You know, for all the protestation from the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex that the ban on federal funds is stifling gun-related research there sure are a ton of gun control studies being published. The latest is from the American Journal of Public Health, and might just be the laziest, most dishonest piece of “science” I’ve seen in a long time. The purported take-away: Hawaii’s strict gun control laws are working, and the proof is that they have the lowest number of non-fatal gun injuries among the states studied. There’s just one small problem: they cherrypicked the states they wanted to investigate . . .
Hawaii had the fewest non-fatal injuries from firearms in 2010 in a comparison of 18 states, including California, New York and Florida, a new study shows.
The report found that states with stricter gun-control laws — regulating guns and ammo, requiring background checks before sales, reporting lost or stolen firearms and keeping dangerous people from buying weapons — had the lowest injury rates.
Problem #1: they willfully ignored data from most states. Instead of investigating the non-fatal injury rates from the entire US and comparing them one-to-one, they instead hand-picked 18 states (seemingly at random) and compared the rates in those states only. I can’t even begin to describe how monumentally flawed that approach is. In what world is it morally acceptable to ignore the majority of your data in order to get the result you want? That’s a mortal sin in the world of statistical analysis.
Problem #2: they chose a very strange metric. Non-fatal firearms-related accidents will typically directly correlate with the percentage of gun owners in a given population. Smaller percentage of gun owners = smaller number of non-fatal accidents. Since Hawaii has one of the smallest populations of gun owners it makes sense that, as a population, there would be far fewer non-fatal accidents. But even then, that doesn’t really tell you anything. The common fear is that firearms will be used to kill people, and in this study they are specifically looking at NON-fatal firearms accidents.
Problem #3: their statement is factually inaccurate. The reason why non-fatal gun injuries are so low in Hawaii is that Hawaii has so few guns to begin with, not because their gun laws are so spectacularly effective. QED, you would expect there to be fewer gun-related injuries. Much as how you would expect Florida to have more alligator-related injuries than Montana. That doesn’t tell you anything about the effectiveness of the various laws, but instead about the popularity of the item in question.
The only thing that the gun laws impact are the ability of people to own firearms in the first place. If this study had said that the lower rate of gun ownership in Hawaii was the direct cause of the lower gun-related injury rate, I’d be on board. But it would still be looking at the completely wrong metric and ignoring the real questions people want answered.
Did I mention that they only looked at 18 out of 50 states? I did? OK, just wanted to double check. Because that’s insane.
Problem #4: their conclusion is wrong. The place in the United States with the most restrictive gun control laws is the District of Columbia. That small enclave has the smallest population of gun owners (~3.6%) and the toughest laws on the books. If the authors of this study were correct in their statement that restrictive gun control laws prevent injuries and deaths with firearms, then we would expect DC to be one of the safest cities in the United States.
In fact, the murder rate in the District of Columbia is the highest in the nation, well over twice the murder rate of the next most violent state (California).
Let’s recap, shall we?
- They only looked at 18 of the 50 in the US.
- They investigated the wrong metric, one that no one cares about, and used it as a stand-in for “gun violence.”
- Their results statement was factually inaccurate.
- Their overall conclusion was wrong.
Who the hell gave these people money, much less a degree?