Editorial: Deconstructing Kellermann

While a student many, many moons ago I worked as the secretary of a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Although my responsibilities were strictly clerical, I observed a thing or two about what happens behind the ivory walls of academia’s most sacred towers. While we prefer to think of all scientists as infallible servants of humanity, as indeed some are, many are corrupted by the same vices that plague, say, auto journalism: money, power, pride, and politics. Others are simply blinded by emotion. And yet many anti-gun advocates are quick to tout any study—no matter how flawed—as long as it agrees with their core beliefs. A recent post on Mikeb302000 featured this golden oldie: Gun Ownership As A Risk Factor For Homicide In The Home by Dr. Arthur L Kellermann, et al, circa 1993.  Let’s take a look…

The Kellermann study was held up by MikeB302000’s resident argumentum ad hominem attack dog and slayer of straw men, Jadegold. Seven times in her post and subsequent comments, she admonishes or criticizes gun rights proponents to read the oft-maligned study.

Kellermann, et al, conclude (twice in the abstract and three times in the discussion) that “keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide (adjusted odds ratio, 2.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.6 to 4.4).” In other words, if you keep a gun in your home, you are 2.7 times more likely to have someone killed in your home—by that gun, by a gun introduced into your home by someone else, or other any other means.

Furthermore, they repeatedly assert that firearms are ineffectual in deterring homicide. “In light of these observations and our present findings, people should be strongly discouraged form keeping guns in their homes.”

These conclusions have been paraded by nearly every gun group in existence, from the Brady Bunch to Vegan Peace.  But they are wrong.

Flawed Methodology

For obvious reasons Kellermann, et al, could not interview homicide victims. So they had to rely on interviews of family members, roommates, neighbors or someone else deemed to be close to the victim. The researchers asked these proxies questions like “Did the victim keep a loaded gun in the house?” They also consulted police and autopsy reports.

For each homicide victim, Kellermann, et al, also randomly sought out someone else from the community who was demographically similar who had not died in a homicide to act as a control. In order to preserve consistency, the researchers did not interview the control subject directly; they selected a proxy for them as well. Again, in the interview, the control subject’s proxies were asked questions like, “Does the control subject keep a loaded gun in the house?”

The study showed that 45.4% of homicide victims kept a gun (any gun, loaded or unloaded) in the home. By comparison, only 35.8% of matching control subject proxies said that the control subjects kept guns in their homes. That’s far below more reliable national gun ownership statistics, including those touted by anti-gun groups.

The control percentage is underrepresented because proxies chosen for the control subjects aren’t necessarily privy to whether the control subject owns a gun and keeps it on the premises. For instance, none of my neighbors would possibly be able to testify as to whether I keep guns in my home. Nor do I know whether any of them keep guns. If you asked my father, mother, brother, or sisters, they wouldn’t be able to answer that question. The best they’d be able to offer is “maybe.”

As for the actual victims of homicide, there is little doubt as to whether they keep guns in the house because the police would have found them when they searched the premises. Or the coroner would have had to pry the gun from the victim’s cold dead fingers. [Sorry, I couldn’t resist.]

Kellermann, et al, concede that underreporting of gun ownership would skew up their numbers and blow up their conclusions. “We do not believe, however, that misreporting of gun ownership was a problem,” they write, because a separate pilot study confirmed their results against handgun registrations and other surveys.

But what about all of the guns not registered? Did they not think there might be more than a few Saturday Night Specials tucked in the waistbands of residents in the high-crime neighborhoods they selected for their study?

Kellermann’s methodology for counting firearm ownership among their control subjects was flawed. The number is low, which means that the math that computes an adjusted odds ratio of 2.7 is way off. Indeed, if you substitute the national average of 48% for the control group, it would show that having a gun in the home was a negative risk factor for homicide (i.e. lessened the chances of homicide in your home).

Guns Not Effective to Deter Homicide?

The certain conclusion Kellermann, et al, make that firearms in the home “confer protection” is wholly unsupported because defensive uses of firearms were only counted in this study if they resulted in a homicide. Of the 420 homicides included in the study, 21 homicide victims [unsuccessfully] attempted to use a gun for self-defense. In only 15 instances were bad guys killed under “legally excusable circumstances,” meaning they were shot by the police (4) or by someone acting in self-defense (11).

According to Kellermann, et al, you haven’t successfully defended yourself from homicide unless you killed the bad guy dead. If the residents canvassed in this study fired a warning shot that chases off a bad guy, it didn’t count. If they wounded a perp, it didn’t count. And if they brandished their weapon and scared a threat off, Kellermann, et al, didn’t count it.

By their measure, the only good bad guy is a dead bad guy. As such, their definition of a successful use of a firearm in self-defense is wholly insufficient to conclude that firearms are ineffectual for self-protection.

Common Sense: More than a Pamphlet by Paine

Despite the flawed adjusted odds ratio, the Kellermann study actually places guns kept in the home fifth (2.7 ratio) among six risk variables for homicide in the home. The greatest risk factor they identified was actually whether anyone in the household used illicit drugs (5.7 ratio), followed by whether the home was rented and if there was a history of domestic violence (both 4.4 ratios). Even living alone (3.7 ratio) was a greater risk factor than the presence of a gun.  If the percentage of gun ownership among the control group was corrected, gun ownership would fall even further down the list.

Nonetheless, Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann and the anti-gun Nazis continue to dredge up this study as evidence that “guns kill.” Yes they do, but not without a hand to guide them. Don’t believe everything you read about who, when, where and how that happens.

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About William C. Montgomery

William C. Montgomery is a freelance writer and photographer living in north Texas. His writing covers diverse topics including automobiles, business, politics, and gun rights.

51 Responses to Editorial: Deconstructing Kellermann

  1. Awesome analysis.

  2. avatarTTACer says:

    Thanks William. I am glad you’re posting here.

  3. avatarMatthew26 says:

    Good post. Now, how about chapter 14 to your saga on the seas?

  4. “According to Kellermann, et al, you haven’t successfully defended yourself from homicide unless you killed the bad guy dead.”

    We should explain that criteria to the police and District Attorneys. Shoot the bad guy dead? Keys to the city. Don’t shoot, or only wound? Sentenced to 1 week at Blackwater plus time served.

    In all seriousness, studies like this only reinforce the old truism, Figures don’t lie, liars figure.

  5. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    Mr. Heston would love the cold dead fingers comment, and I’m sure he’d agree that the only good bad guy is a DEAD BAD GUY. As for that QUACK kellerman and his crew of antigun morons, they can all go to ???. I’m sure you guys and gals can easily fill in the blank.

  6. avatarJames Montgomery says:

    “While we prefer to think of all scientists as infallible servants of humanity, as indeed some are, many are corrupted by the same vices that plague, say, auto journalism: money, power, pride, and politics.”

    Infallible, Or incorruptible? History is littered with thousands of wrong theories, studies, and conclusions. As is obviously at work here.

  7. avatarDan Baum says:

    Farago: “And yet anti-gun advocates are quick to tout any study—no matter how flawed—as long as it agrees with their core beliefs.”
    Whereas we’d never see pro-gun advocates do that. Please.
    A pox on both houses. And shame on you for reaching for the smelling salts because someone cited a study with whose conclusions you don’t agree. This, from the guy who calls John Lott a purveyor of “incontrovertible truth.”
    I actually agree with the critique of the Kellerman study, and think it’s wack to suggest that the only successful defensive use of a gun involves a fatal shooting of a criminal. I’m not anti-gun at all. I’m the rhetoric police, and my beat includes both sides of the street. I’m issuing Mr. Farago a citation. We can disagree and debate without getting nasty, hyperbolic, or hypocritical.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      So Dan, did you read John Lott’s book all the way through? What data and/or which of his conclusions do you find factually inaccurate and/or misleading? Failing that, with which study cited by which gun control advocates do you disagree? Please. Be specific.

    • Actually, I wrote that, not RF. I wholeheartedly agree that the American public would be far better served if rhetoric on both sides of this debate toned down and everyone would focus on the facts. So I’m a little surprised that you found my remarks somehow “nasty, hyperbolic, or hypocritical.”

      Perhaps I did not sufficiently support my opinion that anti-gun advocates quickly glom on to every study that remotely justifies their position. For example, this written by Mikeb302000 in the comments below the article I specifically linked to on his site (above):

      I like Kellerman’s studies, not because I’ve studied them thoroughly and dissected every aspect, considering all the ‘control groups’ and all that crap, but because they make sense to me.

      I interpret this to mean that Mr. Mikeb302000 is touting this flawed study purely on the basis that it agrees with his core belief. In my opinion, this is a pervasive attitude among gun control advocates.

      I do not find that most pro-gun guys do this — mindlessly grasp at scientific papers — although I’m sure it happens to some degree. To the contrary, I think that many on the pro-gun side of the debate dismiss studies like this too quickly, reflexively wrapping themselves in the flag and constitution. I would prefer that they study each issue and strive to win the debates on the merits. That is what I attempted to do with this article.

      Nonetheless, you are correct that I made a blanket statement that indicted all gun control proponents, so I will accept your feedback to qualify my remark. A little.

  8. GunCite.com has an interesting analysis here. By taking Kellermans own numbers they show that compared to homes with guns, in homes without a firearm, you have double the ratio of violent deaths (not involving guns) to justifiable homicides. In other words, if a gun in the home is 2.7 times as likely to kill someone in the household as an intruder, non-guns in the household are almost 5.5 times as likely to kill someone in the household as an intruder.

  9. I’ve seen the criticism before that Kellerman only counted DGU killings. As an aside, I’d like to suggest that some of them were actually murders, but my main point is another.

    I read gun blogs every day. Between the bloggers themselves and their commenters, I must be following the lives, so to speak, of 200 to 500 gun owners. These are people who are passionate enough to bother to write on the blogs. When you consider how many other gun owners these hundreds of people know, you’ve got thousands.

    If any one of those thousands had had a personal experience with a defensive shooting, or even a close call in which they brandished the weapon to scare off the bad guys, it would be mentioned. It would be hailed as an example of why they need to carry a gun, which is so often discussed.

    The number of cases I’ve seen over the last year is near to zero. How many have you seen? If Lott is right, you should have seen hundreds, because I know you all read the gun blogs just like I do.

    The truth is these incidents are very rare. That’s why we don’t hear about them more often, not because the media is biased, but because they are exceedingly rare.

    • avatarAnon says:

      http://stuckinmassachusetts.blogspot.com/search/label/Dead%20Goblin%20Count

      115 Dead Goblins in the past year, with the vast majority of them being dead due to defensive gun uses, and all of them making the news.

      How many DGUs do not make the news?

    • The statistics on DGU are all over the map, depending on whose statistics you use. Studies by professed gun control proponents (e.g. Hemenway, McDowal, etc.) count DGUs in the hundreds of thousands (Annual in the US). Meanwhile, studies used by the likes of Kleck, Gertz and Lott number DGUs in multiple millions.

      You could spend a lifetime parsing the methodology of each study, but the vast delta between each camp’s numbers appears to mostly be definitional: what constitutes a DGU? The anti-gun folks use strict definitions that, like this Kellermann study that only count DGUs that result in a fatality, while others might include counts of DGUs that result in injury, shots fired, etc.

      Studies from the folks from the other side of the ideological divide define DGUs more liberally, including brandishing.

      Sometimes the differences in these biases are subtle. For instance, in one Hemenway study I’ve read, survey respondents were asked the vague question (I’m paraphrasing), “When confronted with an assault did you take any defensive actions other than shooting at the assailant?” That question, I suppose, was intended to open the door for respondents to say they drew or brandished a weapon. But compare that to more direct surveys that ask pointed questions like, “Did you draw your weapon?” “Did you put your hand on the handle of your holstered weapon to show the perp that you were packing heat?” The latter form is going to get more accurate data (and positive responses).

      Anyway, my point is, the delta between the studies represents hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of instances each year where firearms are used for self-defense without being fired. Publications like American Rifleman publish anecdotes every month (at least they used to). In conservative north Texas, where I live, these events are even sometimes reported by the local news. So if you can’t find anyone talking about it, you are either not looking very hard or you are willfully dismissing the anecdotes because you don’t like the source.

  10. avatarBill says:

    Bill, your reply to Mike the anti is right on. If he can’t find any DGUs, he isn’t looking very hard. I personally have 2 DGU’s in my life time so far, my father had 2, (and he and my mother were severely beaten when he left his handgun at home on a vacation to Florida. He never forgot it after that.) my older brother 3, and several friends with one or more. In not one of these DGU’s did any one of us have to fire a shot, the mere presence of a gun and our willingness to use it was sufficient enough to deter the attack, thank god. I know the anti’s are always claiming we are small men who think we are macho tough guys who can’t wait to shoot and kill somebody, but I would hate to have to actually shoot someone. I would do it if I had absolutely no choice, but I do not want to and I would feel terrible if I had to. I think 99% of gun owners feel the same way.

  11. avatarRalph says:

    Reading Mikeb’s stuff here, on TTAG, is the equivalent of reading porn in church.

  12. avatarJadeGold says:

    So many errors, so little time.

    Let’s start with some low-hanging fruit. According to Kellermann, et al, you haven’t successfully defended yourself from homicide unless you killed the bad guy dead. If the residents canvassed in this study fired a warning shot that chases off a bad guy, it didn’t count. If they wounded a perp, it didn’t count. And if they brandished their weapon and scared a threat off, Kellermann, et al, didn’t count it.

    Actually, Kellermann said no such thing–it’s a figment of Monty’s imagination. But it’s a nice strawman and Monty attempts some kung fu moves on it and fails quite badly. You see, if the gun in question were being brandished or fired into the air or otherwise fondled like Aladdin’s lamp to ward off attackers, then the *absence* of a gun in the home would appear as a homicide risk. But Kellermann found the opposite.

    More…

    • Kellermann did not compile any statistics regarding DGU except in the cases that ended in a homicide. Period. “Absence” of a gun in the home would not necessarily appear as a risk due to underreporting of gun possession among the control group. Additionally, its effect could be masked or offset by other factors such as increased risk of suicide (I do believe that gun possession positively correlates with higher suicide risk, although I find Kellermann’s 43x risk number he concludes in another study to be grossly exaggerated).

      Without data on on shots fired, guns drawn, brandishing, etc., Kellermann cannot rightly concluded that guns are ineffectual at deterring homicide, let alone any other crime.

      • avatarJadeGold says:

        Sadly, no.

        As I explained, most sagely, if guns scared away, wounded or otherwise deterred evil doers—then the absence of a gun should present a higher murder risk. But that wasn’t found.

        Your argument is rather foolish; let’s say a case respondent had 100 DGUs, but on the 101st intruder attack–he was killed. Does it matter? No, because the gunowner is dead. And the non-gunowning controls were not.

        It’s not a difficult concept to understand: if a gun has this wonderful ability to protect its owner, then two things must not occur: 1. the gunowner shouldn’t wind up dead; and 2. we should see higher rates of murder among non-gunowners. But neither was the case.

        • You believe that the 2.7 ratio number is correct. I do not. Therefore I do not trust the adjusted odd ratio to tell me anything about the effectiveness of guns for personal protection.

  13. avatarJadeGold says:

    The study showed that 45.4% of homicide victims kept a gun (any gun, loaded or unloaded) in the home. By comparison, only 35.8% of matching control subject proxies said that the control subjects kept guns in their homes. That’s far below more reliable national gun ownership statistics, including those touted by anti-gun groups.

    Wow. This demonstrates a fundamental case of bad logic. In his previous paragraph, Monty notes the control group was demographically similar . But in the very next para, Monty demands that Kellermann ought not compare apples to apples but states they ought to be compared to national averages. This aside, Kellermann did compare gun ownership rates for the particular counties he studied and they were in line with what was found in the case homes.

    More…

    • Several other critiques of Kellermann’s work had already thrashed the inaccuracy of his control group, so I didn’t see the need to parrot their work in my analysis of the study. But I’ll surmise the criticism: Kellermann’s controls were demographically similar only in age and geography. Otherwise, they were vastly dissimilar with regard to rates of home ownership, illicit drug use, alcohol use, domestic disturbances, race, etc.

      • avatarJadeGold says:

        Actually, the critiques you leave unnamed (Buckner, Schaffer, Lott, Schulman) grossly misrepresent the Kellermann study.

        The problem inherent in most, if not all, of these critiques is that it pretends the case and control groups were vastly different. They weren’t.

        In each critique, they ignore Kellermann’s process of selecting a control for each specific homicide that matched that household on several parameters, then isolating individual causal factors by regression.

        • avatarRobert Farago says:

          Jade, Just a quick note to say WOW! I had no idea you could leave invective and name-calling behind and engage in a thoughtful, factual debate. More of this, less of that. Please. This way we all learn something. No really.

        • Robert, Thanks for mentioning that. He’s my partner, you know.

        • avatarRobert Farago says:

          Now I do.

  14. avatarJadeGold says:

    But what about all of the guns not registered? Did they not think there might be more than a few Saturday Night Specials tucked in the waistbands of residents in the high-crime neighborhoods they selected for their study?

    Grasping at straws. First, the case homes almost certainly got the number of guns–registered and illegal–as a murder happened there. WRT control homes, however, it is unlikely illegal guns went unreported for the fact all responses were confidential and a respondent was free not to answer any question he/she didn’t wish to.

    In any survey, it is recognized that a certain number of respondents may lie or not understand the question being asked. That’s why there’s a confidence interval. Basically, Monty is attempting to claiming the control respondents lied, en masse, about their non-ownership of guns.

    More…

    • Straw Man: “Monty is attempting to claiming [sic] the control respondents lied, en masse, about their non-ownership of guns.”

      I, of course, never made this claim, which Jadegold has so valiantly knocked down here for our amusement.

      I agree that a certain number may have lied. My point is that reliance on proxy testimony is far less accurate in establishing rates of gun ownership among the living compared to police reports of investigations of the dead. Because the proxies don’t necessarily know whether the control subject keeps a gun.

      • avatarJadeGold says:

        Actually, you did by conflating not knowing with lying.

        In reality, proxy responses are preferred for a number of reasons–primarily because in the case group the victims are dead and in the control group, responses are more likely to be truthful.

        Regardless, an “I don’t know” or a refusal to answer the question counts as a non-response as opposed to a lie. In order for your conspiracy theory to hold water, over 20% of the control group must have deliberately provided a false answer and none of the case group lied in order to show no difference in risk between gunowning and non-gun owning household.

        • Madam, the only conflation is in your own head. You will find no evidence of it or conspiracies in my article or subsequent comments.

        • The misogyny of William C. Montgomery in using “Madam” when addressing a man is so adolescent that it’s embarrassing.

          It also comments on that other discussion we’ve had, I forget whether it was here or on my blog, in which Robert categorically denied knowing any racists, misogynists or homophobes among his gun friends.

        • Mikeb, I bear no hatred toward women. Nor do I think that addressing them as “Madam” demonstrates enmity.

          The only people I have ever known called Jade have been female. If JadeGold is not, I apologize.

  15. avatarJadeGold says:

    Here’s a neat whopper: The control percentage is underrepresented because proxies chosen for the control subjects aren’t necessarily privy to whether the control subject owns a gun and keeps it on the premises. For instance, none of my neighbors would possibly be able to testify as to whether I keep guns in my home. Nor do I know whether any of them keep guns. If you asked my father, mother, brother, or sisters, they wouldn’t be able to answer that question. The best they’d be able to offer is “maybe.”

    Monty is attempting a bit of sleight of hand here. He’s suggesting that the proxies are neighbors or relatives who don’t live in the household. In most cases, Kellermann’s proxies lived in the household. Regardless, Monty is once more demanding we believe most of the proxies lied for some unknown reason as opposed to saying “I dunno.”

    As a side note, here, I find it almost laughable that Monty is quite willing to suggest many respondents to the Kellermann survey deliberately lied to skew the results. Yet, Monty seems to believe each and every claimed DGU is inscribed on tablets given to Moses.

    More…

  16. avatarJadeGold says:

    WRT CommonSense, Monty claims that the Kellermann study actually places guns kept in the home fifth (2.7 ratio) among six risk variables for homicide in the home.

    This is a misreading caused by ignorance. I’m not using “ignorance” as a pejorative, I’m stating that Monty simply isn’t up to the task of understanding what he’s reading. I’ll try to explain.

    Kellermann looked at some 31 variables concerning behavior and environment. Only 6 of these variables were found to be strong enough (i.e., presents extra risk) to be included in Kellermann’s model. The risk variables aren’t an order or list or hierarchy; instead, they represent what each of those risk variables *by themselves* raise the risk of homicide. IOW, if you keep a gun in your household (2.7x) and you do illicit drugs (5.7x)–your homicide risk increases dramatically north of 5.7x. The 2.7x figure only represents the increase in homicide risk absent other risk factors such as drugs, criminal background, domestic violence, etc.

    • See Table 4 of the study, captioned “Variables Included in the Final Conditional Logistic-Regression Model Derived from Data on 316 Matched Pairs of Case Subjects and Controls.” You will find that “Gun or guns kept in the home” is shown to have the fifth strongest adjusted odds ratio of the six variables his study found to positively correlate to increased risk of homicide in the home. Anybody else think I got this one wrong?

  17. avatarJadeGold says:

    I’ll end with the fact that this methodology is pretty much the gold standard for such surveys. It is the same methodology used to link cigarette smoking with lung cancer and other ailments. For example, you can say that working in an asbestos plant certainly presents a greater risk of lung cancer than smoking. But you really can’t claim cigarette smoking by itself doesn’t present a higher risk of cancer than not smoking.

    Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann and the anti-gun Nazis

    Hey, Farago—you lose.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      JadeGold,

      The fighting is in rounds. And as long as there’s a free and open exchange of ideas, we all win. Besides, this is Bill’s fight. I’m about as good with math as I am with watching MSNBC. (Note; I do both.)

    • Straw Man #2 (implied): Monty thinks case-controled studies are flawed.

      I take no issue with population-based case-controled studies. My problems with Kellermann’s work is that the methodology he used to gather gun possession data from control subjects was flawed and that his data is insufficient to support the conclusion that keeping a gun is effective in deterring homicides.

      • avatarJadeGold says:

        Oddthat you cannot point out the flaws.

        Instead, you rely on several things:

        1. You misrepresent Kellermann, then attack the study based on what you said rather than Kellermnann.
        2. You require us to believe the control group deliberately lied in huge numbers, while the case group was 100% truthful.
        3. You don’t understand proxies.
        4. You don’t understand multivariate analysis.

        There are many, many flaws in your “deconstruction” but perhaps the most egregious is your inability to recognize that if a gun has this tremendous ability to protect its household–why are members of gun-owning homes winding up dead at a far greater rate than those household that do not possess this miracle weapon?

        • As Ronnie once said, there you go again. Building straw men and knocking them down, accusing me of writing things that I have not, and unwaveringly drawing certain conclusions from unreliable data. Now, as an added bonus, you are taking unjustified shots at my education.

          Congratulations. You’ve proved me correct in writing that you are “Mikeb302000′s resident argumentum ad hominem attack dog and slayer of straw men.”

  18. avatarHerbM says:

    Just for reference the BEST supported DGU number is approximately 2.6 Million per year in the US. Anything below about 1 million is obviously a lie and it might be (much?) higher than 2.6 since as the studies were improved the numbers kept increasing (even though the improvements were mostly in response to anti-gun folks who wanted them to go lower.)

    Also notice that in the stats on owning a gun, there was never an attempt to show the gun that was owned was use, or even involved. It might just as well be that people likely to be killed are more likely to own guns.

    As to the media and defensive gun uses we are seeing something on the order of 1 per day where a criminal is SHOT being reported — if Fox and CNN just covered these it would straighten out a lot of misconceptions (Hint: Fox might start if we lobby them.)

  19. avatarJadeGold says:

    Herb: Just for you–I shall debunk the 2.6M DGU myth.

    Setting aside Kleck’s extremely flawed methodology–let’s assume for a moment his methods were 100% valid.

    In Kleck’s own study, he says that in 8% of all DGUs, the gun is fired, striking the assailant. Kleck also notes that about 15% of all GSWs are fatal. If we do the math:

    2.6M DGUs/year x .08 assailant shot x .15 fatal GSW = 31, 200 fatalities by DGU annually.

    This means we should see 31,200 justifiable homicides each year.

    Several problems. First, 31,200 fatalities by DGU annually is about equal to annual number of all gun deaths (murders, justifiable homicides, accidents, suicides) in the US.
    Second, FBI UCR figures note that there are usually fewer than 250 justifiable homicides (from all causes) annually in the US. IOW, if the 2.6M number is correct, where are all the bodies?

    Also notice that in the stats on owning a gun, there was never an attempt to show the gun that was owned was use, or even involved. It might just as well be that people likely to be killed are more likely to own guns.

    This is pretty funny because it clearly shows Herb hasn’t read the study. It’s also an illustration of really bad logic. By Herb’s logic, we shouldn’t give skydivers parachutes because people who die while skydiving were susceptible to those accidents anyway.

  20. avatarJayF says:

    As usual, a debate over Kellerman misses what I see as the most important point. The most important aspect of the Kellerman study does NOT depend upon its veracity.

    Many gun control advocates often say: “We do not want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens; we just want laws that keep guns away from criminals and children”. But those same people just as often quote the Kellerman study, which focuses on the supposed consequences of gun ownership by the “ordinary” citizen. It is important to remember that gun control advocates are ACTIVISTS. They do not merely “recommend” that which they believe promotes the public good; they want LAWS. It is naive to think that those activists who continually remind us of the dangers of gun ownership by ordinary citizens would stop at taking guns from only criminals and children, and allow continued gun ownership by others who incur death by gunshot at a rate “43 times” (or whatever) that of defensive use. Thus, the frequent promotion of the Kellerman study by gun control advocates, regardless of its truth or falsehood, serves to remind us of their true goal of drastic reduction or elimination of gun ownership, and the deception of their claim: “We do not want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens; we just want laws that keep guns away from criminals and children”.

    Kellerman is NOT about criminals or children or gun shows or assault weapons. It’s about keeping guns from YOU. There may still be some foolish gunowners who do not yet realize that.

    • That’s an interesting angle. But, I’m afraid it doesn’t necessarily follow that we’d want to take guns away from regular folks by pointing out the danger of gun ownership. That’s a leap that you’re making.

      Speaking for myself, I’d like to forcibly keep guns away from dangerous people through the strictest gun control possible, and for the rest rely on education.

      Most of those regular folks who have guns to their own detriment are doing so out of unfounded fear. Through education and awareness this can be addressed.

  21. avatarJayF says:

    Mike wrote, “But, I’m afraid it doesn’t necessarily follow that we’d want to take guns away from regular folks by pointing out the danger of gun ownership. That’s a leap that you’re making.”

    As I wrote, “It is important to remember that gun control advocates are ACTIVISTS. They do not merely recommend that which they believe promotes the public good; they want LAWS.”

    Most gun control advocates will quote Kellerman, pointing out that ordinary people who own guns incur death by gunshot at a rate “XX” times (it varies in the telling) that of people who do not own guns. And you claim that they all say that just to “recommend” that people not own guns, not because they want LAWS to drastically reduce gun ownership? And if there really are some who want “education” and such education fails to drastically reduce gun ownership, they won’t want laws THEN?

    Your claim is contradicted by the history of gun control.

  22. avatarBillCa says:

    Kellerman’s omission of non-fatal DGUs is like studying airline safety and disregarding all the flights that landed safely. Of course you’re going to end up with a skewed study that says flying on an airline is 86% fatal.

    According to Kleck’s study, roughly 92% of DGUs never involve firing a shot for whatever reason. Of the remaining DGUs, 6% involve actually firing the gun – a miss, warning shot or wounding the perp and only 2% result in a lethal outcome for the perp. So, using these figures, let’s do a little math on Kellerman’s figures.

    Out of his 420 homicides, 11 were successful self-defense and 21 were not. We can use 11 DGUs as a baseline. Thus during the survey period, we’d expect the following results if we could accurately gain a complete picture:

    11 fatal DGUs = 2% of all DGUs = 1100/2 = 550 expected total DGU’s
    That raw result says you’re 1.31 times safer with a firearm than without one.
    If we deduct the 15 successful DGUs in the study, then it becomes 1.35 times safer with a gun.

    I have seen three (3) different results for Kellerman’s study. The now infamous 1986 43-times statistic, the revised 1988 22-times statistic and now the 2.7-times statistic. If I recall correctly the 43x stat was the result of Kellerman using Seattle as the study location, the 22x stat came by comparing Seattle as a homicide source and Vancouver B.C., Canada as the “control” group because most handguns are prohibited in B.C. Then his final 2.7 times figure came from 1993 where he again used Seattle, but added Cleveland and Memphis. The one thing that stands out is that Kellerman did not release his data for peer review until after 1993. When he did (1996-97) it omitted his crucial data on whether guns used in the firearm homicides he studied belonged to anyone in the victim’s household. We know he had this data via other published papers. This data would show whether the firearm owned by the resident was responsible for the homicide or if the gun was brought in by another person. This could significantly change the outcome of the studies.

    Government and other studies show a higher-than-normal homicide expectancy at any residence where ….
    - One or more occupants has prior criminal convictions (misdemeanor or felony)
    - One or more occupants use drugs.
    - One or more occupants sell drugs, even occasionally.
    - One or more occupants is an alcoholic or drug addicted.
    - Police responded to more than one “domestic dispute” call in a calendar year.
    - One or more occupants is/was a member of a street gang.

    Lacking these risk factors, guns in the home are overwhelmingly used safely. The safety of privately owned guns ranges from approximately 91% to 99%.

  23. avatarKavi says:

    Kellermann’s study found that having a gun in the home was not associated with any increased risk of non-gun homicide, only with gun homicide. There are two plausible mechanisms to explain this:

    1. Guns make violence more lethal
    2. People at risk of homicide acquire guns for defence.

    If “2″ is true we would expect non-gun homicide to be just as strongly associated with gun ownership as gun homicides are. It isn’t, which suggests that “1″ is the more probable explanation. That’s why Kellermanns was right.

    • avatarBillCa says:

      Actually there are 4 plausible explanations. The two you mentioned, if the study had been done properly, but we can add as explanations:
      3. Kellerman’s odd definitions of “family” in the first two studies
      4. Cherry picked data to support a hypothesis by ignoring relevant facts.

      Kellerman does not qualify homicides that occurred as a result of a firearm brought to the scene by outsiders, only that one was present. He also ignores non-fatal uses, such as wounding an intruder or holding them for police.

  24. avatarMental says:

    Where can I get the full text of Kleck’s “Can Owning a Gun Really Triple the Owner’s Chances of Being Murdered?” Any idea?

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