Guns confiscated from smugglers (courtesy whdh.com)

The problem with gun control activists’ stance is that it isn’t backed by any actual hard numbers. They try to massage the figures to make them more emotionally appealing, but the fact remains that virtually every statistic proves the idea that — at the very least — guns are not the problem. With public opinion shifting against them, one group has now decided to try to make it seem that the numbers really are in their favor with a website they’ve dubbed the “Gun Violence Archive.” There’s just one problem: their methodology is flawed from the start . . .

The purpose of the site appears to be the collection and analysis of firearms related incidents in the United States. It’s a noble goal, but depending on who is doing the collection and their methodology that analysis can become incredibly slanted. Let’s take a look at who is behind this site:

The Gun Violence Archive [GVA] was established to carry on the work of Slate.com’s 2013 toll of deaths by gun violence. When GVA took the reins in 2014, the mission was expanded to also look at the tens of thousands of injuries and other acts of gun violence. The overall goal of GVA is to provide the best, most detailed, accessible data on the subject to add clarity to the ongoing discussion on gun violence, gun rights, and gun regulations.

Slate.com has been one of the more vocal proponents for civilian disarmament and infringement on the civil rights of Americans when it comes to firearms ownership. So already, I’m a little skeptical of the effort. Their methodology doesn’t help.

GVA began with the goal to provide a database of incidents of gun violence. To that end we utilize automated queries, manual research through over 1,200 media sources, aggregates, police blotters, police media outlets and other sources daily. Each incident is verified by both initial researchers and secondary validation processes. Links to each incident are included in the incident report to provide further information on each incident for researchers, advocate groups, media and legislative interests.

The front page of their website provides a real-time count (so they say) of deaths (broken out to highlight “children”), injuries, and other evil uses of firearms. Perhaps surprisingly, they include a “Defensive Use” number as well. The purpose is clear: they are trying to make the argument that, on balance, there are far more criminal and tragic uses of guns than defensive uses. But the problem is that their methodology will never accurately reflect the defensive use number.

The issue is that they are depending on media reports and police blotters for their information. While that might seem reasonable to the lay person, the fact of the matter is that the disparity in the reporting of defensive gun uses versus murders and shootings is so great as to make any analysis based on that data impossible. The old admonition “if it bleeds it leads” is as true as it’s ever been, so virtually every shooting and gun-related death gets reported on the news and is reported to the police. But defensive gun uses? Frequently nothing happened. It’s doubtful that there would even be a police report about many of the incidents, let alone a mention in the news.

Let’s take that a step further. What percentage of defensive gun uses even get reported to the police? Every single person I know who has had a DGU hasn’t reported it — they simply walked away and got on with their lives, thankful for the iron on their side. The problem with the GVA’s assumption is that they believe every single DGU will be reported, and the fact of the matter is that they won’t be.

Even if the DGU is reported to the police, included in the police blotter, and then picked up by this site, there’s one more hurdle to it being accepted. “Each incident is verified by both initial researchers and secondary validation processes” they claim, meaning that only events which meet their specific definition of a defensive gun use are included in the count. What are those definitions? They don’t say, besides a vague statement:

The reported use of force with a firearm to protect and/or defend one’s self or family. Only verified incidents are reported.

That phrase — “use of force” — is what leads me to believe that they will refuse to include any DGU that doesn’t involve a shot being fired. Even their own results page backs this up, where every single DGU includes shots being fired. Not every defensive gun use ends with someone being shot, and that’s where the inherent bias in the data starts to become apparent. Not every DGU requires a shot to be fired. And even by the most conservative estimates, there are more than 100,000 annual defensive gun uses.

Assuming every defensive gun use ends in someone being shot is like assuming that only families where one child has died from malnutrition are below the poverty line.

I like data. Hard facts and good analysis are the key to any good policy decision. But the problem with the Gun Violence Archive is that it isn’t providing good data. In fact, it basically ignores half of the equation and presses forward presenting only the statistics that support their pre-determined conclusion. It is the very definition of shoddy analysis, and that I can’t abide.

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33 Responses to Why the “Gun Violence Archive” Is Flawed From the Start

  1. “Gun violence” is a nonsensical term at best, people are injured WITH guns not by guns. As far as all of the civilian disarmament collective goes it’s all emotionally manipulative bovine excrement.

    • Not quite proper English in your use of the term ‘with”. In this context, the preposition “with” equates to “by means of”. So, your statement should read, people are injured by means of guns.

  2. I also reject the term “gun violence” as being meaningless.

    Until people commonly use the terms “car violence”, “bat violence”, “axe violence”, and “fist violence”, “gun violence” is off the table. Anyone trying to draw a distinction among violence based on the tool/body part used to inflict it is just trying to play on the emotions of the weak minded. Dead is dead, maimed is maimed – it really doesn’t matter to the victim or their loved ones how the damage was inflicted. Unless the media tells them it matters.

  3. Oh, well–anyone who thinks they are going to get accurate gun-related data out of Slate, or out of any outfit that uses the phrase “gun violence” in its name, is starting from a flawed intellect.

  4. Gun violence is a concept that is purposefully negative, and slanted, against guns.
    I could make a legitimate argument to have all men castrated lest they commit ‘Penis Rape’.

    • To that end, any woman that fights off an attempted rape should be a “violence” statistic? Why is it only of statistical value if she shoots the perp?

  5. “Gun violence” is meaningless. The increase in violence in every country I’m aware of after strict gun laws proves this.

    Whether or not I should allowed to own a gun has nothing to do with criminal acts committed by others, no matter the implement they used.

    They are wrong philosophically and morally. Thank God they are wrong about the social benefits aspect as well.

  6. Just spent a few minutes perusing the Montana listings (by the way, what a joke of a website; poor layout, confusing wording, horrible search). Here’s an example of the inaccuracies:

    1. Several listings are for airports. The list includes the TSA blog’s monthly reports. The first one I viewed was for a stun gun (not a firearm) at Billings Airport. Another was for someone with a .380 in their bag.

    2. There was an incident in Bozeman where someone called the police and said they saw a man walking near a school with a rifle (actually, this is pretty common – kids ride bikes with rifles here). There’s quite a stretch – disingenuous, I might add – between what was reported in the local news and what was listed as the incident on the GVA website. Local News: “Officers were unable to locate any person with a firearm or find anyone who had seen where the man went.” GVA’s interpretation: “Police received reports of a man carrying a long gun near school property, but have yet to make an arrest.”

    3. With the exception of a few genuine incidents, the list is full of TSA posts, “probationer caught with rifle”, “dog shoots man” (seriously), and incidents where a police officer used force.

    If we all take a few minutes to peruse the listing for our states, I’m certain we can come up with a list that negates nearly anything they post.

    Also, though I searched Montana, it returned listings for Montana (1 page) and Delaware (11 pages). Poorly coded, database corrupt with garbage. If this was a programming class, they’d fail.

  7. Most “experts” agree that the VAST majority of defensive gun uses involve precisely zero shots being fired. Like easily 90% plus. It’s a completely ignored fact that one of the best aspects of having a firearm for self defense is that it’s a sufficiently strong showing of force such that the mere sight of the firearm completely and instantly stops the encounter in its tracks. Bad guy freezes solid, eyes bug out, and he either capitulates or runs. A firearm is often the most peaceful option to end a criminal encounter, in that it has a higher percentage of resulting in no injury whatsoever to any party than any other means of self defense. Take out a bat and the bad guy is going to size you up, size the bat up, and proceed from there. Take out a firearm and it doesn’t matter if you’re Vern Troyer or a 5-foot-nothing, 90-year-old woman, you have the same capability and it’s such that it stops an incident in its tracks. Peacefully.

    Due to the nature of DGUs where no shot is fired, which, again, is the vast majority of them, they are severely under-reported as Nick mentioned. Often because no police record ever even exists, and often because when it does it’s just a written statement by the would-have-been-but-ultimately-wasn’t crime victim and goes no further than that. Even if the criminal lays down on the ground and waits for cops to arrive, the incident isn’t even likely to make local news in a small town, let alone hit the net and get the attention of those who gather data.

    The Brady Campaign and other anti-gun groups have even admitted to 80,000 to 100,000 defensive gun uses per year. Researchers and experts like John Lott peg the number up to 8 times higher than that. Either way, it FAR outweighs the ~11,000 murders committed with a firearm each year. Even if you count the ~20,000 suicides by firearm (making the horribly mistaken assumption that nearly all of people would not have simply killed themseslves via other means had they not had access to a gun) and the ~200 accidental deaths in your “gun violence” stats — which ALL of these groups do, of course — the positive benefit just from actual defensive gun uses far outweighs it. The somewhat intangible benefits of freedom, protection from government oppression, recreation, hunting, the very real potential for life-saving self defense capability in the future, etc etc are impossible to quantify but when you add that into the mix as well then it’s very clear that firearms have a strong (STRONG) net positive effect.

    …who knows how many of those DGUs where no shot was fired would have resulted in a beaten, raped, and/or murdered victim at the hands of the thwarted criminal otherwise. There’s an extremely real possibility that the murder rate in the U.S. would be significantly higher without firearms than with, and the crime and violent crime rates would almost certainly skyrocket just like they did in the U.K. after guns were banned there. Whether you’re rabidly anti-gun or not, you benefit from the “free rider” crime deterrent effect that prevalent firearms have on criminals in the U.S. Your house may not have been broken into dozens of times now or you didn’t get mugged only because, in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you’re armed and that makes your local bad guy nervous.

    • My question is: why do so many of these 80k to 100k DGU’s go unreported? If I was in a situation where I had to draw my EDC – or even considered drawing it – I’m certain I would at the very least call the po-po to make them aware that a dangerous criminal/drug-addict/psychopath was roaming the area with the potential of harming another, almost certainly less-prepared citizen. Is the lack of reported DGU’s also reflective of a lack of responsibly and concern for community safety on the part of the every-day-carrier? Or is it the failure of bureaucracy that leads to so many DGU’s going unreported?

      • Mostly it is because in today’s world no good deed like reporting such an incident ( you brandishing your weapon toward someone presumed innocent) goes unpunished.

  8. Thanks for that writeup! It was my immediate reaction, but work usually demands that I work instead of doing research…

    I know my own personal DGU had no chance of making it on there. I was walking with a family member that had previously been mugged when we saw the mugger. As he was approaching us, I casually left my jacket swing open wide enough to see the weapon. He turned down the alleyway and that was it. Undoubtedly one of the more common dgu’s out there… No drawn weapon, merely a casual recognition of capabilities.

  9. “Hard facts and good analysis are the key to any good policy decision.” — Nick Leghorn

    I agree 1000% about “policy decisions”.

    Now, keep in mind that our fundamental, unalienable human rights are not a matter of policy. That is why we call them RIGHTS and that is why data is irrelevant when we are talking about rights.

    Look at it this way: how much data do we need, and what does the data have to say, before we make worship at Methodist churches illegal? Answer: data is irrelevant. It is a person’s fundamental, unalienable right to worship at any church of their choosing, PERIOD. Similarly, it is a person’s fundamental, unalienable right to keep and bear arms of their choosing, PERIOD.

  10. From their website….

    “NOTE: Armed Robbery is being removed from the Daily Summary Ledger due to an inability to accurately validate some crimes”

    Ha! They can’t confirm Armed Robberies so they are going to exclude them.

    They can’t confirm a lot of other things they are still counting so ‘flawed methodology’ is too kind an assessment of that waste of electrons.

  11. I’ve had three DGUs of my own that were never reported, and am aware of at least three more. Well, that might be two — when people in a fight see someone who isn’t involved wearing on a hip, and the fight ends an people leave, is that DGU? or just evidence that an armed society is a polite society?

  12. Good writeup, raising the bs flag on this site, Nick.

    This has all the earmarks of the typical progressive agitprop faux non-profit, like Bllombergs MAIG morphing into a “campaign” as Moms Demand Activism, to become Everytown, just in time to skirt IRS tax and funding disclosures under the already fuzzy and long abused rules on non-profits.

    If any enterprising gun journalist wants to dig deeper, they can get past filings, including for this Slate-propaganda article collection, thats become the “basis” for the Anti-gun Archive, simply by requesting copies from IRS.

    I would guess that maybe out of date, or missijg current fujders, so you will have to do an FOIA for more, and monitor their news and tweets, to see the pattern.

    That three of four first news articles are on PuffHos, and two are by Mike the (fake) Gun Guy is a good indication.

    I suppose no one has missed the connection to Obama’s new CDC appointee, Murthy, formerly of Doctors for Obama, and visible promoter of anti-gun rules, and Obama’s Executive Action directing CDC to gather gun stats…

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/01/16/obama_gun_control_executive_orders_call_for_cdc_gun_violence_research_17.html

    Call me cynical, but Obamas selectors n of Bloombergs former NY Big Gulp Czar as the new head of the CDC, and the absolute debacle of leadership or should I say outright repression of information, there, includingvthe obvious collusion by progtard echo chamber outlets, at PuffHos, Vox, Media Matters, Talkin Point Media, and reliable Journolistas and editors in the Reliable Party Organs at NYT, WAPO, CNN, CBS, and MSNBC ought to be pretty entertaining,

    As they flog their last remaing shreds of credibility into the dirt, for this last desperate campaing for gun-control, and some legacy, any thing to talk about for Obamas made up history before he follows Bill Clinto onto the big fee for lies speaking circuit and the dustbin of history he so richly deserves.

  13. i dont think this will have the impact you are predicting. it is public record how many people in each state applied for CCW’s. so lets say idaho has 100,000 ccw holders. well if this “archive” shows a drastically low number, they will be asked where is this data from? to which they will have no response. if they release something saying there was only 20 defensive gun uses in idaho for a year or how ever long, i think most people will see right through that just like they have ever other anti-gun propaganda statement. the more fringe these people get, the more they lose from their cause. THE SAME CAN BE SAID FOR US.

  14. ps: read Atkisson’s StoneWalled for her insider experience on the repression of investigative journalism on anything relecting poorly on the current POTUS, by CBS,

    And accounts of other journalists experience of same.

    The pattern is pretty obvious, and this latest is just anotyer sad example of desperation in the progtard propaganda campaign, that we see obvious collusion and coordijation right now in a wave of anti-gun stories, from PBS to government agencies, like CDC, ballyhooed in the StateRunMedia echo chamber.

    This fake database being setup by some anonymous third party funders, and propagandized by PuffHo’s is no surprise to long time news readers, and will give experienced gun writers like David Codrea, Bob Owens, and Dean Weingarten, and the staff of TTAG plenty to pick out and blow up, the lies and distortions the gun-grabbers HAVE to manufacture, since they are losing the national debate on the facts, and common-sense.

    We’ll see how fast the gun-grabbers try to spin the “narrative” from weak connections to flawed studies, and how fast they try to corrupt the mantle of federal credibilty, by wrapping the supposed authority and trust of the CDC around them, ( can you say “Ebola”)

    And the miscalculation already obvious, wiill be instructive of just how corrupted some fedgov agencies have become, by operatives within, like the IRS’ Lerner, and Chief Counsels coordination with the WH, or ATF managers and AG stonewalling to this day, on F&F, and

    How foolish are the true believers, and more mendacious who feed upon their naivete, in shallow end of gene pool journolistas, still thinking they can sell the Big Lie, beyond the remaining LIVs and koolaid drinkers of the progressive Cult.

    Huffpo, Vox, Mm, and TPM and the like will be the Harvard Business School case studies, ten years from now, and j-school ethics class cautionary tales, twenty years from now for what happens when you abandon ethis, and truth,

    In favor of the faux media hive mind living off fakebook metrics like what was sold to AOL as reality,
    And PuffHo stock value already crumbling is but a reminder of whats underneath, just as msnbc, cnn, and nyts eyeballs, subscriptions, and hard revenues are cratering…

    No one believes a liar.

  15. Of course, even if the stats actually did show that there were more people hurt by guns than saved, there is this thing called the Second Amendment that trumps all that. Let’s say that there are 30,000 bad uses of a gun and only 15,000 good uses of a gun where lives are saved. Lives got saved 15,000 times. The anti-gunners are fond of saying “if it saves one life.” The problem is that all their solutions would end up killing the 15,000. Oh, and the second amendment.

    Now, we know the real truth is that the number of lives saved is closer to between 300,000 and 1-million depending on what studies you look at or even only 80,000 if you believe that anti professor who guesses there are 80,000, that’s still more than the pumped up 30k number that the anti’s use. Yet all the solutions from the antis result in more people killed.

    • Unless the upper jumped from your hand it counts as”falling violence”. We must quickly repeal the law of gravity

      • No one is trying to take your gravity.

        We are simply advocating for reasonable, common-sense restrictions on how much gravity you have in any one place at any one time. No one needs more than 1 gravity at at time.

        • “Common Sense Gun Control” is simply one of many liberal euphemisms that the gun-grabber’s use for the elimination of the 2nd amendment. You people are as phony as a three dollar bill… and everyone can see through it. Those who can’t just don’t have a dog in this hunt. Trust this though, the protection of our Constitutional rights, our Bill Of Rights and the very sovereignty of our nation depends on the fight you people have called us out on. We intend to fight you people every step of the way too, so have at it! We are ready for you deceitful snakes!

  16. Even the term “violence” has been misused. It is the emotional connection with the word, not the actuality that drives the anti-gun folk. Violence is GOOD in the right context.
    .
    Implied force (violence) is the tool of police agencies, even if not overt in use.
    Actual force (violence) is the tool used to effectuate an arrest of a criminal, especially one that resists.
    The common PIT maneuver police use to stop a person fleeing in a vehicle is a form of violence.
    .
    Should I face the threat of immediate bodily harm or death by (criminal) violence, I will, if armed, respond with deadly force, yes violence (but legal and moral) to stop that threat. Even the overt threat of violence, such as drawing a firearm, or even advising the criminal that I have access to one, is a form of violence.

    Those who advocate elimination of all violence are insane. They disclaim reality and necessity when combatting evil.

  17. Hey why stop at taking our guns away. Why not our cars, after all they kill just as many people as guns, if not more. Wat about taking sex away considering it kills far more people than guns ever will. Oh and let us not forget, alcohol and drugs, which kill far, far more people than all the gun violence combined.

    Take away Americans guns and watch how fast we all become Chinese or Russians!

  18. As of 11/7/2015 the site claims there have been 284 “mass shootings” in the US since the 1st of the year. That alone is a tip-off that the site is neither legit nor biased.The next immediate tip-off are the news articles on claimed “gun control victories” at the bottom of the page. Shameless bias.

    • One thing this site isn’t is legit! Many lib’s like to quote the “gun rights archive” as a good source for data.
      The Gun Rights Archive is a leftist tool spun off from Slate, which should tell everyone all they need to know about their liberal bias… even though it’s stated that they’re non-political, another liberal lie for something that is highly political. These leftist sites depend on the kind of traffic that is more ignorant that most, easily duped and looking for justification for their radical stand against the US Constitution. People such as these would probably be much happier in a country like North Korea where no one is different and everyone must think and believe the same way… a real liberal paradise but for the lack of unicorns running wild along the beaches!

  19. Give everybody in america a gun or two……..and watch the population of idiots diminish. The reason you dont have hard stats is because no one will allow gun violence in the US to be studied. Perhaps if you looked outside your own country for a second and looked at other countries that have been allowed to do in depth studies and whom have put in place gun laws accordingly you will actually see that harder access to weapons = less gun deaths. Why reinvent the wheel. Believe what you want to believe, as they say guns dont kill people, people kill people but when that person has a gun in their hand your fate is sealed. The blood of your children is on your hands. Wake up America!

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