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Although first articulated by Bernard M. Baruch in 1946, I have always associated that. saying with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And I have never seen a more perfect example than in a recent “research” paper by director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center David Hemenway, and an article about that study by Alexandrea Boguhn published at That’s because all this “study” has done is collect a bunch of opinions . . .

Far be it from me to cast aspersions on the ethics professional skills of a paid anti-self-defense hack Ph.D.-holding Hahvahd Professah, but looking at how he conducted this “study” and presents his data reminds me of an old Mad Magazine cartoon where a pollster guarantees a politician results that he’ll like. When asked by the “behind-the-scenes” reporter how he can make such a guarantee the pollster replies that it’s simple; “We’ll just question his family and friends.” Everyone has always thought that about some polling organizations, but it’s hardly the way to conduct scientific research, right?

Wrong! That is exactly what Prof. Hemenway has done.

Hemenway’s team at Harvard went through about 1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology. In May 2014, Hemenway began sending monthly surveys to the authors of these articles—upwards of 300 people—with questions concerning firearm use, background checks, and other gun policies.

First and foremost we need to remember that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.

Second of all, this “study” doesn’t provide any real facts, just a statistical breakdown of opinions, answers to the questionnaires the Prof.’s crack research team had sent out. So I guess it is up to me to provide some facts.

The Prof.’s first question and Alexandrea’s pontification:

  1. Do Strict Gun Laws Encourage Mass Shootings?

Conservative Media: Strict Gun Laws Encourage Mass Shootings. In January, right-wing media figures rushed to blame France’s strict gun policies after three gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a terrorist attack. …

Experts: Strong Gun Laws Help Reduce Homicide. The Harvard survey found that 71 percent of experts agreed that strong gun laws help reduce homicide rates:

Okay, first of all, nice bait-and-switch; you start out talking about mass shootings then switch to all homicides.

Second, having listened to the statements of those media figures I can tell you that no one said that strict gun laws encourage mass shootings, they were saying that France’s firearm prohibitions enabled the mass shooting. This is the fact that the antis try to dance around and ignore, or failing that to ridicule; the vast majority of mass shootings take place in putatively gun-free zones. And if you want to take someone’s opinion for it, how about this one:

The new survey of police and their views on gun control is available here (article is here).  PoliceOne has about 450,000 members when the survey was done. …

A full 86 percent feel that casualties would have been reduced or avoided in recent tragedies like Newtown and Aurora if a legally-armed citizen was present (casualties reduced: 80 percent; avoided altogether: 6.2 percent). . . .[Edited to correct typo]

Next up on the chopping block:

  1. Do Concealed Carry Laws Reduce Crime Rates?

Conservative Media: Concealed Carry Laws Reduce Crime. Conservative media and the NRA have repeatedly pushed the myth that concealed carry laws help reduce crime rates by allowing people to defend themselves. …

Experts: Concealed Carry Laws Don’t Reduce Crime Rates.  Sixty-two percent of experts disagreed with claims that concealed carry laws reduce crime rates:

Well, those are their opinions, here is a hard fact from Dr. Lott:

Overwhelmingly, academic research supports the benefits from these laws. Among peer-reviewed academic studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime increases slightly (an older date list of research is available here). 

So it would seem that 18 out of 29 (or 62%) of criminologists and economists present evidence that concealed carry laws do reduce crime rates. Facts vs. Opinions . . . I’m going with facts.

Next is opinion number 3:

  1. Does Access To A Firearm Affect Suicide Rates?

Conservative Media: Link Between Firearm Access And Suicide Is Bogus. Conservative media figures have consistently downplayed the role of guns in suicide deaths, despite extensive evidence linking firearm availability to suicide in the United States. …

Experts: Having Guns In The Home Increases Risk Of Suicide. According to the survey, 84 percent of experts agreed that “having a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide”:

Well if that were the case, how can you explain this table (sources available here)?

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 6.55.32 PM

But if you want to argue that cultural and economic factors play a role (which, oddly enough, the antis rarely want to do when arguing crime rates across different countries) and that we should just be looking at the US of A, I can certainly oblige you. From Gun Facts ver. 6.2 we get the following table (which I mainly picked for the handgun supply part):


But if you look at the handgun supply above, and then the suicide rates from 1981 – 2013 (data from the CDC’s WISQARS) below:


You will see that there isn’t even any sort of correlation, much less causation.

Another “guns cause suicides” meme (jeez, and they call usfetishists”) is a figure that gets trotted out occasionally, that “X% of new firearm owners commit suicide within Y-timeframe of bringing a gun into the home.” What this completely ignores is the fact that some depressed and suicidal people actually go out and buy a gun with which they intend to commit suicide.

Okay, I am just going to debunk one more, because plowing through this utter bullshit is depressing:

  1. Are Guns Used More Often To Commit Crimes Or In Self-Defense?

Conservative Media: Guns Are Mostly Used As Tool For Self-Defense. Right-wing media frequently promote the myth that guns are primarily used for self-defense, despite guns rarely being used for that purpose.

Experts: Guns Are Not Used In Self-Defense More Often Than They Are Used In Crimes. Seventy-three percent of experts disagreed with the claim that guns are used “in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime”:

Hmm, “right-wing media” is it? I guess the good professor is throwing Drs. Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig (who both have long records as strong proponents of very strict gun control) under the bus. They, after all, are the authors of a study published in May 1997, under the auspices of the Clinton DoJ, which claimed that there were in excess of 1.4 million Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs) annually. As I point out in an earlier TTAG piece, using extremely conservative numbers, 1.4 million DGUs a year probably equate to a minimum of 25,000 lives saved annually, vs. an annual average (from 2004 – 2013) of 11,805 firearm related homicides.

Keep your opinions, Doc; I’ll stick with the facts.

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  1. This article made my soul throw up a little, it seems to be the classic “My feelings trumps all facts” but with feelings now presented as facts.

  2. Wow, I can’t believe anybody with half a brain would take this study seriously. Citing a poll of “experts”? I guess he knows his audience is brain-dead enough to eat it up.

    • Citing a poll of putative experts and publishing the results as a consensus not open to further question – wasn’t that how Al Gore made his (hundreds of) millions?

    • That really depends on what you ask them to study. My father-in-law was a former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (when it was still called that pre-Bloomberg) and was a world renowned researcher and statistician in the field of public health–not political–issues. He was a mathematician and statistician first and foremost. This particular Haavaad professor is not a researcher, he is a pollster with a pre-conceived notion of the conclusion he wishes to achieve. That is not what academics should be about. The data should guide the conclusion, not vice versa.

      • Good point. Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        The one thing we can agree on is Media Matters is hardly a news organization- its a Center for American Progress (George Soros funded) agitprop and disinformation organization, which deliberately twists information, spins and lies, in order to control the narrative.

        ANYthing that comes out of MM you can pretty much toss in the trash with Shannon Watt’s tweets.

  3. I suppose that access to a firearm does increase the likelihood of a firearm being the instrument chosen for a suicide.
    As for your suicide and guns per capita chart, it could just be that it sucks to live in Japan or Russia.

  4. Wish you guys would crush the NPR segment I had to listen to on the radio today. Made me want to throw my car radio out of the window.

    They had some hack on there sayin a recent study found that 1 in 10 individuals who displayed angry outbursts also owned a firearm… And that’s it. No ‘this is how many of that 10 percent perform a firearm related crime’ or any other statistic or fact. Just that some folks get angry, and GASP! Some of them have guns. And then the expert solution? Make DUI’s and and misdemeanors cost you your 2A rights.

    It was a complete hit piece relying on opinions. I had to listen to Glen Beck imidiatelu following just to balance out my brain waves from the amount of derpi had previously listened to.

      • The first time I heard of Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime was on NPR. Accompanied by a rather rational and sane discussion of the matter in the book.

        While NPR does hold some fervent anti-gun nonsense, it is (sometimes) actually capable of actual civil and intellectual discourse on the matter.

        • 16V, you are talking about a long time ago, NPR has been running, and being pushed, farther and farther left every minute since. To the point, in fact, that I do not believe it can be saved, and all public monies should be withdrawn.

    • Wait so only 1 in 10 who have angry outbursts own firearms?

      so 9 out of 10 of the ragesplosion prone come from the 45% or so of non-gun owners?

      I’m not a professional statistician but I’m sure that says something about certain groups of people.

      • I saw that differently. Isn’t the figure for gun owners In the general population over 18 years old something close to 50%? Like, FIVE in 10? Sounds like “angry people are smart enough to not own guns, without further action by the nanny state.”

  5. Even if #4 is true that more guns are used in crimes than dgu situations all it means is that more people should carry.

  6. You probably worked harder and longer researching and writing this article than he did on his “scientific study”.

    • This is an excellent piece of work, and Bruce should submit it as an editorial to a bunch of media outlets like the NY Slimes, etc.

      • So long as he doesn’t spend too much making copies, postage, etc, since they will all ignore it.

  7. Logical fallacy: Sampling error.

    The academicians that I have personally worked with (quite a few) have not been well versed in statistical methodology. Neither were they good bench techs or particularly well integrated into society (but there were exceptions). Academicians in general tend to be reclusive nerdy types who study at the heels of other nerdy academicians and form opinions based on their very limited experiences. The exceptions were mostly from the 1960s NASA programs who were let go by that agency and then wound up in academia. It’s safe to say that the ex-NASA guys are all retired or gone by now.

    I worked in research at a major medical facility from 1976 through 2012, and in that time I watched it go from state of the art to hell in a handbasket, mainly due to hiring unqualified people based solely on some weird prejudice (like using Apple computers!). Today the faculty at that medical center are overwhelmingly liberal, and incompetent. This same medical center made a big show about going non-smoking, but will not provide the clinical staff with the tools necessary to combat methcillin resistant staph aureus (MSRA), the hospital acquired disease popularly known as “flesh eating bacteria”!

    Nuff said!

    • Most academics are actually very poorly trained in statistics, probability, sampling errors, confidence intervals and how to actually determine the modality of underlying distributions. All they know is that they can get away with modeling everything with a Gaussian distribution because… Central Limit Theorem – or so they think. This is accepted “conventional wisdom” in academia, so they publish their twaddle based on the common cookie-cutter (ab)use of stats in this manner, everyone reviewing papers nods their heads because they’ve done the same thing, and on we go.

      This results in some wildly specious nonsense in many fields, not just sociology and other pretend sciences. In finance, for example, there is still this widespread delusion that price movements have normal distributions, when in fact the tails are much fatter (due to panics and manias) than they’d like to believe. No less a math jock than Mandelbrot proved price movements don’t have normal distributions, and with cotton futures. No matter – the jaspers in finance are still clinging to the idea that price movements are normally distributed – eg, Black-Scholes option pricing.

  8. As I am sure Charlie knows, it has been known since the 1840’s that washing the hands with disinfectant will prevent the spread of infection. And yet hospitals still have the same problem dealing with the obvious as they did in the 1840’s. Same for all large institutions, especially including government agencies. Reflexive and forceful denial of facts that do not mesh with prior theories embedded in the large institutions. Called the Semmelweis Reflex after Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, the man who washed his hands.

    My mother, never one to mince words, would have titled this post slightly differently. You may have any opinion you want, so long as it is not a stupid one.

  9. He’s just playing to his crowd. He knows the left doesn’t care about facts and are devoid of the capability of critical thought. Most leftists wouldn’t even be able to read through an actual scientific study, let alone understand it. And if they did understand it, but it clashed with their precious emotions, they’d just disregard it, get angry, and throw their feces.

    So why put the effort into a real scientific study when the nursery school version appeals to your fan base? Why make filet mignon when your crowd is seething for a Big Mac?

  10. I’m tired of the fear-mongering, intelligence-insulting insinuation — no, make that outright claim — that the mere presence of a firearm in the home increases the chance of suicide or makes a suicide attempt more likely to be successful.

    That’s like saying that using an elevator increases the chance of suicide because the majority of people who jumped off buildings used elevators to get to the roof (i.e., it completely ignores intent). They want to scare us by suggesting that we’re all prone to impulse.

    Ditto for the old standby “guns make a suicide attempt more likely to be successful.” Again, so does jumping from the 20th floor. The antis completely ignore the fact that the vast majority of suicide attempts are actually suicidal gestures and a cry for help. All so-called suicide attempts are not equal.

  11. That’s strange. I went through 1200 articles on gun forums, peer-reviewed by a crowd tougher than any academic reviewer, and surveyed dozens of friends and came up with completely different conclusions.

  12. Thanks Bruce, as usual you shred the propagandists with facts, and citations.

    TTAG please save this under FACTS ABOUT GUNS. Its immensely useful, and a great way to link back to TTAG from forums elsewhere, citing the same studies and conclusions, and the trend by ngo’s and academics on govt grants to bend the truth to fit the Obama gun-grab campaign underway.

    PS Cant hardly wait for Drs for Obama Director now CDC head Dr Murthy for the new Uncle Sam funded firearms public health fact gathering project. Can you say Global Warming Scam?

  13. This Hahvad Professah is an ignorant Wonk writing for other ignorant wonks. He should be forced to undergo a bacground check every time he publishes and have to register each of his word processors and devices capable of typing.

  14. Just like with the Global Warming/Climate Change fraud, what 97% of experts “believe” is more credible than what actual facts and data prove.

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