JAMA Gun Control Study: More Mush from the Wimps

 David Hemenway (courtesy uvm.edu)

Dr. Michael S. brown writes:

The headline at the top of Thursday’s front page of The Columbian: 50-state study says more gun laws equal fewer deaths. It’s an AP story based entirely on an article published in JAMA Internal Medicine called Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States. The study is a heavily biased, scientifically unsustainable piece of “research” cobbled together from suspect data, created by the usual suspects (e.g., Harvard’s David Hemenway). For years, small groups of Northeast intellectuals have been churning out anti-gun agit prop supported by grants from liberal donors. They never stand up to careful scrutiny . . .

The text of this document includes the following admission: “our study could not determine cause-and-effect relationships.” And no wonder. The Brady Campaign to prevent Gun Violence and another notoriously anti-gun Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence provided the data. The Joyce Foundation provided funding.

Anyway, here’s the stated methodology:

Using an ecological and cross-sectional method, we retrospectively analyzed all firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System from 2007 through 2010. We used state-level firearm legislation across 5 categories of laws to create a “legislative strength score,” and measured the association of the score with state mortality rates using a clustered Poisson regression. States were divided into quartiles based on their score.

The process is riddled with “issues.” “All firearms related deaths” includes suicides, which account for 60.9 percent of these fatalities. The correlation between firearms laws and suicides is both unlikely and unproven. The Brady Campaign chose the “5 categories of laws” applied in the study. They examined laws that . . .

(1) curb firearm trafficking; (2) strengthen background checks on purchasers of firearms beyond those required by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act; (3) ensure child safety; (4) ban military style assault weapons; and (5) restrict guns in public places

Not only are the categories ridiculous vague (“ensure child safety”) and arbitrary, they are misleading and scientifically dubious. As less than five percent of all homicides involve a rifle of any sort, why consider laws banning “assault rifles” when attempting to examine the cause and effect relationship between gun control and homicide rates?

Bottom line: this is a throw-away study. Another piece of faux scholarship [rightly] discounted by independent researchers and dissected by bloggers. of course, its publication has nothing to do with social science; it’s a key part of the civilian disarmament movement’s plan for influencing fence straddlers.

Each study is picked up by the mainstream media, reduced to a headline or a few soundbites and spewed forth into the news stream to make a single, brief, anti-gun, impression on the public consciousness. Almost everyone will read the headline, very few will read the uncritical article, and virtually nobody will actually go online and look up the study itself. That’s how editors get away with publishing junk science, they know you won’t look behind the curtain.

I was surprised that good folks at The Columbian were taken in by the anti-gun propaganda machine, but then I noticed that there was also an editorial calling for more gun laws and it started to make sense. When I saw the unflattering cartoon depicting the President of the NRA, I finally got the complete picture. The Columbian simply hates guns and they don’t care who knows it. They chose to run the sycophantic AP article, because it appeared to back up their appeal for more gun laws.

I decided to take a look at the Elway poll mentioned in the editorial. While some anti-gun measures did get a majority, it does not look like Washingtonians are strongly in the mood for more gun laws. In fact by 55 to 37 percent, respondents said they felt protecting gun rights was more important than controlling gun ownership. It sounds to me like some people are simply confused and I don’t blame them a bit.

The gun debate has always been carried out with a distinct lack of logic and evidence. The fight is waged with emotional soundbites and buzzwords intended to obfuscate and influence opinion without causing any deep thinking. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to do their own research online and bypass the media mavens who feel they know what is best for you. Fortunately, that is slowly changing.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is a member of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

41 Responses to JAMA Gun Control Study: More Mush from the Wimps

  1. avatarPantera Vazquez says:

    You know the old saying-”we (the press) just report the news, we don’t have an agenda”. That of course is blown out of the water by the fact that were they to be objective in reporting, they would also offer the counter-argument and allow the watcher/listener to arrive at his/her own conclusion. Do not hold your breath awaiting this as you will end up a SMURF.

    • avatardwb says:

      The press are underpaid and undereducated – i dont think they are smart enough to have an agenda. They are easily impressed with correlations and r-squared and just dont have the mental horsepower to intelligently dissect these studies. Heck, even i have a hard time figuring out where they hid the booger sometimes. They are also easily distracted by jedi mind tricks with simple adjectives when they are reading these gun death studies. why wouldnt you want to reduce gun deaths? No, the point of this study is to reduce gun deaths. Everybody wants to reduce gun deaths. see how i just did that?

      • avatarIng says:

        I’m 100% against gun deaths. It’s a very sad thing when a gun dies. Especially considering that, if treated well, they’re practically immortal.

      • avatarUS says:

        I doubt most of them can even grasp what R-squared means.

      • avatarDean Weingarten says:

        They absolutely have an agenda. It is the “progressive” agenda. It is what they were taught in school, and what they are selected for. If you go against the agenda, you do not get promoted into larger markets.

        The closest to a “leader” of the old media or Main Stream Media is the New York Times, or perhaps the AP. Both are aggressively anti Second Amendment.

  2. avatardwb says:

    Maryland is a pretty solid example. Current Maryland Law has universal background checks (photo ID), handgun registration, and online safety. 90% of crime guns from Baltimore are bought within Maryland. 60% of crime guns recovered in MD overall were bought in Maryland.

    Yet, Maryland is the middle of the pack on “gun deaths” and among the worst (47th i think for 2011) for homicide. Of the 2718 crime guns recovered in MD in 2011 that were bought in MD, where are the prosecutions?

    I read this study. Maryland is a model state… if you are criminal.

    I think when i looked at ATF trace data for CA, most crime guns recovered in CA were from CA… so the same reasoning applies there.

    • avatarBobby says:

      We love releasing criminals early as well, then feigning shock when they murder again. But the issue only matters when they murder a white or Asian person sadly. But we’re so “progressive” we can’t be racially biased, right? Black kids shooting black kids in District Heights or Poplar Grove hardly gets a mention. But O’Malley starts caring when a white kid is killed in Charles Village or Fells Point. Then of course it’s the same old gun control routine because that’ll stop the carnage in Bmore and PG!

    • avatarJarhead1982 says:

      Refrences or Govt. links to recovered guns per state and such as need to add that to my govt. data whomping of antis list! Thanks!

      • avatardwb says:

        atf trace data by state:

        http://www.atf.gov/statistics/trace-data/2011-trace-data.html

        page 5 or 6.

        for example youll see for MD overall, 2718 gun recovered in MD were bought in md (of 4693). for CA its 12481 of 17285.

        good luck thumping antis, ive discovered they’re impervious to facts.

        • avatarJarhead1982 says:

          Gracias!

          But as I am not affiliated with any organization, I play by the same rules they do, none!

          Hence I apply all of Saul Alinsky’s 13 rules of activism back upon them, and use ridicule to get them to the point of going psycho or just shutting up.

          That and never deviating from the point discussed as anti’s try to frame the conversation and draw us away from our strengths, all those irrefutable facts, we just keep repeating them over and over and unlike what they claim, our facts are true to begin with!

          That and reminding them how batschiite crazy they really are, linking it to recent genetic research ..

          http://news.yahoo.com/huge-study-5-mental-disorders-share-genetic-links-233340007.html

          ..showing how mental illness, schizophrenia is a result of damaged genetics, well, we understand how such creatures come to be.

          Yeah, I piss em off pretty good cause if they aren’t mad at you, you aren’t getting your point accross and applying constant pressure, sucks for them to be played with their own rules, LOL!

  3. avatarRalph says:

    The Joyce Foundation paid for it, so we know the “results” of the “study” before it’s published.

    The Joyce Foundation is the mushroom of American politics. It grows in the dark on piles of dung, and it’s poisonous.

  4. avatarspeedracer5050 says:

    Ok!! Here is the solution:
    1. All anti gun medical people must work in the hospitals/medical facilities that ban firearms on the premises.
    2. All pro gun medical people will have their own medical facility that allows them and anyone else legally allowed to carry on the facility grounds.
    3. All anti gun medical personell are only allowed to use a non edged, bendable catheter to defend themselves with. Nothing else.
    4. No member of any anti gun medical facility will be allowed to call for armed assistance until they have completed a Federal Form 9987 “Request For Armed Intervention Because I Am A Pu$$y” in triplicate at least forty five days prior to the incident!!
    5. Crawl you sorry bast&&ds!!
    Ok off of soapbox now!!

  5. avatarBobtrumpet says:

    John Hinderaker over at PowerLine said that, based on looking at the data in the study, the headline for the study should have been:

    “New Study Finds Firearms Laws Do Nothing to Prevent Homicides”

    One part of his analysis: “But what jumps out at you when you read Fleegler’s article is that the decrease in fatalities that he documents relates almost exclusively to suicides.”

    Full article here: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/03/new-study-finds-firearms-laws-do-nothing-to-prevent-homicides.php

  6. avatarDaveL says:

    Wow, so many “degrees of freedom” in the way data was collected and analyzed. There’s an excellent article on how study methodologies involving a large number of degrees of freedom make it trivial to demonstrate statistically significant correlations where none exist:

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/17/0956797611417632

  7. avatarFlubnut says:

    I read the MSNBC article citing this study. I was surprised to see them quickly point out that there is no cause/effect correlation. Figured I might have to wait until the comments for someone to (rightfully) point this out. But the bigger point: if the study is crap, and everyone admits it’s crap, why does JAMA publish it? Why write a damn news story about it?

    Oh wait…now I remember why. Silly me, facts and reasoning are optional these days…

    • avatarMark N. says:

      JAMA publishese it because the powers that be at the AMA are anti-gun. (AMA is the group pushing for pediatricians to ask their patients’ parents about gun ownership in the home, so that they can give “advice” that for the safety of their children, guns should preferably be eliminated, but at the least kept unloaded and locked up.)

  8. avatarDaveL says:

    Here‘s an excellent article discussing how a large numbers of “degrees of freedom” in study methodology makes it possible to show a statistically significant correlation for anything you wish, even if it doesn’t really exist.

    You might have noticed, this study is shot through with such degrees of freedom. The construction of their scoring function alone must have dozens of them. Then there’s the choice of statistical test, the decision to compare by quartile rather than by quintile, or individually, the decision whether or not to include suicides, etc.

    • avatarDaveL says:

      I’ve been looking at their table of results, and it makes it clear that it’s the inclusion of suicides that makes the effect appear.

      And how did Michigan score one half-point below Illinois on the legislative strength score?

    • avatarShenandoah says:

      As the saying goes, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

  9. avatarLucubration says:

    I found it rather ridiculous that the whole point of the article is: ‘when guns aren’t available, guns aren’t available.’ Well… yeah.

  10. avatarMike Taylor says:

    This headlined Yahoo! news and when I read the story hot (read that scalding) coffee erupted from my nose. Bad ju ju. While my nasal cavity is seriously unhappy with me, the study itself is a self congratulatory pat on the back for people that have no desire for fact. At school, I shared this mess of convoluted wishes and hope to my fellow students, some of whom agreed with it, others saw my angle. The dumbasses that thought the Brady Center was right could see the logic as useful…
    …until I asked them a few simple questions about scientific method. It is true that if you ask a blind man to describe the light, you will get a less than accurate depiction of reality. This study is no different. According to the results of this woefully incorrect collection of unicorn farts and misrepresentations, Jasper (Wyoming) is the last place in the United States a person would want to live if terrified by violent crime statistics. That same person would be compelled to find solace in the warm embrace of Chicago, say around the Evanston line. Does the truth reflect the inflection? Not even remotely. Come to think of it, this study can actually be used as a guideline for where it is most likely to be shot/maimed/killed because a CITIZEN(highlighted for a reason) has no choice but to be disarmed via mandate as a criminal sees little more than opportunity. These fucking idiots scare me. Seriously.

  11. avatarSilver says:

    Even if the headline were a true statement, which it’s obviously not, who cares? Locking everyone in their homes would equal fewer deaths also. So would a ban on cars, swimming pools, and stairs. And those aren’t even Constitutionally-protected rights.

    The objective of the American “experiment” is not to live safely, but to live free. Something slave-minded scumbags like this can’t seem to fathom.

  12. avatarracer88 says:

    Whatever. The AMA is irrelevant, as it boasts about a 15% membership rate among physicians.

  13. avatarJAS says:

    This is the same methodology the warmers in the climate debate use. I studied that four four years and there is nothing to see there. Same here, the correlation does not equal causation rules the day again. They keep trying though, the poor bastards.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      I’m insulted. I had an early post on this and it got caught in the SPAM trap and never released. What am I chopped liver? Ok, I’m whining.

  14. avatarCaptain Catsup says:

    At least The JAMA is consistent. They have an opinion on everything, usually wrong but always self serving, even if just to get publicity.

  15. avatarRandy Drescher says:

    Maybe we can get michael vick to pontificate on proper dog care too? Randy

  16. avatarUS says:

    YankeeMarshal on YouTube does a good job of debunking the “More Gun Laws = Fewer Deaths” study:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpHe9nHDLpA

    (No, I am not YankeeMarshall.)

  17. avatarLance says:

    Why bother Reading it old media is all in the tank for Fascist Dems on every issue. Check real FBI statistics and see the true more guns less crime reality.

  18. avatarSCS says:

    I don’t waste my time wiping my ass with JAMA, that rag goes straight in the trash.

  19. avatartdiinva says:

    The study excluded the District of Columbia. If you add DC to the mix then the results reverse and the more restrictions on firearms ownership the more gun deaths you have. If exclude Louisiana as an outlyers same thing. See John Hinderacker’s analysis below.

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/03/new-study-finds-firearms-laws-do-nothing-to-prevent-homicides.php

    Note that the study only talks about gun suicides and not total suicides. We have no way of knowing from the study if the states with high gun suicide rates simply have more suicides from all methods or that the low gun suicide rate states have increased suicides from other methods. Both results would destroy their conclusions. Hinderacker also points out that murder rates in the states with the least restrictions are lower than the states with more restrictions if you include DC in the mix. I think we can guess why Fleegler left DC out of the analysis.

    I heard an exchange between Alan Dershwitz and John Lott where Dershowitz through usual “you’re ono the NRA payroll and you prejudged the results” line of attack. It was all courtroom style dramatics. Dr. Lott isn’t on anybody’s payroll. Sounds like Alan was projecting because that’s what this study did.

    J’Accuse Monsieur Fleeger of taking Joyce money with intention of coming to specific conclusion and then rigging the data when it was clear that the results from using all the data would support the pro-Second Amendment view.

  20. avatarBilly Wardlaw says:

    Nice! very ZING!ish

  21. avatarGerry says:

    The first thing I noticed about the ‘study’ is that it was a study among states – conveniently leaving out the District of Columbia. Wonder why?

  22. avatarUnapologeticallyAmerican says:

    From the same tools that stood next to Obama and praise the Affordable Health Care Act.

    Fact is most physicians in this country know Obamacare will ruin healthcare. Fact is most physicians in this country own guns. The AMA is steadily losing membership for a reason.

  23. avatarBHirsh says:

    The only “deep thinking” that is necessary and relevant is this:

    The keeping and bearing of militia arms is a protected right. You can’t do anything about it.

    Period.

  24. avatarRockThisTown says:

    The guy in the picture . . . wasn’t he the stuttering defense lawyer from ‘My Cousin Vinny’?

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