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How do we decrease gun-related deaths? Make it harder for 'high-risk' individuals to buy weapons.
It's not about what guns people have. It's who has them.
- The studies, conducted by researchers at Boston University, compared the efficacy of different types of gun laws across the U.S.
- The results showed that jurisdictions with a combination of laws that restrict who can buy guns experience relatively fewer gun-related deaths.
- President Donald Trump recently expressed support for expanding federal gun background checks, though it's unclear whether the Senate will pass any such legislation.
Homicides are lower in states where firearms laws restrict who can get guns, not what guns people can buy.
That's the takeaway of two 2019 studies from Boston University that used data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control to compare the efficacy of different types of state firearms laws. The most recent study, published in the Journal of Rural Health, examined whether "state firearm laws impact homicide rates differently in suburban and rural areas compared to large cities" in the U.S. A second study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on July 30, explored the relationship between firearm laws and gun-related deaths at the state level across all 50 U.S. states over 26 years.
Neither study showed that certain gun laws cause homicide rates to go down, but both revealed associations that point in the same direction: There are fewer gun-related deaths in places where it's harder for high-risk individuals to buy guns.
"Using completely different datasets, we've confirmed the same thing," Boston University (BU) School of Public Health researcher Michael Siegel told BU's The Brink. "The main lesson that comes out of this research is that we know which laws work. Despite the fact that opponents of gun regulation are saying, 'We don't know what's going on, it's mental health issues, it's these crazy people,' which doesn't lend itself to a solution — the truth is that we have a pretty good grasp at what's going on. People who shouldn't have access to guns are getting access."
The studies indicated that states with a combination of firearms laws see the fewest gun-related homicides.
"What surprised us the most was that in states that enacted a combination of universal background-check laws, laws prohibiting the sale of guns to people with violent misdemeanors, and concealed carry permit laws, the homicide rates were 35 percent lower than in states with none of those three kinds of laws," Siegel said. "The practice of keeping guns out of the hands of people who are at the greatest risk for violence — based on a history of violence — appears to be the most closely associated with decreased rates of firearm homicide."
Siegel's study also found that the efficacy of firearms laws seems to depend, in part, on location. For example, background checks seemed more effective at curbing gun-related deaths in urban areas, while misdemeanor laws seemed comparatively more effective in rural and suburban communities. But requiring gun owners to obtain a permit was associated with fewer homicides no matter the area.
"This is suggestive that applying a cluster of different types of state laws is necessary, because not every law will work the same for each local population," Siegel said.
Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have a… https://t.co/sPiAnbdoaK— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1565352202.0
Siegel suggested a general combination of firearms laws that he thinks might help reduce gun-related deaths in the U.S.
"I believe that the three most important things that lawmakers can do to reduce gun violence in their home states are to pass laws that: one, require universal background checks; two, prohibit gun purchase or possession by anyone with a history of violence, whether it be a felony or a misdemeanor; and three, provide a mechanism, called red flag laws, to address people who are at an extreme risk of committing violence, not only to other people but to themselves."
After the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump expressed support for expanding gun background checks and implementing so-called "red flag" laws, which can temporarily prevent individuals from buying guns if they're reported to authorities as dangerous.
.@SenateMajLdr McConnell stated the obvious yesterday and nothing more: there will be discussions. To get anything… https://t.co/pAkxNwNK5F— Chuck Schumer (@Chuck Schumer)1565366678.0
In February, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would extend federal background check laws to apply to private gun sales across all 50 states. Currently, some jurisdictions allow individuals to sell or gift guns to on another without conducting any type of background check. The new bill could close that gap, but it remains unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will pass it.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopefuls are generally united in their desire to expand federal background checks and ban so-called assault weapons. Only one of these would likely have a meaningful impact on gun violence in the U.S., according to Siegel.
"Although I completely understand the desire to ban assault weapons, I just don't see empirical evidence that such bans have any substantial impact on homicide rates," he said. "These bans are most often based on characteristics of guns that are not directly tied to their lethality. In contrast, requiring universal background checks in all 50 states could have a substantial impact on gun violence because it would essentially set a minimum standard across the nation — that standard being very simply that people purchasing a gun need to be checked to see if they have a history that puts them at high risk for violence."
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- Steven Pinker: Are guns to blame for America’s homicide rate? - Big Think ›
These alien-like creatures are virtually invisible in the deep sea.
- A team of marine biologists used nets to catch 16 species of deep-sea fish that have evolved the ability to be virtually invisible to prey and predators.
- "Ultra-black" skin seems to be an evolutionary adaptation that helps fish camouflage themselves in the deep sea, which is illuminated by bioluminescent organisms.
- There are likely more, and potentially much darker, ultra-black fish lurking deep in the ocean.
The Pacific blackdragon
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p>When researchers first saw the deep-sea species, it wasn't immediately obvious that their skin was ultra-black. Then, marine biologist Karen Osborn, a co-author on the new paper, noticed something strange about the photos she took of the fish.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I had tried to take pictures of deep-sea fish before and got nothing but these really horrible pictures, where you can't see any detail," Osborn told <em><a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">Wired</a></em>. "How is it that I can shine two strobe lights at them and all that light just disappears?"</p><p>After examining samples of fish skin under the microscope, the researchers discovered that the fish skin contains a layer of organelles called melanosomes, which contain melanin, the same pigment that gives color to human skin and hair. This layer of melanosomes absorbs most of the light that hits them.</p>
A crested bigscale
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"But what isn't absorbed side-scatters into the layer, and it's absorbed by the neighboring pigments that are all packed right up close to it," Osborn told <em>Wired</em>. "And so what they've done is create this super-efficient, very-little-material system where they can basically build a light trap with just the pigment particles and nothing else."</p><p>The result? Strange and terrifying deep-sea species, like the crested bigscale, fangtooth, and Pacific blackdragon, all of which appear in the deep sea as barely more than faint silhouettes.</p>
David Csepp, NMFS/AKFSC/ABL<p>But interestingly, this unique disappearing trick wasn't passed on to these species by a common ancestor. Rather, they each developed it independently. As such, the different species use their ultra-blackness for different purposes. For example, the threadfin dragonfish only has ultra-black skin during its adolescent years, when it's rather defenseless, as <em>Wired</em> <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">notes</a>.</p><p>Other fish—like the <a href="http://onebugaday.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-new-anglerfish-oneirodes-amaokai.html" target="_blank">oneirodes species</a>, which use bioluminescent lures to bait prey—probably evolved ultra-black skin to avoid reflecting the light their own bodies produce. Meanwhile, species like <em>C. acclinidens</em> only have ultra-black skin around their gut, possibly to hide light of bioluminescent fish they've eaten.</p><p>Given that these newly described species are just ones that this team found off the coast of California, there are likely many more, and possibly much darker, ultra-black fish swimming in the deep ocean. </p>
Using machine-learning technology, the genealogy company My Heritage enables users to animate static images of their relatives.
- Deep Nostalgia uses machine learning to animate static images.
- The AI can animate images by "looking" at a single facial image, and the animations include movements such as blinking, smiling and head tilting.
- As deepfake technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, some are concerned about how bad actors might abuse the technology to manipulate the pubic.
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But that's not to say the animations are perfect. As with most deep-fake technology, there's still an uncanny air to the images, with some of the facial movements appearing slightly unnatural. What's more, Deep Nostalgia is only able to create deepfakes of one person's face from the neck up, so you couldn't use it to animate group photos, or photos of people doing any sort of physical activity.</p>
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But for a free deep-fake service, Deep Nostalgia is pretty impressive, especially considering you can use it to create deepfakes of <em>any </em>face, human or not. </p>
How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?
- How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
- Who decides when it's time to abandon an idea and deem it wrong?
- Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
Plato used the allegory of the cave to explain that what humans see and experience is not the true reality.
Credit: Gothika via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0<p>When scientists and mathematicians use the term <em>Platonic worldview</em>, that's what they mean in general: The unbound capacity of reason to unlock the secrets of creation, one by one. Einstein, for one, was a believer, preaching the fundamental reasonableness of nature; no weird unexplainable stuff, like a god that plays dice—his tongue-in-cheek critique of the belief that the unpredictability of the quantum world was truly fundamental to nature and not just a shortcoming of our current understanding. Despite his strong belief in such underlying order, Einstein recognized the imperfection of human knowledge: "What I see of Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility." (Quoted by Dukas and Hoffmann in <em>Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives</em> (1979), 39.)</p> <p>Einstein embodies the tension between these two clashing worldviews, a tension that is still very much with us today: On the one hand, the Platonic ideology that the fundamental stuff of reality is logical and understandable to the human mind, and, on the other, the acknowledgment that our reasoning has limitations, that our tools have limitations and thus that to reach some sort of final or complete understanding of the material world is nothing but an impossible, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2JTGIA?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">semi-religious dream</a>.</p>