[ Question ]

Percent reduction of gun-related deaths by color of gun.

by Gunnar_Zarncke1 min read6th Aug 201911 comments


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A thought experiment: Assume all guns were pink by law tomorrow.

Would that have an impact on the number of gun-related deaths? What percentage?

Would it have an impact on the number of mass shootings?

This is not an actual policy suggestion, so the feasibility of such a policy is irrelevant. It is more a question of the psychological impact of the color on the behavior of gun users (otherwise the usage of the color pink stays the same). Choose other colors if that's relevant for your answer.

Disclaimer: This is not my idea and you can quickly find out who asked it on twitter, but there are no answers on twitter yet, so better google somewhere else (also to avoid politics the mind-killer). I will reveal the source of the question later in the comments.

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As promised: The question was originally posed by Scott Adams on Twitter.

10 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:32 AM
Assume all guns were pink by law tomorrow.

All guns, or all new guns made from here on out?

New guns, e.g. those newly produced or sold.

There are already more guns than people in the US. If it was only new guns, I don't expect anything to change.

To me that idea seems politically feasible in US states with democratic majorities. If you put it on the ballot in California I imagine that it would pass.

The US government could nearly implement this by mandating that military firearms be pink. That's perfectly within its purview. That's were the trend setting comes from. Not action movies, where many of the firearms are non-existent bodged together things, or where they're used in hilariously wrong ways.

I would expect an increase in police accidentally shooting children with toys, and children accidentally shooting each other with real guns. I'd also expect criminals to invest in black spray paint.

There are atleast 2 different effects. There is the effect of what the color of individual guns you handle are. And then there is the effect of knowing that guns are that color in general. I would guess that the "cultural impact" would be stronger and more effective. Having action stars hold pink guns would increase emotional dissonance atleast until the color association changes.

There are some guns which are naturally pink without legal coersion. Effect on their users would be less and probably the identity projection that they served before would be lessened.

I agree with this distinction. Thank you for pointing it out. One seems more immediate, the other more longer term.

What do you think about the magnitude of the effect?

I am assuming US context for the question. I don't have such a good model on how the american mindset works so to me I just spot qualititive differences and I would be out of my league to guess on quantity data.

If there was a baby that was hungry, did not have it's diaper changed and did not socially interact with adults all day asking whether we can effect the chances of crying by altering the properties of tears would be strange way to frame the problem. Yet it would make sense that the child should not learn that hissyfits are the effective way to get your needs taken care of. And I would still encourage parents to pay attention to the reason why the crying happens even if they "should not give in" to the crying rather than dismiss it as illegimate. And "stop the crying" should not be the main objective althought it might be the difference between the illusion of being an effective parent / happy child and needing to attend to reality.

America has much more stronger ideas that place responciblity for individuals to fix things and if you can't do this having a "loser" status is much more likely rather than being "left out" or "abandoned". As a "loser" it makes more sense to try to "win" via violence and in a society that genuinely doesn't support it's citizens it might make sense to treat the situation as an informal war. It's a balancing act how the roles of society and individuals are organized. It seems that an american citizen can respectably and publicically prepare to use lethal force or use it as a threat. Coloring the guns would change the "respectability" aspects of those mechanics and the important bit might be that gun usage would be assigned a "frowned upon" or "try to avoid but we are not outlawing it" status. There is also a strange "evil people are gonna evil" narrative when more of a "poor people are gonna desperate" is more popular elsewhere. So rather than trying to lessen direct violence situations the american mindset is more about doing it effectively and correctly and on the correct targets. It leads to a strange "semi-duel" situation to what my sensibilities are "where is the police, why isn't this resolved with litigation?". The "semi-duel" situation keeps legimate gun use close to illegimate gun use which makes it difficult to sort correctly.

If in my society somebody got shot by a person with troubles, my instinct would not be to demand that more defence options in the immidiate situation should have been available but the danger factors what drove someone to be violent should be addressed. To an american this can sound a lot more like "evil won this one" but to me it's much more tragic that mental health pressures leave people with no options so I end up asking for people to have non-violent options so that the usage of violent options goes down or that they don't have troubles in the first place that need desperate solving attempts. If I am in a village that contains 10% mentally unstable enough persons that could do violent crime based on that I would be alarmed on why the health system isn't correcting this error state where an american might be "it's fine if they dont enter my house/neighbourhood" and ask for effective ways to keep them on the right side of their fence. I don't want my fence to be a warzone delineator for that semi-duel. I want the combatants out of the game before the firing starts, I don't want to win that I don't want to play that. But that can lead to caring about peoples private business more than is customary in that part of the world. That can mean taking coersively tax money to alleviate societal pressure just for the sake of societal stability. Some people want to earn more and skimp on defence/stability. But at some point the tax savings might be lost on making an adequate wall.

To me the idea of solving a problem by raising a gun to my fellow human is making a PvP situation what is actually a PvE situation. If you shoot me the environment wins and we both lose. Thefore I don't want that the gun user loses. I want that we win. Even if reality is more of amix of PvP and PvE elements human-life is so deeplly in PvE domain that the sheer destructiveness of it should make sensible players to see that using it would be an error. Sure lets keep economical competition but lets keep violence out of it and make armed robbery not happen. If you are interested in getting your daily bread I want that to involve my life and not my death. Likewise my life should involve your bread and not hunger and wat the very least my death should not involve your bread.

Thank you for offering your thoughts on the question with such depth! While I agree with your sentiment your answer didn't help answer the original question. But maybe the answer really is that the question is ill-posed.

(sorry for the late reply - I was switching working machines...)