On Friday, the New York Times ran a story highlighting some polling data compiled by well known gun control advocate, Garen J. Wintemute entitled “Real Data on Illegal Gun Sales.” The crux of the story was that *gasp* thousands of gun dealers in the United States were illegally selling firearms. There’s just one problem: it’s complete and utter horseshit. The data is not, in fact, real in any sense of the word . . .
Mr. Wintemute compiled the information for this article based on a survey of 1,601+ gun dealers in the United States. But they didn’t get 1,600 responses — the response rate was around 37%, for about 592 total. The NYT article doesn’t mention this small fact, opting instead to lead the reader to falsely believe that all 1,601 dealers responded to the survey. For reference, there are about 50,000 gun stores in the United States, so while the sample size is sufficient, the results aren’t as accurate or as damning as Wintemute would have readers believe.
From the article:
The survey also asked the dealers and pawnbrokers for their opinion of the prevalence of other retailers’ knowing participation in illegal sales. The median estimate was 3 percent. Extrapolating to roughly 57,000 retail licensees in the United States as of mid-2012, that’s an estimated 1,719 dealers and pawnbrokers nationwide selling firearms illegally.
What we have here is a survey in which gun dealers were asked to guess at the number of other gun dealers involved in illegal activity. A guess. An opinion. A belief based on little to no factual knowledge whatsoever, and using no actual data. Pure conjecture and nothing more. In short, what Wintemute is trying to pass off as “data” are little more than the uninformed opinions of a select few gun store and pawn shop owners. No factual research whatsoever went into this figure, a number that the New York Times is passing off as “real data.”
To be completely clear, while the title stats the article is based on real data on illegal gun sales, Wintemute is operating here in a data-free zone. A more accurate title might be ‘Gun Dealers Have Poor Public Image, Even Among Their Peers.’ This survey might have been intended to bust the doors wide open on the prevalence of illegal gun sales, but anyone with the cognitive capacity of a fruit fly and five minutes of high school statistics can see that this is simply a popularity contest judging the public image of gun store owners. No attempt was made to determine actual practices. Wintemute asked gun dealers for their opinions instead of taking the time to survey law enforcement professionals and ask for their expertise. It’s lazy and embarrassing. That’s like asking high school girls how many ugly girls go to their school (hint: the answer is everyone except themselves and their BFFs).
The problem is that this study, along with countless other worthless pieces of anti-gun agitprop, will be trumpeted by the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex as proof of the evils of the gun industry. There are no actual facts presented in this article, and yet the New York Times will trumpet the “fact” that thousands of gun dealers are selling guns illegally. It will blend in well with other patently misleading “facts” used by the gun control extremists, and their supporters will blindly follow their lead, never investigating the validity of the statistic.
This is the insanity against which we are fighting. The New York Times is trumpeting the consensus of a coffee klatch, presenting the results as hard facts, with no real data to back their claims up. I could survey a class of kindergarteners about their opinion on what percentage of shootings are gang-related and get results that are equally as rigorous as Mr. Wintermute’s.
It’s mind-boggling that something this dumb and misleading made it into print. Or maybe it isn’t.