Commas

Re the op-ed I mentioned in the previous post: what Freedman says about commas in the eighteenth century is obviously true, as even the quickest glance at any document from that era will confirm.  Here‘s a contemporary (1781) example having nothing to do with guns or the constitution.  I really hope the Supreme Court knows better than to heed comma placement.

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4 Responses to “Commas”

  1. Alex Says:

    A bit off topic, but in your opinion, does gun control increase/reduce/do nothing to crime rates? I know you are a mathematically inclined fellow; what do the statistics say?

  2. mrlauer Says:

    You know, I have very little idea what the statistics say about the effectiveness of gun control. I also have very little trust in anything I’ve ever seen on the subject; as you know it’s awfully easy to lie with statistics, even when you’re trying not to, and gun control seems to be one of those polarizing issues that biases everyone.

    That said, I distrust the arguments that more guns lead to less crime more than the pro-gun-control arguments. That’s based only on my observations of human nature and of actual guns. The argument that guns reduce crime relies on people being more competent under pressure, and possessed of more self-control, than I’ve generally seen in real life.

    Here‘s a particularly stupid, if not odious, example of guns-reduce-crime logic, in the specific context of Virginia Tech.

    Do you know of any studies that look reliable?

  3. Alex Says:

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10881&page=1

    This was the best I could find. I skimmed it, and I think their answer is “We don’t know! We need better data!”

    If that is the current best answer, it really should radically alter the public policy debate. But of course it won’t.

    It would be interesting (and perhaps the study did this) if the size of the effect could at least be bounded. Then at least we would know how loud to yell.

  4. mrlauer Says:

    I particularly like this:

    How many times each year do civilians use firearms defensively? The answers provided to this seemingly simple question have been confusing. Consider the findings from two of the most widely cited studies in the field: McDowall et al. (1998), using the data from 1992 and 1994 waves of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), found roughly 116,000 defensive gun uses per year, and Kleck and Gertz (1995), using data from the 1993 National Self-Defense Survey (NSDS), found around 2.5 million defensive gun uses each year.

    That’s a factor of twenty-two. FWIW, the higher estimate would be nearly one incident per one hundred people per year. Based on the number of people I’ve known (many of whom own guns, lots of guns in some cases) the number of years I’ve known them, and the number of incidents any of them have ever told me about (zero!), I find that prima facie unbelievable.

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