Diane Sawyer, Rocket Scientist

I remember my first day of college biology class.  My professor, Doctor Claflin, said something about the scientific method that I shall never forget.  When publishing results from your experiments and your research, he said to always be respectful of the inquisitive nature of the scientific method.

He used to say of this process…:

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

And it was from that that I learned my respect for the rigorous inquiry of the Scentific Method.

Oh, no.  I’m indulging in satire again!  No, that wasn’t Dr. Claflin – who was a great professor and a scientist of the highest order.

No, it was this guy, referred to me by King Banaian.

And he claims that these bits of video “prove” that carry permit-holders “live in a dream world”; here’s the first one…:

,,,and here’s number two:

So let’s set our levels right here; because a couple of college students, and media dilettante Diane Sawyer, couldn’t quick-draw faster than a cop carrying out a CQB drill, concealed carry is worthless?

No – if you’ve taken any handgun training at all, you know that quick-draw shooting is very, very difficult.  And all the “controlled test” “tests” is quick-draw speed under stress.

In other words, it’s the wrong “experiment” to test the value of a concealed carry permit, since it introduces too many uncontrolled variables:

  • Invalid samples:  the test included only novice shooters; it should have included a broader sample, including people who’ve been practicing for a while.
  • Non-representative scenario:  The civilians – novices all – have to practice the difficult technique of a quick draw from concealment (even most cops never have to master it; they wear open holsters).  Also, the only scenario tested is the one that everyone recognizes as the worst possible case; having to draw against someone who’s already blazing away at you.
  • Faulty Assumptions: In the video, Diane Sawyer claims “these [novice shooters firing a few magazines at the range] have already received more training than is required in half of the states” that issue carry permits.  But the amount of training a state requires isn’t necessarily the same as the amount of training and practice a civilian has.
  • A conclusion in mind:  the ABC News piece clearly starts with the conclusion that “without police training, civilians with guns are nothing but Three Stooges cartoons waiting to happen” – and designs an “experiment” to prove it, notwithstanding that the “experiment” doesn’t represent the conditions the vast majority of civilians with permits encounter (see the three previous bullets).
  • UPDATE: Rigged Methodology!: The “experiment” is “controlled” only in the sense that the results are, if not rigged, at least very potentially set up to be easilyi rigged.  The “students” with the guns are always sitting in the same seat.  The “shooter” – always the same guy – knows, or could easily know, exactly where his resistance was coming from.  Leaving aside the notion that it’s cheating, it also invalidates the idea that we’re testing for ability to shoot under stress; for the “shooter”, it’s a rehearsed activity; a real mass-shooter also has to deal with stress and adrenaline when and if their plan gets derailed; the “shooter” in the “experiment” did not.

So it’s just plain bad “science”.  In fact, it’s not “science”, it’s journalists playing scientist.

But leave out all the bad science – the uncontrolled variables, the bad sample, bla bla bla.  Testing whether a person can respond while sitting in a room into which someone bursts, shooting, requiring one to come up shooting instantly – which, has happened – at Virginia Tech, for starters – is valid.  But it’s statistically a lot less likely than the scenarios that account for the vast majority of incidents to which concealed carry permittees must respond:

Being in a vulnerable position:  While street crime can hit like a bolt from the blue, an alert person usually picks up some clues that something is wrong (and the need to be very, very alert is a big part of all self-defense training, with or without firearms).  A car moving too slow, a couple of guys showing too much interest…you think, you try to evade the problem, you put your hand near your piece so you’re not “quick-drawing”, but pulling out a piece that’s ready to fire.

Having a situation rapidly but distinctly go south on you:  like, a confrontation with someone who’s drunk, or high, or mentally ill, that starts as a charged interaction and deteriorates.  Like this episode; the citizen has a few moments to plan, to decide, to put a hand in his pocket (if they have a pocket holster), to not need to quick draw. Or this one, where a citizen intervened in a brutal robbery, against a guy who pulled his pistol first.

As did this guy, in a similar situation:

Stressful?  Sure.  Impossible for a civilian?  Requiring police training?  I count the citizens 3-0 in these encounters.

On the scene of a mass shooting, but not the immediate target:  Of course, getting away is your best option – but this person, and this one, both of whom successfully resisted mass shooters (who then killed themselves) didn’t have that option.  The shooter at Virginia Tech shot up several classrooms full of kids; think someone in the second classroom didn’t have time to collect their thoughts and take a considered action, rather than quick-draw under pressure?  Think one of the teachers at the Red Lake Reservation School, watching as Jeff Weise bludgeoned his way through the locked door, didn’t have time to draw, aim, and set an ambush?

“But those are just anecdotal examples!”

Right.  And as such, they are every bit as valid, scientifically, as the Diane Sawyer piece  that the author mistakenly calls a “controlled experiment”.


“So what do we tell the guy with the blog article claiming that concealed carry is a fantasy?”

Great question.  What  do you tell an instant expert with junk science on their side in any part of life?

No, that’s a serious question.

UPDATE:  The theory that cops are vastly more adept or better-trained at responding to “bolt from the blue” violence took a bit of a ding today.

11 thoughts on “Diane Sawyer, Rocket Scientist

  1. I like the part where dude says his anecdotal evidence isn’t anecdotes, it’s ‘incomplete data sets’.

  2. In a real experiment one doesn’t draw conclusions from a single trial anyway. One needs enough trials to be able to assert that the conclusion is statistically significant. In this setting, using the same participants over and over would result in their learning how to react. If the point of the exercise is to demonstrate that training is necessary to achieve a high level of competence in a skill, doh! The classroom shooter is one of many scenarios, as Mitch points out. If the shooting began in an adjacent classroom, the armed student could easily prepare to take down the shooter as he returned to the hall. But Diane wouldn’t show us that because it wouldn’t support her pre-determined conclusion. The computer people have a term to describe her method: GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out.

  3. In the first video, the attacker/instructor had a point-of-view camera on him and from the POV video, it’s clear that the A/I knew where the gun carrier was in the classroom, as he clearly singled him out instead of other students who were much closer targets. There was nothing random at all about that shooting; that student was set up for failure. Secondly, it’s pretty clear that the over-sized t-shirts were given to the students because they would cause difficulty with drawing a concealed weapon.

  4. One more thing to think about. In mass shootings where poloice showed up to stop the attacker, the average number of casualties is 14. In mass shootings when an armed citizen confronts the attacker, the average number of casualties is 2.5. As far as an armed citizen accidentally shooting an innocent bystander, that happens about 2 percent of the time, whereas police officers accidentally shoot innocent bystanders about 5 percent of the time in similar situations. I’m not knocking cops here, because clearly when they show up they don’t have the advantage of watching the incident unfold, whereas the armed citizen has that advantage and knows who the attacker is from the beginning.

  5. Fish: Yep. The more times I watch that video, the more it looks like it was set up as a CQB exercise, with the cop knowing who to shoot for.

    Which certainly brings a new meaning to the term “controlled experiment”.

  6. Like cropping photos and editing audio tapes, this is just another illustration of the lengths that the left wing ministry of propaganda will go to support their failed memes!

  7. Mitch, I don’t know how much you know about the set up for that “experiment”,but the student good guy not only always wore the oversize t-shirt, but they were also always seated in the same chair. The “bad guy” therefore could always identify his prime target thru either dress or location, in addition to his advantages in training and experience. Those of us in the gun community got laugh from this silliness.

  8. I’m not on the same page as the rest of you when it comes to guns, but I too deplore it when the news media types dummy up a mini reality show – and call it “science.” I saw the same – or a similar – episode while visiting my son in DC over the Christmas Holiday. We all laughed our heads off!

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