Did somebody say spandex?

The NRA is branching out from its traditional fetishizing of guns by teasing an exciting "lifestyle" quiz that helps you decide how "vulnerable" you are, and then suggests ways to make yourself feel less vulnerable. It's a little like one of those Cosmo quizzes, except every answer is "Get a gun!" It's a whole new way to repackage their traditional appeals to fear and paranoia, with the aim (ha-ha) of pointing out how almost every moment in life is made better by having a gun.

In an article on the "America's 1st Freedom" website -- which, if you want to get nitpicky, should be about freedom of the press, speech, and religion -- NRA shill "creative director" Clay Turner introduces a very scientific-sounding "vulnerablility index" (VX) which turns out not to really be an index at all, but a couple of wholly arbitrary paragraphs assigning positive and negative scores for stuff that may or may not apply to anyone's actual life. But it sure starts out sounding sciencey! You start with a base score of 100, then add or subtract points that Turner pulls completely out of his ass:

Add 1 point for every year of age over 55. Add 5 points each for heart disease and diabetes, and 10 points each for nagging chemical dependencies such as nicotine, alcohol and drugs. Subtract 5 points if you exercise weekly, 10 points if you exercise daily, and 25 points if you finished a triathlon in the last 6 months. Good for you.

Subtract 25 points if you live in a gated community; add 25 if you live in a trailer park. Add 50 points if you live in Chicago public housing. Subtract 5 points if you own a dog, and 5 more if it’s a Doberman (add or subtract points as necessary for attitude). Add points back if it’s an incontinent (+1) Chihuahua (+1) that has to go out in the middle of the night (+10); such a dog constitutes more risk than benefit.

What about other factors? Fuck 'em, this is all made up! There isn't an actual "index" anywhere in the article, no scale to refer to other than the made-up values Turner offers. But he pretends to do math to 'em anyway:

You’re on a business trip to Chicago (+10). The airlines have stripped you of anything that could be used as a weapon (+10). You’re driving a rental car (+5) on unknown freeways (+5) at night (+5). It’s 5 below (-10). Siri is navigating (+50). Your Vulnerability Index has increased by 75 points, for a score of 200.

That's nice: Chicago is automatically dangerous -- twice! -- in the space of a couple paragraphs, and you know why ("Lake Effect," obviously).

Fortunately, in another "real-world" scenario, you can reduce your "Vulnerability Index" by a whopping 100 points by owning a gun, and by another 100 points by shooting a home invader who was rummaging through your pills, and getting on the news so everyone knows you're a badass -- another hundred points off. You now have negative vulnerability, but before you can proclaim "I AM IRON MAN!" your apartment manager institutes a no-gun policy, so the "bad guys now know that you’re defenseless, you have drugs and you shot their buddy (+1,000)." Oh dear, you just lost The Game.

We get the impression Mr. Turner isn't much of an actuary, given some of the very specific "everyday scenarios" he constructs:

  • Unbeknownst to you, the waitress at your favorite diner filed for a restraining order against her abusive boyfriend, who didn’t take it well and knows where she works. Booth or table?
  • In the process of divorce, you move into an apartment. How many of your neighbors do you know?
  • You’re a woman carrying groceries to your car. In both hands. At night. Returning from the gym. In Spandex. You’re on the phone. Hello? Hello?

No, we don't know whether the Spandex makes you more or less vulnerable. Maybe if you look like a superhero you have an advantage. And with both hands full, we're a bit doubtful about whether you can get the drop on the bad guy. Maybe you should only carry one bag at a time, so you can draw at all times.

And remember, just like on Whose Line is it Anyway?, the points are all made up, and the article ignores teensy factual risk factors like statistics showing that if you have a gun in your home, you or a family member are more likely to get shot than to use the thing in self defense. As Turner himself admits, "The point of VX isn’t whether or not it’s accurate; rather, it should serve to get you thinking about your personal safety. Or arguing about it. Perhaps even doing something about it." Or maybe it's just a silly term Clay Turner thought of while showering on a day he had a deadline.

But we're inspired -- let's try one of these ourselves:

[contextly_sidebar id="AQLo9HCQgvTvM9QhFL0ONweP1WYWXB39"]Let's say you're a working single dad (+20) with a gun for home protection (-100). You've given your 5-year-old (+100) a lecture about how he should never touch Daddy's gun (-100). You take a nap after work (+10) and your kid is bored (+500). He climbs on a kitchen chair, gets the gun off the top of the refrigerator where you store it (+500). And because your very curious darling child really wants to see the gun (+1500), he forgets your safety lecture (+5000). Also, you always keep a round chambered to save that precious fraction of a second during a home invasion (+500), so the boy looks down the barrel, nudges the trigger, and blows his brains out (+20,000). Lucky you, you live in a state where you aren't required to keep firearms secured (-5,000, and the local prosecutor decides you've suffered enough, so you aren't prosecuted for child endangerment (-10,000). Now you're hardly at risk at all! Oh, bummer about the kid. We suppose your suicide risk is way up (+5000). Better get some antidepressants (-50).

In conclusion, made-up science with cherry-picked examples is fun, and teaches us that we should all buy guns.

[Media Matters / NRA / Slate]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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