bloomberg school gun violence research
Michael Bloomberg (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Can we finally put the claim that “gun violence” research is underfunded to rest?

The Bloomberg Professor of American Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Daniel Webster, and his colleagues at the Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research launched their much anticipated massive, open online course “Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change” this week. The course is available on Coursera, an online learning platform.

For the record, we did not exaggerate the number of times Michael Bloomberg’s name appears in Webster’s position or school affiliation.

The course reference list is 16 pages long. Sixteen pages of studies and related articles all focused on the issue of “gun violence.” Granted, a small number of references are used in more than one week of the six-week program but we are still looking at sixteen pages of references.

The course is geared to high school and college-aged people but is open to everyone, and “The hope is to get participants up to speed on ‘relevant legal issues and effectively use data’ central to the nation’s policy debate on guns.” The organizers deliberately did not invite anyone from the NRA and the gun rights movement to participate in the course, and the results are what one would expect when such a conscious decision is made.

Rational arguments in support of gun rights are excluded or denigrated while other research, facing the same alleged shortcomings, is held up as fact. Inane and widely rejected research is presented as incontrovertible evidence. Data proven unreliable by another Bloomberg outfit is presented without comment, though it was only used to make a simple comparison. And, this is just week one.

Buckle up; the next few weeks are going to be…well, something. We’ve seen what’s coming in future weeks and it’s only going to get worse. Or better, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys arguing on the internet or seeing just how the other side will twist and misrepresent data and – spoiler alert – Supreme Court decisions – to demonize firearms and law-abiding gun owners. We’ll focus exclusively on week one in this article.

First, we like to give credit where credit is due. Webster acknowledges and then further emphasizes “a very important principle here is that gun owners who purchase a firearm legally, generally are even more law-abiding than your average person.” Webster’s course does not cover policy interventions in week one, but we did notice something missing from the reference list: Webster’s own work on comprehensive background checks and misdemeanor violence prohibitions in California, which found no effect of these laws on firearm homicides in California.

We appreciated the effort of Dr. Webster, Dr. Garen Wintemute, and their teams to show that comprehensive background checks are ineffective and wonder why that work was not included in the Hopkins-Coursera course “Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change.” We would have suggested it be included, had we been invited to participate.

Let’s look at some of the specific issues with week one. Webster criticizes a Gary Kleck study that estimated about 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year for having a small sample size and the allegation that the findings indicate there an exaggerated number of people shot during the study period. No such criticism is offered of the anti-gun studies on the same topic Webster presents, and the number of defensive gun uses found in these other studies is not mentioned.

For the record, the estimate of the number of defensive gun uses from one of these surveys is around 116,000 per year. Webster says this is a “much, much smaller fraction of an estimated number of times in which civilians are using guns in self-defense.” That may be “much, much smaller” than Kleck’s estimate but 116,000 Americans using a firearm to defend themselves is pretty significant.

Also missing from the Bloomberg School online course: any mention of Kleck’s work analyzing long-hidden CDC data on defensive gun use. Kleck’s analysis found that the number of defensive gun uses per year ranged from 620,648 to 1.9 million over the years the CDC collected data in some states. Notably, none of Kleck’s work is included in the reference list.

The other major issue we found in week one is the use of Arthur Kellerman’s study from 1993. We’ve covered the problems with the Kellerman study in the past, notably here and here. In short, Kellerman’s very limited study supposedly determined that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide.

Webster does bring up one point of criticism of the study, but does not offer the most obvious criticism: that the study was focused on homicide victims and made absolutely no effort to include the millions of Americans who own a firearm and are not killed or do not kill anyone else.

Kellerman’s study also found that renting a home and living alone both had higher adjusted odds ratios of being killed. We eagerly await an online course advocating for group home ownership.

Until that happens, we’ll stick with the online course presented by the faculty of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Next week is “Legal Issues Relevant to Preventing Gun Violence.”

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  1. Nothing surprising here. Conclusions predetermined. Data cooked to “show” what the funding source wants. I remember a request from NHTSA for proposals to conduct a research study whose purpose was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 55 mph national speed limit in reducing highway fatalities. They didn’t even try to hide their bias. As a field test engineer in the transportation industry, I used to referr to this practice as “analizing” the data. That is, pulling numbers out of your ass.

    • Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself;
      in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

      Mark Twain

  2. Lying despotic sons of satan and hell. They’re going to be like many Muslims who will be terribly shocked when they reach where they are going. They’ll be lucky if they aren’t part of somebody else’s 72 virgins.

      • “Today’s youth are our 2A future.”

        You got that right.

        And what are today’s youth doing? Well, for starters, they are dragging their girlfriends with them when they go see ‘John Wick’ and every other movie where guns are used as tools to right wrongs, protect the innocent, save the day, and get the girl.

        Imagine what they would be thinking about guns if Hollywood only showed movies where guns were portrayed as evil. But they don’t, because those movies don’t sell tickets anywhere as well as a ‘John Wick’ movie does.

        Hollywood, I beg of you, don’t change a damn thing. Keep making the most money you possibly can by making more movies like ‘John Wick’.

        Oh, and the other thing the youth of today are doing? They are doing what all kids do at that age, vowing to never be like their parents. Parents like Bloomie, the ‘Mad Mommies’ and all the rest of the gun haters. That’s more points for our side.

        I’m optimistic as hell as to the future of gun rights in America in the near future… 😉

  3. In 2013, Websters “research” claimed to show “gun violence” would be reduced if we passed a whole lot of infringements in MD… needless to say, the very next year after passage the guns were 35% more violent. The murder rate is higher than it was in 2013. Can we get a refund and repeal, please? Of wait, its not about “research.” But I am sure Webster noted the failure of his own research (which by the way he disavowed under oath in the lawsuit over the infringements)…

  4. Everybody here knows Bloomberg is a Socialist Goon. He understands how and what it takes to turn a group of people into a Nation of Socialism. He simple follows the Blue Print of every Socialist Leadership. History has taught THOSE who Now work to bring Socialism to the Leadership of OUR Nation. There will come a time when it may become necessary to show those in the Socialist Leadership. How Socialism has been Stopped/Defeated in throughout History. (Educate) Keep Your Powder Dry.

  5. It’s about as credible as the pharmaceutical industry financed epidemiological vaccine studies comparing vaccinated groups against other vaccinated groups and then making safety claims about vaccines.

  6. I wish all those people touting the benefits of gun restrictive societies would just move to such places.

    I think we need a study showing how gun restrictions has worked so well for Mexico, for example. I think the researchers should move there when conducting their studies, so they get the full effect.

    The good news is, while living there, they won’t have to worry about smallpox, because it was eradicated…. by vaccines.

    • Well the maybe the TTAG resident quack can fill us in why the US is by far the most dangerous place in the developed world…including Mexico, to have a baby. Day 1 infant mortality rates are the highest in the developed world, and first year and 5 year US infant mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world. But we do have more childhood vaccines on the schedule than anyone else, including the day 1 Hep B shot in case the infant has unprotected sex or shares needles. And btw, also explain why the towns and cities in England during the smallpox epidemics that had the highest vaccination rates also had the highest smallpox infection and smallpox mortality rates. The historical data does not support your statement about the vaccine erradicaing smallpox, but when did you ever let the truth prevent you from repeating fiction?

  7. That midget Goonberg can go straight to hell with his bought campaign to destroy the Constitution. More purchased academic work from shills posing as researchers. Funny that he purchased a platform at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, home of gun control and the highest murder rate in the country. Bet that little tidbit isn’t anywhere in the course.

    • I used to teach a Process analysis class in the 90’s. Where the use of statistics was a key to proving/disproving a particular improvement in a system. Part of the course was the manipulation of statistics to reach a perceived goal. Regardless of their accuracy. Statistics are easily manipulated to fit a certain mind set. Especially when dealing with uneducated or disinterested individuals. They are a great tool for influencing people to make decisions even when those decisions are detrimental to their objective. It is tantamount that One looks at not only the source of a statistical group but also the goals of the analyzer.

  8. Does the course have a method of action to curb the 60,000 year old history of man kinds violence towards each other? If you’re a bible reader then you know there was a murder in the first family and since then we have been killing ourselves with everything from rocks to nuclear weapons. Please explain to me how total elimination (if it were possible) of guns will change anything.The anti-gun crowd refuses to accept the truth.

    • First off I’m one of the most PRO 2A people You will ever meet.
      Second Read the Bible,Torah and Koran. While all good reads. They were written by people with an agenda. Agendas are oft times manipulated by words/statistics.
      Third and most importantly. The use of statistics to guide a person or group of people in a desired direction. Is Most easily done when the subject/subjects base their decisions on how they feel about them rather than there accuracy. This is the way most Liberals/Socialists operate. Socialist/Liberal Leadership has understood this for Millennia. Realizing this allowed Liberalism/Socialism to flourish at Times all over the world. In each case it has either died from It’s own weight or was thrown off by a disenfranchised populace. Such will be the case for OUR nation if it is allowed to flourish and continue to manipulate the populace. How and When it is stopped is the eternal question. Will it be a sudden death brought on by an educated populace. Or will it be a long lingering disease that results in the death of it’s host. Keep Your Powder Dry.

  9. I see the abundance of research data available on gun violence. I need it to support my research on gun control that I am gonna complete with the help of resource with useful tips for students. The diverse range of perspectives and studies serves as a valuable resource for exploring the multifaceted aspects of the topic and it makes easier for me to address gun control topic.


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