Anti-gun activists are getting so desperate that they are relying on incorrect methodology to spread their own gun control agenda in their battle against the firearm industry. Put simply: junk science will always be junk science. Regardless of whether the ‘scientist’ believes it or not.
Recently, The New York Times posted an article asserting that it is 2.7 times more likely that a homicide will occur in your home if you have a firearm. That claim comes from the 1993 Arthur Kellermann study, “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” a study that is overflowing with falsehoods and biases. Kellerman’s study is bad enough that it’s been debunked before.
Biased Research Leads to Biased Findings
There are numerous falsehoods made by Kellermann to unpack here. So, let’s start at the top.
First, in the 1993 referenced study, Kellermann et al. break rule number one when creating an ethical scientific study: engaging in selection bias. The ‘controlled’ population in this study came from a cherry-picked population of reported burglaries in a single county, thus creating a biased population and variables.
Kellermann’s team also used data where the guns were brought to the victim’s home and not owned by the victim. It seems that Kellermann et al. already had their ‘conclusion’ settled before the “study” even began.
Further, Kellermann et al. don’t seem to know the difference between the general population and the population the study selected to fit its needs. As noted by Dr. Pat Baranello in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Kellermann et al.’s findings do not represent the actions of responsible people.
Of course, a cherry-picked population encompassed by individuals with criminal records, aggressive behaviors, and homicidal tendencies are going to be more dangerous with a gun in hand than the average responsible, law-abiding gun owner. But in this false reality created by Kellermann et al., the two populations are one and the same.
Expanding on the biased-selected population by Kellermann et al. comes the question of whether this population is conclusive of the general population of gun owners in America. Many gun owners will deny owning a firearm. As noted in a law review article, many gun owners are hesitant to reveal that they own and possess a firearm. In cases where guns were not found by the investigative body, there is a chance that the family of the deceased could have entered the crime scene and searched for a firearm on their own. Therefore, the assertion that it is 2.7 times more likely to have a fatality in the house if you have a gun is based on the “truthfulness of the interviewees.”
These significant problems further the question even more as to whether Kellermann et al.’s biased chosen population is in any way representative of the general gun owning population at all. If Kellermann wasn’t so hypocritical, he would prefer that his own wife have a “.38 special in her hand” in case of an attack against her life so she could resist the attacker.
Kellermann’s Fraudulent Representation
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time Kellermann has tried to use his own biases against firearms to assert a fraudulent “scientific” claim. In an article written in The New England Journal of Medicine, Kellermann and his coauthor mis-cited a book written by James Wright, Peter Rossi, and Kathleen Daly, Under the Gun.
Kellermann and his coauthor tried to assert that, “restricting access to handguns could substantially reduce our annual rate of homicide.” However, in their book, the original authors did exactly the opposite. With reference to that particular notion, as a Forbes article notes while debunking Kellermann’s multiple false claims, the authors actually said, “There is no persuasive evidence that supports that view.”
In another push of his own biased “science,” Kellermann again tried to assert a claim in the New England Journal of Medicine in which he said, “limiting access to firearms could prevent many suicides.” The referenced study actually concludes that individuals who are suicidal and do not have access to a firearm will still find another way to commit suicide.
Kellerman’s bogus 1993 study that asserted it’s 2.7 times more likely to have a fatality in the house if you have a gun has long been a point of ridicule, but that hasn’t stopped the lie from being repeated. The erroneous gun ownership study was one factor that led to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) being barred from advocating for widespread gun control.
Utilizing taxpayer dollars to advocate for gun control is abhorrent and illegal due to the 1996 Dickey Amendment. Unfortunately, the clearly one-sided research with pre-determined conclusions is still being misused today, including, unsurprisingly, by The New York Times.
Responsible Gun Ownership
Safe and secure firearm storage in the home is a pillar effort of the firearm industry under the Real Solutions. Safer Communities. initiative. One of the programs, Project ChildSafe, partners with local law enforcement agencies in every state and five U.S. territories to distribute free firearm safety kits, including a gun cable locking device, no questions asked, to anyone who requests one. The effort is meant to keep firearms in the home away from children and those who shouldn’t have access or perhaps are going through mental health difficulties.
To date, the firearm industry has distributed more than 40 million of these free firearm safety kits, and when coupled with the gun locks that are included by manufacturers with every firearm sold at retail, the total rises to more than 100 million free gun locks.
These firearm safety initiatives led by the firearm industry have had a real positive impact. Since data was first recorded in 1903, unintentional firearm deaths and accidents have trended down and recently hit the lowest levels on record.
Since the flawed 1993 Kellermann study that was included by The New York Times to make a false claim, things have changed. There have now been 47 months in a row of one million or more firearm purchases at retail, according to NSSF FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)-adjusted data. What’s more, the number of first-time gun owners has skyrocketed in recent years, including more than 8 million first-time gun buyers between 2020-2021.
With many still skeptical and refusing to tell random survey phone callers whether they own a gun in the household, the 2.7 figure used by The New York Times becomes even more laughable.
One thing remains abundantly clear — instead of concentrating on real solutions, the media continues to perpetuate anti-gun propaganda that supports their gun control agenda.
Salam Fatohi is the Director of Research for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.