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anecdotal1As we work our way emotionally through the quagmire that is the 2nd Amendment, our discussions with friends and acquaintances, and strangers for that matter, devolves all to often in “evidence” for one position or another that is defined as anecdotal.

Anecdotal evidence is that which emanates from either word of mouth or from personal experience. It relates to an experience and is offered as “evidence” for a particular viewpoint or conclusion.

During the run-up to the election when we were discussing the GOP meme that the Democrats are instituting a welfare state wherein they gift folks with free stuff in return for power.  While checking out at the grocery store, the clerk related that she “knew” a woman who was on unemployment insurance and who said she had no intention of seeking a job until she had exhausted those benefits.

The point obviously was to the clerk that unemployment benefits help ensure that people will remain on the government dole rather than look for work. It is offered for that proposition. It of course is fallacious to come to that conclusion. We have no idea how representative that particular view-point is even if true. We have no statistical evidence that that is the case.

Similarly, during the gun debate, we are beginning to hear lots of anecdotal stories, mostly about how a gun “saved” some one. A Facebook connection of mine did so recently, apparently unhappy with my FB posts that were and are admittedly anti-gun. I have not minced words on the issue. Quite frankly I favor an amendment to the 2nd Amendment which severely limits weapons possession. The person who told me “her” story about guns told a compelling story of being confronted by a drunk who demanded entrance to their home after putting his car in a ditch. He threatened to come in even though he was assured that help had been called.

The shotgun her husband had behind the locked door was never used nor even made known to the drunk. He was taken away by police. But her point was that people need guns for self-protection. I certainly sympathize with the thought. It makes one feel safer to think one has a lethal weapon should anyone break down the door. But the story, which is offered as “evidence” that people need the right to have guns is quite obviously fallacious on its face.

No gun was needed in the incident. So the evidence fails.

But the story “sounds” authentic and it “sounds” persuasive.

She asks: What would you do? Have you ever faced this kind of terror?

Yes, in fact I have. I’ve had the unpleasantness of facing a group of young men and having to run for safety. When I lived in Detroit, I suffered more than one break-in. I had my car stolen. I walked down many a street where I recalled being taught to walk away from the storefronts and alley entrances and to stay near the street to avoid being pulled in. I recalled how my boss, an African-American lawyer of high repute, told me that when I drove home at night down a particular street, that if any man jumped out in front of the car, I should keep going, get home and then call the police. I am and was all too familiar with frightening and dangerous places and times.

Yet, I also had literally dozens of friends who worked in law enforcement from the average cop on the beat to deputy chiefs. I talked to homicide detectives and traded stories, and I spoke with untold numbers of investigators. The bottom line: People who keep guns for “self-protection” don’t often ever protect themselves or anyone else. Those guns get stolen, used upon themselves, or used by other family members or friends. There are much more subject to accidents involving those weapons.

Yes, in individual cases, guns have saved lives. That will always be true. But like in poker, in life you play the odds. Or at least you should if you are smart. The smart thing is not to have guns. Of course you will never convince someone who has been threatened that they should give up their weapon. I realize that. I am just trying explain that you need to realize that your conclusion is based on personal experience and not on the law of averages.

There are a boatload of anecdotal stories about how the immunization shots given regularly “cause” autism. You cannot convince thousands of mothers and dads that they don’t. But there is so far not one solid piece of scientific evidence that they do. Anecdotal evidence often carries the day, and for some people, depending on their personal relationship to the event, always will.

I’m just trying to establish a perspective is all. Realize that your emotions play a very big part in your conclusion, and that it may not reflect accurately at all the true nature of the world.

Nobody is going to end the 2nd Amendment any time soon. We are hoping to bring some measure of sanity to the activity of gun ownership in the same way that we license barbers. Is that too much to ask?