.
So I can apply this to the gun debate by simply telling you that while yes, there is a direct correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths (seriously, look it up - so long as they are around, people die - if they are around less, people die less) there is also a direct correlation between the number of pirates in the Caribbean and global warming. You can also look that one up - its totally true. In the case of guns, just because deaths are down doesn't mean qualify of life is better. It doesn't mean people are less stressed, make more money, have better sex, and enjoy an ideal waistline. To put it quite simply - the data for all of these effects just isn't in yet.
Okay, that's enough about covering my ass when it comes to my position. Oh, my position! You wanted it. The data says reduce the amount of guns and we'll have less children dying. That's my position. When the data says otherwise, I'll gladly pick up an assault rifle. Until then, let's go with an enormous body of data from the rest of the developed world.
So the purpose of this study was to see if that claim about the amount of people pushing for "sensible gun reform" is hot air. You've heard it - 90% of Americans want it. I got news for you that you'll read below, this little study doesn't represent the American populace but that number was entirely too tidy for me not to investigate.
On to the data. So this is a rather crude experiment I considered during the filibuster but actually decided to act on when the House Democrats began their sit-in (critical, for those of you who think Bernie should be there - he's in the Senate, not the House, he can't stay there). So today, after exiting Chemistry class and reading up on what the world was talking about (I admittedly spent entirely too much time reading about the Derrick Rose trade to New York - which I'm stoked about!), I saw this was happening and decided to put together a quick research to cut out some factors and get to number crunching. Its worth pointing out that this dataset is only 186 tweets long and by no means has a margin for error within reason, especially as I did not do that much culling of demographics.
So the demographics. My methodology is laughably grade school but it was only mean to be a preliminary study. So first I took the total US population. Done. Then I looked up a Gallup Poll about the number of people that identify as Conservative, Moderate, Liberal - applied that to get each population from the total. Done. Then I found a Pew Research study concerning the amount of people from each demographic that use Twitter which produced a nice weighted average (or vote, if you will). The weighted average is meant to make up for the fact that only 10% of conservatives are active on Twitter while 25% of liberals are.
If you're a stats student (or scholar), please pick your drink up off the floor, stop cursing my insolence, and get a handle on yourself, man! Some things I am aware of (and I freely admit there is plenty I'm not) are a need to reduce my adjusted population to account for demographics (namely age) as well as the rather dubious honor of deciding what constituted a "liberal, moderate, or conservative" response. There's so much room for error it's laughable - but laughable would probably put me in the real of 10%. Again, if you're into stats that's a terrible number. But with this data, it's pretty irrelevant - and as I said it's preliminary. So suck it!
IF my numbers are off by a factor of 10% (and I doubt it's that much of a swing), then the absolute best number for pro-gun conservatives is 35.93%. That would put over two-thirds of the country in support of gun control. By power of deduction, you may have worked out then that the actual number that came up was 25.93% of people oppose gun control legislation.
Now this is a far cry from the number claimed (though if my margin of error is enforced the other way, it approaches 86%), but is it really? There are a large number of people in this country that are simply fed up. Even moderate responses (people more dissatisfied with the entire process and both parties) failed to make a considerable dent on the percentage and my thinking, as they weren't representative of the amount of moderates that claim to be on Twitter, is that moderates have joined the liberal fray when it comes to gun control.
What do you think? This whole thing is coming to a head, one way or the other. I have my money on the lefties moving the needle on this issue and the more the right fights it, the worse it will get for them longer-term. But we'll see it all play out 140 characters at a time.
Thanks for reading.