Junk Science As Anti-Gun Propaganda

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By Robert B. Young, MD

Some weeks it’s hard to decide which new anti-gun “study” to dismember. The problem is that there is so much propaganda coming so fast and furiously. It’s like lobbing a lot of crude missiles at a target hoping to do some damage even though none of them are explosive. I can’t recommend too highly Chris Cox’s NRA-ILA report of August 26, “Weird Science” as a brief guide to the junk science that is the last resort of a cause sailing a leaky boat. As Cox says, watch out for “cherry-picking the data” to prove a point and for “garbage in, garbage out”.  I’d add to beware when correlations are trumpeted as likely causation.  To paraphrase W.C. Fields, we are being “dazzled with … b—s—“ . . .

During the past week, we’ve read:

—About a debate August 21 on al-Jazeera America (“Are Gun Laws Useless?”) included Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Florida State Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda, and  Leah Gunn Barrett, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (full disclosure: I do not belong!).

Barrett claimed that women should not risk carrying guns because they are “not as physically powerful like men are and a gun may easily be turned on the women”, without explaining how women could otherwise defend themselves.  (Interestingly, this comment was edited out of the rolling transcript, but listen at 8:12 in the streaming video.)  In the debate’s promo, Barrett was quoted, presumably straight-faced, saying “Why have gun laws at all?”… “guns don’t fall into the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, terrorists” if there are background checks.  They don’t?

—A good summary (“Kellerman’s gun ownership studies after two decades” at Guns.com) of how exaggerated Art Kellerman’s 1993 study is, which claimed that keeping guns around raises one’s risk of becoming a shooting victim exponentially.  It’s no more justified than the conclusion that the Tooth Fairy exists because kids keep finding money under their pillows.

The commentator notes that Kellerman examined several urban counties with greater than average baseline violence, that he acknowledged but did not control for the fact that higher rates of homicide also correlate with domestic violence and drug abuse, and that the study was done at the peak of American violent crime rates.  He correctly observes that only a longitudinal study of many gun owners for many years could pin down how many were associated with firearm injuries and deaths, how many times they were used to prevent injuries and deaths, and how many suicides by gun occurred versus the general population.

—An American Journal of Public Health (note the clue, “public health”) article “State Firearm Legislation and Nonfatal Firearm Injuries” claiming to show that Hawaii has a low number of gunshot injuries because it has strict gun laws.  Well, that could be so, if the authors could explain why they ignored 31 states in the comparison, ignored the rarer gun ownership of Hawaiians than average (perhaps because its strict laws inhibit gun ownership?), and chose to look at only non-fatal gun injuries (… why?).

Of course, looking at states only ignores the District of Columbia, where very strict laws are associated with very high rates of firearm homicide (more commonly followed than mere injuries) and it skips discussing states like Vermont, with almost no gun restrictions and rare shootings.  TheTruthAboutGuns covers this well.

—A detailed critique by firearm and  violence researcher John Lott, Jr., Ph.D. (and a more readable takedown by NRA-ILA) of “Firearms Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States” by the members of the Bloomberg and Harvard Schools of Public Health axis.  This latest “public health” work discovers a correlation (and implies causation) between rates of gun ownership and homicides of Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) across states.  Superficially read, one notes their:

  • Not looking at rates across many years in either of the title variables.
  • List of controlled variables incudes primarily general demographics, while ignoring things that matter. There is no attention to varying licensing requirements (from none vs. formal training) in order to own guns or at least carry pistols, how restrictive a process it is to obtain carry status (shall- vs. may-issue vs. nothing), and what kinds of and rates of crime are endemic in different states (which would affect both LEO homicides and civilian desires to own guns), etc.
  • “Using the average of the 2001, 2002, and 2004 BRFSS data as the source of firearm ownership” … What happened to 2003, why not before or after?
  • Filling in such gaps by using the proportion of firearm suicides as some “proxy” for gun ownership. There are so many other factors in the choice of suicide means, let alone the act of suicide, that it’s an absurd, unreliable idea no matter who else has used it as a proxy for general gun ownership.
  • Skating by the state of Vermont which, again, has about the least restricted access to guns with high rates of gun ownership, and the lowest rate of LEO homicides. At the same time, again, the District of Columbia, with extraordinarily low gun ownership has the highest rate of LEO homicide.  And why does Florida have such a low rate of LEO homicides?  As I recall, it has the highest rate of carry permits in the country.  Etc., etc.

Of course, the authors’ belief is that “reducing firearm ownership [is how best] to reduce occupational deaths of LEOs”.  I’ll bet we could think of a lot of more direct ways to accomplish that, which wouldn’t involve increasing everyone else’s risks of losing in violent confrontations.

—From the Journal of Forensic Sciences comes a study discussing characteristics of spontaneous domestic murderers that differ from those of premeditated murderers of non-family members (“Study suggests method for predicting men who may murder their spouses”).  They are “more likely to have severe mental illness, few previous felony convictions, less intelligence and more cognitive impairment”.  These are worthwhile observations, but the most important near-term predictor is simply being threatening and abusive.  Women especially should take that behavior very seriously no matter what other descriptors apply, and run not walk away.

We’re all familiar with the “big lie” approach to influencing group beliefs.  Our friends in public health academia seem rather to be telling a lot of small fibs, hoping they’ll accumulate convincingly while necessitating more effort to uncover them than just a few big ones.

Robert J. Ringer, who wrote Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One is a smart guy.  He pointed out that “People say they love truth, but in reality they want to believe that which they love is true”.

Facing truth is very hard once you’ve become wedded to a particular viewpoint, even when the evidence has turned against it.  In the psychology of research, this is called “researcher (or investigator) bias”.  This is what’s happened to the “public health” attack on “gun violence”.  It turns out that it isn’t a useful paradigm, and it’s not true.  But it’s become a self-validating philosophy that supports a lot of careers.

 

Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. 

This article originally appeared at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission.

comments

  1. avatar Joe R. says:

    The “fast and furious” pace of the attack on guns is no accident and is directly linked to the upcoming election period.

    Beat it back with every chance you get.

    1. avatar mark s. says:

      Trump will seek to disarm America , if there is an election in 2016 , Trump is the guy the greys want in there to move us into gun registration and then confiscation . I don’t mean greys as alien invaders I mean greys as in Bilderberg’s , Tri-literalist , Illuminati , Mason elitists , skull and cross bones , George Soros type New World Order pushin , global warming preaching , Luciferarian , Dagon worshiping , God despising anti-Christ greys .
      I know , I know , I’m crazy .
      I hope I am .

      1. avatar Timmy! says:

        Cthulhu fhtagn!

        1. avatar Benny the Jew says:

          Ia! Ia! The sleeping Old One has my vote; mind-shattering chaos for everyone! Also, he supports the Fair Tax.

  2. avatar Joe R. says:

    It’s all liberal blue state evil house of (D) crap, and if you’re attempting to obtain minimum safe distance from it, from here, it appears as though you’re not moving fast enough.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      You forgot to say that those of us who live in blue states are part of the problem. You could probably get a plugin for Chrome or Firefox that posts your boilerplate rant for you. Save on some typing.

  3. avatar Grindstone says:

    Can we get a kickstarter or something going for someone to do a study of any one year’s worth of shooting, breaking down all the facts of each and every shooting? I mean hard data: “x amount were by those who were prohibited from owning a gun” “y amount were by those who obtained their gun illegally/legally” “z amount were by those with prior criminal record and/or associations”?

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    The average American is so math-challenged that trying to make change from a quarter requires a calculator. Whenever they hear about a “study” of anything, they turn their aural inputs to zero.

    So let the schmucks on the left propound their voodoo science all they want, because Americans don’t care. What people do understand is that if the G takes the guns, the people won’t have any. That’s the kind of math that even a recent Ivy League graduate can understand.

  5. avatar Bob Watson says:

    Shannon’s Sugar Daddy had spent, is spending and will continue to spend his money on an anti-civil rights/anti -gun propaganda machine. The idiotic claims they make grow increasingly bizarre and easier to discredit. At some point their house of lies will collapse and they will lose all credibility for a generation.

  6. avatar DisThunder says:

    Agreed. Even this last screed is struggling badly outside CNN. I overheard people watching that reporter’s dad blustering asking each other “who’s they?” “didn’t he shoot himself?” and wondering how in the hell the NRA is responsible for the actions of an egomaniacal gay black man.
    It’s not working. They are losing ground, and the arguments that follow each overblown event become thinner and thinner.

    Make no mistake, though- this is when they are the most dangerous.

  7. avatar Bernard says:

    Leah Gunn Barrett. What a name for an anti-gun person.

    1. avatar DAN V says:

      If only her first name was Assaultrifle.

  8. avatar GRW says:

    Barrett claimed that women should not risk carrying guns because they are “not as physically powerful like men are and a gun may easily be turned on the women”

    You know we really should work on spreading the rumor that folks that tout this one out are clearly rapists or rapist sympathizers out to create easy prey. Or is just so dumb they should never be allowed to breed.

    Also if that line of thought is followed through clearly cops shouldn’t have guns as those folks lose their weapons with alarming regularity and the negligent discharges just wow.

  9. avatar Gabe says:

    The more desperate they get, they louder they yell and fall back on emotional ramblings. It’s the same with the global warming crowd. In both cases, junk science will fool the lazy, ignorant, and apathetic for a while. With AGW, not one prediction has come true so the fraud exposure is unavoidable. With gun rights, all arguments lead to true “common sense” logic coming out on top and in both cases the actual data tells the truth.

    1. avatar mark s. says:

      I’m not great with my mathematics by any stretch but I know one thing because I am very good at observing human nature . The more they can convince certain groups to give up certain firearms and the more people they can convince to turn in their guns the more people will join in the retreat exponentially .
      I believe the campaign against cigarettes and the tobacco companies is a prime example . The biggest voices against cigarette smoking are previous smokers . If you take Jon Smiths gun away because his wife is on Social Security Medicare and is receiving psychotherapy and deemed irresponsible and Jon permits this government overreach , suddenly Jon will become one of the loudest critics for gun control . It’s simply human nature and the numbers could multiply far too quickly for us to counter . We can afford to give an inch . Fight every initiative and ever argument with fire and truth . Prepare yourself well against all their doubletalk .

  10. avatar Davis Thompson says:

    How about this? We don’t care. Whatever studies they produce, we don’t care. Whatever arguments they make, we don’t care. If they try to pass a law, we’ll fight it. If we lose, many of us will ignore it. Remember hundreds of thousands of gun owners in the northeastern liberal states of New York and Connecticut have deliberately made themselves criminals rather than obey an unconstitutional mandate to register “assault weapons.” That’s a level of commitment you’re not going to get from the gun-control movement, no matter what junk science they flog.

  11. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Not a cough in a carload! Now with soothing menthol! No mark s.-you’re not crazy. Maybe a little-we wrestle not with flesh & blood. Who woulda’ thunk we’d have a potus who hates his own country and wants us to fail? We are “there”. BTW every freakin’ person who ever smoked from 1930 onward knew it might kill him. Coffin nails indeed…junk science rules-reality drools…

  12. avatar mark s. says:

    Hey Benny , Who is the sleeping old one ? Are you referencing the Beast ? I don’t think old horn head would be in favor of the fair tax but I sure am . Consumption tax all the way .

  13. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    I always figured that women in general not being overall physically as strong as men in general, was precisely why they should carry a self-defense firearm. After all, FBI data reports that 9 out of 10 rapists commit their crime without a weapon. An appropriate self-defense firearm in her possession can flip that script nicely.

  14. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Don’t even argue about studies or numbers. Most people do not understand the underlying science and math. And even if they did, it would take hours/days to actually scrutinize the study. Keep it exceedingly simple. Ask a gun grabber

    “How many voters have to support legalized rape for government to legalize rape? 51%? 67%? 75%? 90%?”

    And then ask that gun grabber another question

    “How many voters have to condemn marital sex for government to make marital sex illegal?”

    These two questions get to the heart of the matter: popular support does not legitimize government infringement of our rights.

  15. avatar Dave says:

    This add is indicative of what happens on a regular basis with government and anyone who wants to “support” their platform: 1) you can out right lie and 2) you can make the numbers/data say whatever you want it to. It all depends on who is telling the story. Remember one other thing: not only do the victors get the spoils, they also get to write history.

  16. avatar Cassandra (of Troy) says:

    Fundamental Question #1:

    If it’s true that more guns in circulation = more gun involved murder & mayhem, explain why the gun involved murder/mayhem rates have been falling steadily for the past 20 years (insert latest available FBI/CDC data & appropriate news articles from LEFTIST sources ONLY) despite more guns being added yearly to the domestic supply (insert appropriate news articles from LEFTIST sources ONLY)

    I’ve used the above regularly against anti-2A/pro-thug/pro-dictatorship cultists for years & it’s yet to fail to thoroughly discombobulate/infuriate them & thereby sow durable seeds of doubt about their veracity (& in some cases their rationality) among observers. The thing that makes this approach so effective is that it’s based on the very tactics used by the cult in particular/Leftists generally w/ the added bonus of being OFFICIAL/FACT based. That bit about females being unable to safely/effectively use firearms defensively is an absolute GEM & should be employed against the cult/its allies as much as possible as it offers numerous opportunities for attacking the cult/its allies factually & philosophically in a manner (gender politics) that they’ll find difficult to ignore/rebut.

    Ouroboros to the MAX!
    :~D

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