All too often, effective public discourse and debate on issues of great importance are frustrated by the knowledge, or lack thereof, by those advocating particular positions. With no real understanding of the facts or issues, these individuals or groups nevertheless form and express strong opinions on such matters, often calling for legislative change, boycotts or other action. Examples generally take the form of:
· The Uninformed Advocate, who lacking any real knowledge of the facts needed to form or support an opinion, nevertheless has strong ones and is prepared to share them freely; and
· The Misinformed Advocate, who bases opinions primarily on sound bites gleaned from the press and social media, but engages in no independent analysis or thought and enthusiastically adopts the opinions of others.
These first two are the natural prey of a more insidious form:
· The Unscrupulous Advocate, who has an agenda, and uses arguably true facts cherry-picked and presented out of context to support a position. The press and politicians often wear this hat, sometimes negligently, but often with intent. Special interest groups and advocates for particular causes do this frequently.
The goal of this website is to cut through the BS and present commentary, articles and links that provide actual facts relevant to an understanding of important issues. While not always possible, we will strive to achieve a relatively unbiased presentation. As Detective Joe Friday of Dragnet always said, we will stick to “Just the Facts, Ma’am” so that you have the information needed to develop informed opinions.
Did you catch that? We just played the role of the Unscrupulous Advocate and very likely made you a Misinformed Advocate if you were not already one. Keep reading because this is important and why this website exists.
Common knowledge, the link you followed to get here and the name of this web page all demonstrate the problem. Why is that? Because Detective Joe Friday never once uttered the words “Just the facts, Ma’am.”
A variation of that line actually was used in a 1953 audio spoof called St. George and the Dragonet by Stan Freberg. The record was so popular that it hit #1 on the Billboard Pop Chart and sold over 2 million copies. Freberg was asked to perform it on Ed Sullivan’s Talk of the Town Show and the shorthand version of the phrase became part of the popular lexicon attributed to the actual Dragnet television series. Joe Friday often told female witnesses something similar such as, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”, but the line everyone remembers developed from the Freberg spoof and was never once spoken in any of the 3 movies, 314 radio episodes or over 450 television episodes of Dragnet actually produced. Ironically, Freberg himself never used that precise line, but was so regularly misquoted that the version we now know became the popularly accepted one. A link to the actual lyrics will be found below.
And that really is the point of this website.
So much of what we think we know is simply wrong. Assumptions are made and sound bites accepted as gospel with no attempt to investigate or learn the actual facts. Elected officials and journalists who should know better are equally guilty despite having staffs to investigate the facts. Our lack of knowledge is relatively benign until we begin to demand significant actions or societal changes that impact others based upon our ignorance.
Such a cavalier approach is of no significant consequence when our erroneous assumption involves something like the lines spoken by a fictional TV character. But when it involves something like the rate of fire of semi-automatic firearms or how many are purchased at gun shows and that erroneous assumption is then used to demand or even worse to actually implement policy decisions, then some effort to verify the actual facts is in order.
Let’s look at one other example. If you were offered $100,000 to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, would you agree to do it? You probably answered, “No way!” But what if the plane was a small commuter jet sitting on the tarmac with the open door just 18 inches above the ground? The point is that you made an important decision without knowing the facts you needed to make that decision. Asking the right questions and doing a bit of investigation before making that decision could have made you $100,000 richer. Relying on assumptions cost you dearly.
We believe in providing backup documentation/data and crediting sources, so when reading commentary on these pages you may see links denoted in the following fashion [ . Clicking those links will take you to an internal or third-party page with additional information on the topic being discussed. As promised, the lyrics to St. George and the Dragonet may be found here: REF LINK]. Clicking on a red reference will open a pop up box with additional details similar to what you would find in a footnote.
With the example above as our inspiration, we will launch the site with facts about firearms, whether some models should be banned, whether more regulation is needed and related issues.
TOPIC #1: Gun Control
The ongoing debate over guns and gun control seems always to be driven by mass shootings; especially those happening in schools. With each new incident come calls for banning so-called “assault rifles” and for additional regulations requiring for example that background checks be performed on the sale of firearms at gun shows and by individuals. But what are the true facts and would such measures really make a difference sufficient to justify their regulatory and societal costs?
· Start HERE to take a short Survey testing your attitudes and knowledge about firearms
· Click HERE for facts about banning particular firearms like so-called “assault rifles” including the AR-15
· Click HERE for facts about additional regulations like background checks at gun shows and for sales by private individuals
· Click HERE for facts about the gun violence "epidemic" and the actual numbers of gun homicides using 2016 as an example
Click HERE for some
arguably biased facts about
increasing the age requirement for purchasing firearms to 21
· Click HERE for some common sense suggestions that might actually reduce firearm fatalities
· Click HERE if you ever wondered just what Molon Labe means
Other links of potential interest regarding this issue including links to the datasets referenced in the articles above are:
The complete Mother Jones mass shootings dataset may be accessed or downloaded in various formats at the following link [REF LINK].
The FBI Crimes in the US (CIUS) data collection and analysis for 2016 is available here [REF LINK].
Most articles reporting the history of the AR-15 rifle have an editorial bias toward one side or the other of the gun debate. The least slanted history is probably the Wikipedia entry which can be found at this link [REF LINK].
The history of the AK-47 or Kalashnikov rifle has been reported by many sources. Among the best are this article [REF LINK] and the extensive Wikipedia entry on the Kalashnikov [REF LINK]. A full-length book tracing the history of the AK-47 and other modern “assault rifles” is The Gun by C.J. Chivers, published in 2010 and available through Amazon [REF LINK].
The U.S. Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions in the Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller are available here [REF LINK]. If the opinions are too overwhelming – no shame there; many lawyers find them daunting to read – Wikipedia has a good summary, although the impartiality of the article has been questioned [REF LINK].
TOPIC #2: Fair Debate
While actual facts are a critical predicate for sensible decision making, achieving consensus on the best [or even a workable] solution to any problem requires rational and honest discussion by proponents of the various positions. Unfortunately, that rarely happens as the more vocal and heavily invested fringe elements tend to hijack the debate while the more moderate majority remains silent. The consequence of that all too often is a failure of the participants to focus on the actual facts, the adoption of inconsistent or conflicting positions, or worse yet a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts to support a desired outcome. The result is that important problems are endlessly debated or mired in partisan bickering instead of being meaningfully discussed and debated to develop and agree upon workable solutions.
The linked article below does not even pretend to be an unbiased discussion of facts like those previously presented. It is in fact a rant.
· Click HERE for Thoughts on Fair Debate, Consistency and Hypocrisy
Stay tuned for more topics coming soon.
If you have something to say about this or any of the other subjects we discuss, please click below to…
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