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Next Post appears to be branching out from objective myth busting to politicized myth creation. They recently published a “review” of a Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy piece by Don Kates and Gary Mauser. A review that was long on opinion, but short on facts. Thanks to DRGO, here’s Dr. Mauser’s letter to… to which they have yet to respond.

Barbara & David Mikkelson

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mikkelson:

I am writing to request that retract “Harvard Flaw Review,” by Kim LaCapria. This review makes numerous errors in discussing a paper that Don Kates and I wrote: “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” published by the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. It is doubtful that the reviewer read our paper.

Her review of our paper is demonstrably biased. She merely reiterated a single, biased source, David Hemenway. Had she read papers by well-respected academic researchers Gary Kleck or John Lott she would have encountered scholarly opinions that differ from the usual public health advocacy. It is difficult to understand why would assign her as a Fact Checker.

LaCapria displays her biases in describing the lead author of our article, Don Kates, only as a “gun rights enthusiast.” She should have acknowledged that Don B. Kates is a highly respected scholar. He wrote the classic paper, “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” which was the first modern article in a major law review arguing for the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment. Since then he wrote or co-wrote over 15 more law review articles, as well as writing, co-writing or editing four books. The scholarship of Don B. Kates was the catalyst for the legal briefs filed before the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that reaffirmed the individual right to arms. Based on his publications in law reviews, Kates became an advisor to the plaintiff’s counsel in the Heller case, Alan Gura.

Kim LaCapria incorrectly claims our research article, “was not peer-reviewed, it didn’t constitute a study, and it misrepresented separate research to draw shaky, unsupported conclusions.”  Her most egregious errors are listed below.

First, her critique avoids coming to grips with the factual arguments in our paper and largely focuses on reports instead. If our claims are false, why not show that this is the case? Our article thoroughly reviews the evidence linking civilian availability of firearms with murder and suicide rates in all European countries for which published statistics are available. We show that civilian firearms ownership is not linked with homicide and suicide rates. LaCapria ignores our factual arguments. See Kleck herehere and here for thorough review of studies that attempt to link the availability of firearms with criminal violence.

Second, her comments are drawn virtually holus bolus from comments made by anti-gun campaigner David Hemenway in 2009. Hemenway has been characterized as having a “‘blinding bias’ that ‘colors his science … and ultimately his credibility as a scientist.’” As well, the respected criminologist Gary Kleck is unimpressed with Hemenway.

Third, following Hemenway, LaCapria claims our paper “didn’t constitute a study.” Our paper is a legal brief, not a scientific analysis, which is just as much a “study” as is a scientific experiment. Our paper is a factual analysis intended to inform public policy development.

Scientific studies, properly conducted, are designed to test hypotheses, not advocate policy positions. Hemenway is correct in saying that science is the search for truth. However, this definition rules out scientific studies being used as vehicles for advocacy. Certainly, advocates can use scientific studies, but in doing so they abandon science for advocacy. If Hemenway’s criterion were honestly applied, that science is the search for truth, it would exclude virtually all studies on firearms by public health researchers, which are nothing more than advocacy dressed up in pseudo-scientific guise.

Fourth, she claims, “the publication that carried it was a self-identified ideology-based editorial outlet edited by Harvard students.”  This exaggerates the supposed ideological bent of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, which defines itself as “the journal [that] is … the nation’s leading forum for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship.” Apparently, she is ignorant of the ideological bias of Hemenway’s public health school. His organization’s mission is neither scientific nor scholarly, but rather evangelical: “To reduce the societal burden of injury and violence—through surveillance, research, intervention, evaluation, outreach, dissemination, and training.”

Fifth, LaCapria errs in insisting that our analysis of gun control regimes in Europe was not a “Harvard study.” Our study is legitimately associated with Harvard because it was published by the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, an actual Harvard University law review journal. She implies that we misrepresented ourselves as Harvard professors. This is incorrect. It’s difficult to see how anyone reading our article would imagine we were Harvard professors since our professional affiliations are given on the first page of the article. LaCapria fails to understand academic research. University-based researchers publish their work (or studies) in academic journals, which are housed at one university or another.

LaCapria is correct in saying our paper was not peer reviewed, only in that it was not reviewed by other academics. However, it was reviewed by advanced graduate students at Harvard Law before being accepted for publication. Law students are well known to be meticulous scholars, even if they are neither scientists nor yet lawyers. The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy is highly regarded for publishing solid scholarship. Law review articles frequently offer excellent analyses of controversial political issues, such as the effectiveness of firearms laws, and are frequently cited in legal decisions, including those of the US Supreme Court. For example, our paper was cited twice in the famous DC vs. Heller case in 2008, not only by Justice Scalia, in voicing the majority decision of the US Supreme Court, but also by Justice Breyer in dissent.

Sixth, LaCapria errs when she claims, “the paper disingenuously misrepresented extant research to draw its conclusions.”

We did not. It is incorrect to claim we commit the fallacy of asserting that lack of evidence of effectiveness is proof of ineffectiveness. In our paper we state clearly that the body of research has “failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, suicide or gun accidents.” This does not differ in any important aspect from the conclusions drawn by the papers we cited. For instance: “The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.”

Our research stands. Our article thoroughly reviews the evidence linking civilian availability of firearms with murder and suicide rates in all European countries for which published statistics are available. We show that civilian firearms ownership there is not linked with homicide and suicide rates. Neither LaCapria’s nor Hemenway’s remarks diminish the validity and significance of our study.

Your prompt response to this request will be appreciated.

Gary Mauser, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C. Canada

Gary Mauser, PhD is professor emeritus in the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He specializes in criminology and economics, has published extensively on firearms legislation, firearms and violence, and has provided expert testimony on criminal justice issues to the Canadian government.

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  1. Unfortunately snopes showed their colors during the election, repeatedly shielding Hillary and slamming Trump. It’s been sad to see, that site used to be on the daily crawl for me.

    • I’ve been ignoring them for a while. I fact-checked their fact-checking in comments twice, and both comments were deleted. I’d have no problem with them coming back at me with a strong argument, but deleting respectful (and referenced) statements is the mark of the weasel. Truth-seeking organizations do not try to bury inconvenient facts.

  2. The scientific method has been abandoned wholesale any many arenas and replaced by advocacy masquerading as science.

    On another note, isn’t it a little ironic that the good doctor’s last name is Mauser?

    One more thing. Why isn’t the cat identified?

    • Mauser is a common Germanic name. Why attack the name unless that is all you can do? It is call ad hominem…
      ad ho·mi·nem
      ˌad ˈhämənəm/
      adverb & adjective
      adverb: ad hominem; adjective: ad hominem

      (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.
      “vicious ad hominem attacks”

  3. so basically what we can get out of this is that has joined, inadvertently, the anti-gun side. sad.

  4. You’re just *now* figuring out that Snopes is utterly unreliable for political fact-checking? Really?

  5. I’m as pro gun as anybody but snopes does fantastic work and as always, every attempt i see to “debunk” these debunkers fails pretty miserably.
    So basically snopes was correct that this is not a study and it’s not peer reviewed.

    If it was peer reviewed it would be a study. Being not peer reviewed it’s worth about as much as any claim from anybody but most importantly, this does not meet the criteria of being a “study” any more than some supply side economics nonsense no working economist takes seriously that’s published in a hoover institution news letter.

    The specific last bit of the rumor snopes is addressing is that research and i quote “failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents. The same conclusion was reached in 2003 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s review of then-extant studies.”

    The key word here that makes snopes correct is the phrase “The same conclusion was reached.” which is a claim that indicates that the NSA and CDC came to an affirmative conclusion that gun control laws don’t reduce crime, this is what’s known as lying.

    The conclusion those two studies came to if anybody would bother to actually READ THEM is that they didn’t come to any conclusion at all, they merely claimed there is insufficient evidence to come to any conclusion basically.

    The authors could have kept the intellectual high ground and simply pointed out that it’s telling that with the mountains of data we have available even the NAS and CDC could not reach the conclusion that more guns = more crime, but nope, they had to obfuscate and be dishonest. Guys, we are RIGHT, there is no need to misrepresent studies that already are fodder for our arguments. It truly IS very telling that the cdc and NAS could not come to the conclusion that more guns = more crime, a subject which has been extensively published on and researched.

    Snopes is 100% correct here if you actually read the snopes article and read their argument.

    • Exactly this. When I saw the article above say “Our paper is a legal brief, not a scientific analysis, which is just as much a “study” as is a scientific experiment” I just had to think they’re purposefully obfuscating.

      Snopes is a great resource- not so much for whether it decides “true” or “false” but because it provides the evidence that it used to come to a conclusion. I’ve seen times that I think they’re wrong but I can at least see what led them to the conclusion they made. But because there is a fear of the ‘scary’ liberal fact checkers people think it’s biased. Based on some of the ridiculous things I’ve seen people argue for here- pizzagate, sandyhook stuff, etc- I think the problem may be that reality is biased against some people’s theories, that’s all.

      • It’s biased. Many people have known for awhile that snopes leans way left (it was not always so).

        Even here Kim pulls some trickery that will fool many of the uninitiated. She does not give any of the credentials or degrees for the pro-gun camp. She does for the one anti-gun “expert”.

        She lists the bias of those she is against. Those who bolster her opinion . . . Mauser called her and snopes out on that and yeah crickets.

        Snopes picked from a low hanging fruit in that it did not even take issue w/ the paper but rather (wrong) conclusions about the paper from beliefnet. But to make matters worse snopes puts those words in the mouths of Kates & Mauser. From snopes:

        WHAT’S TRUE: Gun rights advocates Gary Mauser and Don Kates jointly authored a 2007 paper in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy arguing that higher rates of gun ownership correlated with lower crime rates.

        NO THEY DID NOT and that is not true.

        They claimed and claim that gun control does not work. That is not the same as more guns equals less crime. Big difference. They did not claim it; snopes said they did when it was beliefnet, tardnet, or some other fourth hand source that draws wrong conclusions from their work (and is not them).

        Kind of a strawman-by-proxy type of argument but its not accurate nor is it one snopes should be proud of.

        Remember when snopes just dealt w/ urban legends?

    • Wow, no. Being peer reviewed a study does not make. Especially considering how politicized the process has become over the past two decades. Peer-reviewing is quickly becoming nothing more than an advocacy circle jerk, destroying credibility. ‘Ya know, the exact OPPOSITE of what its intended purpose is…

      And the CDC came to the conclusion that they could not link specific gun control policies to lower crime rates and/or death rates. The same conclusion is offered by the author is his study, albeit with a different data set. You’re arguing for a distinction without a difference.

      Snopes used to do fantastic work, but their standards have really fallen as this past election cycle laid bare so much media bias, if nothing else.

      • Whether the work in question is a “study” or not is utterly irrelevant. To argue that point is to get lost in the weeds left by the demolished strawman of Snopes’ making.

        And such strawman-demolishing, while avoiding the primary issue, is Snopes’ main tactic when attempting political agenda-driven “fact checking”.

    • >If it was peer reviewed it would be a study.

      Incorrect. If I do a careful research project, it’s a study. If I then submit it to a peer-reviewed journal and it gets published, it’s a peer-reviewed study. If I never bother to submit it to a peer-reviewed journal, that doesn’t change the nature of the work. It may not have the stamp of approval of peer review, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a study.

      (And yes, I’ve published several dozen peer-reviewed papers, and been a peer reviewer for several journals and conferences)

    • Gun control, whether in LA or Chicago, to name just two cities is a total failure unless murder is the intention of the law? I would walk alone at night in many cities where gun ownership and open and concealed carry are lawful and common. But I will no longer visit LA or Chicago.

  6. I used to love Snopes, but I checked out years ago once social media took off and 99% of the site’s output became dealing with wave after wave of those stupid “satire” news articles that keep sprouting up like mushrooms on a pile of bullshit.

    • Yeah but people somehow still believe those ‘satire’ stories. Not like they’re satire, there’s nothing satirical about them; they’re just BS meant to get clicks and ad revenue.

      • Of course, but since I never fell for them and don’t care one whit about MyFace and Spacebook or whatever, it turned Snopes into a pointless waste of time.

        More proof to me that social media is to culture what Pepe LePew is to a flower shop; everything it goes near just withers and dies.

  7. Snopes has been a lying liberal pushing site almost forever!
    Anyone that hadn’t figured that out long ago, must be missing a few marbles!

  8. Calling snopes leftist misses the reality: I know a number of die-hard leftists online who will no longer take snopes’ word on anything political or politically related. The problem is clearly one of quality control: they have reviewers now who know nothing of logic, scientific or literary inquiry, or college freshman level investigative reporting.

    It’s sad. It’s also an example of a reasonably common phenomenon, where an institution gets respect for doing a superb job, and once it has that reputation gets lax on ensuring it continues to uphold the superb quality of its work. Corporations do it, universities do it, politicians do it, media organizations do it — just about anything human does it, which is why we can read complaints of the same sort clear back in ancient Egypt and Rome!

  9. The best part about this is that Facebook announced yesterday that they will be using Snopes as one of their sources to fact check “fake news”. It’s almost as amusing as it is scary.

    • What is so sad about that is, for some time, facebook has been arguably the greatest purveyor of fake news of all stripes for the past decade.

      When someone states something and you ask him/her: where did you hear that . . . If he, she, they state: I saw it on facebook . . . All you have to say is: seriously facebook [while cocking your head and raising one eyebrow].

      How many times has the above conversation taken place here on earth since there has been a facebook?

  10. Snopes used to be a fun little website that was always good for a laugh. Now, it’s trying to be the Washington Post and y’know, it’s succeeding. It’s absolutely as full of sh!t as WAPO.

  11. Snopes is one of Zuckerburgs picks for Facebooks new Fake News Check team that will soon decide what news is fact and what news will be labeled fake on the FB news feed. This will not end well.

  12. I don’t trust Snopes because in the one case where I had first hand knowledge, they got it wrong.

    In 2008 there was a rumor that Bank of America received signs saying “We’re sorry, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we cannot be open at this time.” Some took this as an indication of a possible banking holiday.

    Snopes labeled it as a conspiracy theory, dismissing it without providing any proof.

    However, I saw a stack of these signs in the bank manager’s office when I went to close my BOA account in November or December of 2008. I don’t know whether a banking holiday was being planned, but the signs were real. And yet Snopes says it never happened.

  13. I sent the Snopses a nice little message informing them that we are now aware that they are liberal shills and trolls. lol


  14. Quality Control has nothing to do with it. Snopes is and always has been a Liberal Leftist Org. They are Dems that have no morals or put in any real thought to their online site. I guess you can tell I really do not like them or trust anything they have to say. I look for answers myself and am able to come to my own conclusions by myself.

  15. To the TTAG author, he’s not a physician. He has a PhD, not an MD. It doesn’t make him less qualified to write on the subject. I am just trying to show that an MD equates to a physician while a PhD equates to being a doctor of some particular subject.

  16. Wonderfully well said, Gents, and encouraging after all the poorly written and trashy exchanges we’ve seen lately, Thanx, Bill Mackin

  17. Clearly Dr. Mauser is trying to propagate fake news here. Glad that the defenders of all that is right and true in the world, Snopes, is there to put an end to this! And their cat, too.

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