Credit card activity as a predictor of mass shootings


Originally published at:


Good statistical critique on why something that appears intuitively useful turns out not to be so. Now do one on TSA protocols.


Well, I am glad I read the headline a little bitter. “as”, not “is”. I got a little ranty there for a second.

Also, many if not most credit cards allow at least part of the credit to be taken out as a cash advance. Which means even if they instituted some sort of flagging in that respect, one would just pull out the cash (Higher interest rate be damned!) and then spend it however with zero tracking.


First of all, mass shootings are incredibly rare (not relative to other countries, but as a cause of mortality – you are almost certainly not going to get caught in one, but you should be much more worried about being shot deliberately or accidentally by someone you love, or about killing yourself with your own gun, all of which constitute the bulk of the risk from guns in the USA).

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This so often gets lost in these discussions, and is one of my largest frustrations when discussing gun control and gun topics… we throw the baby out with the bath water and design checks against something that happens so rarely and ignore the things that happen every day.

IMHO, any gun control that is centered around rifles or long guns is pointless and is political showboating; and shows that the person discussing the ban has no idea of what they are talking about. Having the right discussion about the right problem is a lot better than having the wrong discussion about the wrong problem. In fact, from the stats… letting people have as many assault rifles and other long arms as they want and banning pistols would be the way to go, although I suspect that there are more effective ways to curb violence that would also make the US a better place to live, like increased opportunity and reduced inequality, increasing safety nets, and universal health care to relieve financial stress.


Hair-trigger? What planet are you on? I drove from Atlanta, GA to Dallas, TX filling up with a credit card every 200 miles, and my card wasn’t flagged until I reached Louisiana. Hair trigger, my ass.


Legislation designed to restrict ownership of the kinds of guns commonly used in mass shootings could save dozens, maybe hundreds, of American lives each year.

Legislation designed to restrict ownership of handguns could save tens of thousands of lives each year.

So I guess if I had to choose one I’d go with the latter—but I don’t see why I have to choose. Even legislation that “only” prevented the next Sandy Hook or Las Vegas would be a heck of a lot better than nothing.


One of the most overlooked methods of gun control would not involve bans at all, but data collection.

As of now the ATF is prevented from collecting nationwide data on firearms purchases and registration. The end result of this is a rigorous illegal trade in firearms facilitated by lax purchasing laws in some states and strict controls elsewhere.

As of now it is impossible to distinguish “straw buyers” from legitimate law abiding gun purchasers. The NRA wants it that way. They profit from dead urban kids. Illegal guns flooding cities and the violence it promotes is a boon to suburban firearms purchasing for “self-protection”. Fueling also racist fears inherent in most gun hoarding behavior.

For all those blubbering about “confiscation”, here is an easy solution to the gun ownership data collection necessary for real law enforcement and a way to encourage responsible ownership, mandatory liability insurance. Requiring one to have coverage available before one can purchase a gun (like what one does with cars)

Leave the ownership data collection to insurance companies. Companies with a vested interest in maintaining ownership rights but also ensuring people avoid negligent and irresponsible behavior with said property. In addition it allows law enforcement to have access but ensures 4th Amendment protocols are made.


Legislation designed to ensure gun owner data collection is made at a national level would save thousands of lives as well by making it difficult to traffic illegal firearms.


Get ready…



I agree with your points on data collection. The foundation for this lies with congress and there-in the problem. If you could figure out how to make Mitch McConnell and his similar NRA toadies how to actually serve their nation instead of serving their money masters you might well have done the world a deep good. If they could perhaps come together about guns maybe they could look at the climate concerns or sort out a humane and respectable immigration policy. I’m not casting doubt on your ideas but the means to achieve such aren’t to clear.


The insurance thing could probably get some headway because it means to Republicans:
Corporate interests are enriched
Outsourcing responsibility
Even the NRA supports having such policies


I completely agree with Cory’s point about the statistics, but I take issue with his use of the word “predicts”. His point is that just because high credit card usage usually precedes a mass shooting, it doesn’t imply the converse, that high credit card usage is usually followed by a mass shooting. In other words, precedes does not equal predicts.

Logically (where => means implies):
mass shooting => credit card usage
credit card usage =/=> mass shooting

You might find that 99% of mass shooters ate breakfast that day, but that doesn’t mean that you should start screening for people who eat breakfast. Eating breakfast usually precedes a shooting, but it doesn’t predict a shooting.


It really seems random though.

I regularly use one card online for purchases that often add up to quite a bit (equipment purchases online, lots of smaller purchases etc…), and don’t seem to get flagged for that.

But I made one purchase of computer equipment online for local pickup, and found out at the store that my card jumped on that one and cancelled the transaction. As I wasn’t about to announce out loud all of my security info, I used a second card (that had no issues), and cleared the first card at home.

I think a lot of it is what you buy. Metalworking supplies? Nobody cares. Computer equipment? Definitely.


As a general policy, regardless of how I feel about the objective, I don’t like back-door legislation that gives the government more power and creates more bureaucracy that will inevitably be abused for other purposes. If you want to pass a gun control law, pass a gun control law, not some bullshit about banks flagging people.

Also, the basic test for a law is “if this had been in place and enforced, would it have stopped previous instances of the thing we’re trying to stop?” There was a law proposed in Oregon recently that wouldn’t have stopped any of the mass shootings we had, just created more bureaucracy.


I’m curious, what was that?


Don’t sell people guns.


Also I thought maybe invent a new standard for the ammunition which is sold, to reduce the usefulness of guns which are currently in private ownership. And yes, I know that some Americans make their own ammunition. but it might put a limit on the ammunition available for old guns.


As a cause of mortality, murder doesn’t hit the top 15 in the US, with suicide #10. (The CDC lists 500 deaths due to accidental discharge of firearms, a negligible cause of death.) If we want to worry purely about causes of death, we should be worried about soda and Big Macs, not guns.

I can’t win on handguns; too many people feel that they need one. If I can argue that a weapon has no reasonable use, then I can argue that there’s no loss in banning it.


I’ve got a bit of a problem with this sort of logic. This is basically what has been happening in CA. Not a reduction in efficacy of ammunition sold, but making it a real pain in the ass/expensive to get.

Want to buy a brick of .22lr to go target shooting? Unless you’re doing it at a range (not on BLM land, or your property), you’ve got to get a DOJ background check each and every time. (and if you are doing it at a range, you can’t take home any “extra” ammo without said background check) Not some sort of “ammo buyer’s license”, a DOJ check each and every time. Not a bad idea on paper, check to make sure the purchaser is on the up and up. In reality, it prices people out, and makes the process a giant pain in the butt.

I say, if you want to take functional guns out of the hands of the population, confront the beast head on and work towards repealing the 2nd amendment (and deal with the fight that will accompany that). The “death by a thousand cuts” approach of making, what is currently a constitutionally guaranteed right, not functional for many people due to expense or difficulty, is IMHO the wrong way to try to overturn a constitutional guarantee.

If you disagree with the above, consider the TeaGOP approach to voting rights, and you’ll see a similar pattern to attempt to make it such a pain in the butt, or expensive (I.d. costs etc…), to vote.

And yes, most of the people I know who shoot regularly do handload. I do it myself for lower recoil indoor paper target ammo (wadcutter), and for high precision rifle ammo. (i.e. “specialty” ammo). Since the CA laws kicked in earlier this year, everything reloadable is getting reloaded. Glad I built up a stash of .22 (which can’t be reloaded) before the new laws kicked in.