I honestly can’t say that I’m surprised no one at the LA Times bothered to fact check their latest anti-gun editorial. The article, penned by David Hemenway himself, is pretty much a copy and paste job from an article in Michael Bloomberg’s The Trace which I already thoroughly took to the woodshed for some quality time. And yet here we are, another anti-gun editorial staff ignoring basic scientific and statistical principles because the article supports their preconceived notions. How bad is it? So bad that my high school statistics teacher would slap me upside my head if I even began to accept this as “good math.”
Here’s all you really need to read:
Why do so many Americans own guns? The main reason, according to surveys, is protection. Advocates argue that guns in the home both deter crime (criminals refrain from even trying to break in because they fear being shot by an armed citizen) and thwart it (an armed citizen can stop a crime in progress, preventing injury or theft).
The scientific evidence, however, provides little support for these arguments. Quite the opposite.
More than 42% of the time, the victim took some action — maced the offender, yelled at the offender, struggled, ran away, or called the police. Victims used a gun in less than 1% of the incidents (127/14,145). In other words, actual self-defense gun use, even in our gun-rich country, is rare.
It is sometimes claimed that guns are particularly beneficial to potentially weaker victims, such as women. Yet of the more than 300 sexual assaults reported in the surveys, the number of times women were able to use a gun to protect themselves was zero.
I have already taken the time to have a good laugh about the amazingly poor analysis, but Robert thinks that it bears repeating. Personally when I read Hemenway’s article in the LA Times I felt like I was watching the video from some airplane accident, having already read the NTSB report. I knew what was about to happen, I knew what the author was about to say even before he said it, and I knew the horrific crash that lay ahead. But there I stood, answers in hand to avert the disaster and put his metaphorical plane crash of an article back on the glideslope, and yet I could only watch in horror as he made the same arguments that would have ended the career of any serious mathematician and sent them reeling from the halls of academia in shame and dishonor.
I’m not sure who to blame more for that painful experience, the author (Mr. Hemenway) for failing to understand basic statistical principles, or the LA Times for providing funding and a platform for his delusional rantings.
For the benefit of those who didn’t see my first pass at this, here’s the point: Mr. Hemenway bases his entire conclusion on a grand total of 127 “defensive gun use” scenarios that happened over the course of four years and were reported in a random voluntary phone survey. He believes that the fact that only 1% of the people who responded to the phone survey were involved in a DGU means that it never happens, and based on those 127 incidents he further concludes that guns are useless.
Right. Out of the thousands of defensive gun uses every year, an analysis of a small handful of these events is conclusive proof that DGUs never happen and guns are useless. That’s like using a small tidal pool on a beach to make conclusions about the entire ocean.
I need a stiff drink.