The Gun Store by Barleymashers

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.

60 Responses to NY Times Confuses Opinions With Facts On Illegal Gun Sales

  1. My response to this kind of stuff is always “well, go out and arrest them then.” One of the major points gun controllers tend to argue is that we don’t have enough gun laws. Well, what good are new laws when the ones we have aren’t being enforced. If there really are close to 2,000 dealers out there selling to criminals all willy-nilly we’ve no shortage of law enforcement or laws for them to enforce. If this study is accurate, what’s the hold up?

  2. Its like new math, or spelling, or climate science.

    It’s not that the data is right, its that he tried his best that is important.

    • Source: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/

      Injury Prevention is an international peer review journal, offers the best in science, policy, and public health practice to reduce the burden of injury in all age groups around the world. The journal publishes original research, opinion, debate and special features on the prevention of unintentional, occupational and intentional (violence-related) injuries. It is the official journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention (ISCAIP) and the Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research (SAVIR)

      Sounds rather sketchy to me. Perhaps a “paper mill” like those “peer review my friends for pay” periodicals that have been exposed recently?

  3. Well damn. Since when did LEGO guns start looking like actual guns? There was the one story a while back about the kid suspended for having one, but these are pretty neat. Back in my day we had the black megaphone piece and the one revolver piece and we liked it.

  4. This takes junk “science” to whole new levels. An essentially worthless study (I know you do it legally, but what do you think of that creep down the street???) trumpeted as real science by the NYT.

    Either the reporter doesn’t know the difference or is intentionally selling this worthless survey as useful.

    Any guesses which?

  5. One positive thing about this kind of….reporting, I guess? is that after seeing how often the malign information on guns, it made me start looking more closely at other subjects that the dead tree guys like to cover.
    Suffice to say, it isn’t just guns that they dress up with horseshit; it’s damn near EVERYTHING.

    • Years ago when I was in EMS, I can remember when we would be involved in incidents and then watching a report on the evening news. It was usually so bad that we wondered if another incident had happened at the same place.

    • In every field of specialization in which I hold licensing or certification for expert knowledge (computer security, aviation, bicycle transportation), and in every incident with which I have direct acquaintance, I have seen the popular media get the story completely wrong. That’s even if they seem to be making a good faith, unbiased effort to get it right, which NYT reporters obviously aren’t.

      In a few cases I have reached out to the reporter after their initial story offering myself as a resource for follow-ups, and once I was even interviewed on-camera between the 6:00 and 11:00 news shows. They still always get it completely wrong.

      I’ve given up even trying to educate reporters, and I usually manage to avoid being interviewed.
      http://teacherseducation.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/128781239385826129.jpg

      • If it were a simple matter of being dumb, the media would get it wrong both ways, at least on occasion, in both the anti-gun and pro-gun directions.

        With guns, it’s not simple dumbness, it’s overwhelming anti-gun bias at play; no matter what, gun story reports are now construed in an anti-gun tone, and the relevant facts are always cherry picked to promote the anti-gun meme.

  6. So are these responding gun dealers guilty of failure to report a felony?
    Were they asked if they would be willing to testify in court against those that they know are selling guns illegally?

  7. I spent my career at a well known market research firm and dealt with the press on a daily basis. I can tell you that very few reporters ask how a survey was conducted and fewer still know what questions to ask. If the headline on the press release passes a “sniff” test (i.e. matches their pre-concieved notions), they run with it.

  8. How come the NYT hasn’t run an article based on “facts” regarding deaths after abortions? I guess some “facts” good, some “facts” bad…

  9. So I can only assume that these would be used weapons that were bought and then resold and completely off the books? KInd of hard to believe that a store could do that very long before getting tripped up. And the evidence of that would be where????

    • Since he sampled a laughably small number of “random” FFL holders anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

  10. My favorite part of this “research” is in the limitations section, where the authors clearly state “our results cannot be generalised to the entire licensee population”, and then they generalize their results against the entire licensee population.

    Especially egregious since their survey was targeted to a subset of retail FFLs (those who sell >50 firearms/year), representing only 1/5th of the total number of retail FFLs. Of course, as Nick pointed out, only a fraction of the subset of FFLs responded, about 1% of all FFLs.

  11. Once again, the NYT confused with a “news source”. Nobody asked them. You’re parrot doesn’t care that the the black-stuff actually spells something.

  12. NYT is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for material.
    What kind of answer would we get if a number of newspaper editors were asked, “How many of your competitors print only the truth?”

  13. Just when I thought they couldn’t stoop any lower……

    They can’t even comprehend that a Licensed Gun Dealer holds an FFL, and all the paperwork that goes with it. The actual number hast to be miniscule.

  14. Woe to you who call good evil & evil good…sorry I don’t think a sample of 592 gun shops means diddly. Have you been asked if you own guns by a complete stranger? Over the phone? There is no chance I would talk to a complete stranger about gun sales. On the phone. Whatever-same old same old BS.

    • He did it by mail. To most businesses, that would be junk mail, hence the laughably low (but normal for mail) response rate.

  15. Little Garen is doing the best he can. There are precious few facts that he can use in manufacturing his propaganda so, he has to make up his own. If his efforts are ludicrous, at least they are useful. We can pay attention to who repeats his lies and judge them accordingly.

    17 years ago the US congress acted to end the CDC’s funding of anti-gun junk science. The pretend researcher did not just lose access to federal dollars, he also lost the sheen of respectability that came from being associated with the CDC. Little Garen claims to have spent 1.1 million dollars of his own money (well, his daddy’s money) on his “studies”. All he has accomplished is to reveal himself as a crackpot of the “voters are mass child killers” variety.

  16. As the tribesman said to the missionary:

    “Cannibals? Nope – not us. Those guys in the next valley over, though…”

    Sigh. Hearsay is hearsay, whatever the medium it’s conveyed by.

  17. The TImes conflated news and opinion years ago in order to further an agenda. As the old joke goes,
    “This morning I read a strong opinion piece in the New York Times.
    Then I turned from the front page to the editorials. . .”

  18. Smoke would always start curling from my ears when I read that someone “reported” an assault weapon was used in the Sandy Hook shootings.
    I’ve finally stopped reading “news” papers and watching tv “news”. It will probably add 10 years to my life span.

  19. I keep thinking I can’t be surprised at their audacity, but it’s just not true. They keep surprising me. Sigh….

  20. When I read the survey I noticed that one category they tracked was attempted undocumented sales through an FFL.

    They describe the situation where someone comes to a gun show to buy a gun with no paper trail. When the seller says I am an FFL, here is your paperwork, the buyer moves along to a private seller.

    Was this an attempted criminal purchase?

    Was this Law abiding Citizen trying to have an undocumented gun that the authorities won’t come looking for when they begin confiscation?

    Doesn’t matter to the NYT I suppose.

  21. In California, as well as likely any other state with any so called reasonable laws it isn’t uncommon for a dealer to incorrectly think that a certain gun or part or even transfer process. Weather he willfully spreads this out of ignorance or for his own gain. I recently had a dealer tell me if I didn’t buy a particular gun his way, which included a 35% markup and an added 8hrs of driving the atf would be calling me. Im sure somebody like that would say he thinks other dealers are selling illegal guns when it in not true.

  22. I HATE the media coverage of science, any science. I often wonder if they read the abstract let alone the entire report.

    That said, the first paragraph actually contains good data, the second paragraph is pure conjecture.

    Guess which one the MSM will talk about?

  23. I personally do not think most of the straw purchases go to gangs. I would say that a lot of them go to friends and family members as more or less gifts. Just my observations from being a red neck and being around the gun culture all of my life.

  24. I will say that most of the stolen guns go to the gangs. Probably the long guns are sold and not kept. So sayeth my local friendly LEOs.

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