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By Robert B. Young, MD

Science is supposed to be objective and data-based. Unfortunately, findings aren’t always fact-based and can be skewed, intentionally or not. Premises, like their conclusions, may be questionable. What is the risk that reports that dazzle with brilliance disguise attempts to baffle with bull—-? Pretty high, when they come from gun control advocates . . .

Some examples:

1. “Study shows gun violence surged in Missouri after repeal of gun control laws” (PBS, 2/19/15). Missouri’s handgun permitting law ended universal background checks in 2007. Daniel Webster, of the anti-gun Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, reported “an immediate upward trajectory to the homicide rates in Missouri” (17% more than the average for the U.S.) from 2008 and 2012, “while the national trend was … trending downward”. The investigators controlled for several other potential causes of these changes. They also found that approximately double the previous number of recently sold handguns were being recovered from crime scenes or criminals. What else could this mean, than that easier availability of handguns increased homicide rates and criminal use of handguns?

Well, it could mean the opposite. Why didn’t they compare Missouri’s homicide rate before and after the change in the law? Maybe because during the 5 years previous to 2007 the homicide rate was 32% more than the U.S. average, so changing the law was actually associated with a deceleration of Missouri’s homicide rate. Then from 2006 to 2012, Missouri’s violent crime rate declined 7% faster than in the rest of the country. Even if criminals were more frequently using handguns, this still translated into increasing safety from violent crimes, including homicide, for Missouri residents.

2. What about the recently trumpeted 40% decrease in Connecticut’s gun homicide rate after the imposition in 1995 of universal background checks with may-issue decisions? The source is the same Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, so perhaps the finding should be looked at more closely. Connecticut’s gun homicide rate dropped after 1996 very much like it was dropping all across the country regardless of states requiring background checks or not.

Estimating what would have happened were it not for the introduction of background checks is fraught with untestable assumptions. They effectively assumed things would have gone similarly to Rhode Island’s experience during the same period. But the comparison for non-gun homicides relies mostly on New Hampshire’s experience. Why different comparison sets based on the weapons used? Once one looks beyond 2005 one sees that the direction of Connecticut and Rhode Island’s gun homicide rates dramatically diverge, with Connecticut’s rising and Rhode Island’s dropping. (And by the way, both states’ rates dropped from 1993-1995, before Connecticut required the background checks.) Interesting graphs and analysis are hereherehere, and here.

No, there’s no way to conclude from this study that the law made any significant or persisting difference in Connecticut’s homicide rate. This especially while nationwide there has been every reason to believe that the expansion of concealed carry permitting is associated with no increase and often some decrease in violent crime rates, including homicide.

3. A report just out from the anti-gun Violence Policy Center asserts that “Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes”, arguing that the low number of homicides found to be justifiable and annual survey data demonstrate less than 1% of the time people attempt to defend themselves with guns or other weapons. The data in this report is fundamentally unreliable, involving extremely inconsistent reporting of justifiable homicides across jurisdictions, the non-equivalence of those to the vast majority of defensive gun uses, and an unquestioned, almost incidental finding extracted from the National Crime Victimization Survey along with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Direct investigations by criminologist Gary Kleck convincingly show at least 760,000 defensive firearm uses per year in the United States.

4. In the above examples, data was cherry-picked to justify unrealistic conclusions. But shouldn’t our well-informed national leaders’ statements about “gun violence” in America be authoritative? In two of President Obama’s speeches following the massacre at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, he asserted that murder and violence on that scale doesn’t happen in other advanced nations so frequently. In fact, they certainly do and most of the worst ones have occurred abroad.

5. “I cannot imagine the horror that could have occurred if people were sitting around with concealed weapons, this thing started, and you have a full-scale gunfight … You might not even have three survivors”. So said a supposedly savvy commentator regarding Emanuel—but he’s no expert on this subject. (At least he made no data claims.) Plenty of such attacks are prevented or cut short; see examples from GOA and the Washington TimesThe data: “victims who use guns in self-defense have consistently lower injury rates than victims who use other strategies to protect themselves”.

If gun control proponents presented straightforwardly, they would advocate based on the strength of their feelings, like that commentator. But that’s about all they have, besides tortuous logic and selective data syndrome. No wonder they got together in April “to improve their reporting on guns and gun violence”, courtesy of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma of the Columbia Journalism School, at a workshop funded by Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. Step 2 seems to be inaugurating The Trace online, whose stated mission is “to expand understanding of the policy, politics, culture, and business of guns in America”. Their claim that they “practice journalism” seems as overstated as their belief that there is a “shortage of information” about gun policy.

You don’t need a statistics degree to weigh claims for the validity of research findings. You may have to read between the lines. Think about author bias, why the argument is being made, whether the “facts” and results presented are verifiable and how conclusions are formulated. Common sense and skeptical questioning cut through rhetoric every time.


Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission.


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  1. Got to the quadratic formula and immediately quit reading due to geometry. I don’t geometry.

      • Yes , this is true , but as an advanced mathematical engineer of multiple numbers I can say emphatically , that when you multiply the number of long guns to the number of rifled barrels and squared it by the total handgun sales ( revolvers not included ) in Chattum county , which is also the same population of Parsons county . Take that number and divide it by all the 5.56 caliber ammo sold in the United States from 1972-1975 and then add in the number of parts in the famous Savage Arms triggers minus the parts in a Ruger 10/22 upper receiver and you have 2 . This is 4 more than the number of people killed in 2013 in Hasboro county after the gun ban was waived and everyone in town received 324 knives from Cutlery Corner in the same period . I think I made my point . Isn’t it easier to understand when someone puts it in lay terms ?

  2. I would guess there is some researcher bias (and maybe sub-concious) to favour the views of the organization providing the funding.

    “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

    • So it’s not just a vague, nebulous bias borne of some feeling of being beholden to the sponsor of a study. Rather, there has been an outright and deliberate distortion and manipulation of data. The anti-gun bias in medicine and public health as well as “research” conducted to support pre-existing arguments have been repeatedly fisked here on TTAG.

      • But the lies, distortions, manipulations, fabrications and just plain fear mongering is justified, it’s for the greater good.

        After all, if mass murder is acceptable to implement a true human utopia, what’s a few lies?

  3. You know, this is the kind of thing I share and link to friends who are on the fence or I can actually engage in discussion with. Because, facts. However, TTAG has become less credible by proxy from its ads. Case in point, “My Dad’s #1 Trick to get laid with by Younger Women” and, “3 Sneaky Tricks to Pork Strangers or Whatever.”

    • First of all, how do ads make information less credible? Second, get an ad blocker program.

      • Ad blockers don’t work when the person to whom you’re sending a link doesn’t have them installed.

        And I agree: The ads are insultingly low-rent. I’m not sure what that says about how advertisers perceive the site’s visitors (although apparently many of our octogenarian fathers are using 1 Simple Trick to Get Laid by Young Girls).

    • I don’t understand why people haven’t figured out adblockers yet. They work in the background, they are available for any hardware you can use to surf the web, and they make the whole internet experience better, not just TTAG

      • The existence of mitigating software doesn’t excuse the web site owner from displaying images and text unsuitable for younger audiences.

        And yes, it does affect the site’s credibility.

        • The web site owner does not control; the ad content. Ask Robert, and he will confirm. And ads pay the bills. I see the same ads on other sites. I don’t look at them there any more than I look at then here.

        • I have the same issues with adds showing up on web pages that are to me and would be to most Christians offensive and prominently appear in your peripheral vision . I don’t know why or who controls the content or who pays for what and I do my best to ignore them so they aren’t too much of a real problem however much I do wish they would not be there . I have a suggestion for some entrepreneur bright and wanting to make a buck . Come up with a static cling opaque overlay that we can put on our monitors that will block most of this stuff out . I would probably pay about $ 20 bucks for one for my 17 inch laptop .

    • My dad used to say the easiest way to get laid by younger women was with a Glock . I knew he was kidding of coarse , he was happy to be married to my mom for 47 years and he didn’t own a Glock . I especially like the girl with the 4 foot tongue . Looks more like a window cleaner .

      • Girl with a 4 foot tongue? I’m missing something here-I may have to turn off my adblocker.

    • Ad Hominem much?

      They run those ads because they work. Which means, you’re clicking on them… Best not to draw attention to that.

  4. As I think we all understand, one of the central issues with data around self-defense is that the two most successful forms, avoidance and deterrence, leave nothing to report. A lot of people who carry report a change in mindset, that they become more aware of the people around them and their surroundings in general. That contributes to better avoidance. Research and anecdotal reports tell us about incidents that appeared to be heading toward some sort of confrontation that suddenly changed, like a group of men stalking aggressively toward someone walking by themselves suddenly changing direction when that person put their hand to a hip. That’s deterrence. All those “non-incidents” are very hard to report on and quantify concretely.

    I face this same kind of challenge at work. I’m an analyst in the safety department of my company. Success for us basically translates to things not happening, or if they happen, to the severity not being as bad as it could have otherwise have been. However, we can’t go into the alternate universe where we didn’t do what we did and point to those results. So there has to be a lot of inference and extrapolation to make the case that what you’re doing makes sense.

    • No. Your link is incorrect. This is the original posting: and it was written by Dr. Young.
      But thanks for the link.

      Dr. Przebinda
      Social Media Editor

  5. The shame is the constant barrage of lies used in an attempt to thwart Constitutional Rights. Then add the unethical use of medical endorsed accuracy to the campaign and the issue becomes heinous. I’m amazed the medical community tolerates the unacceptable methods exploited by Jon Hopkins.

  6. Statistics show Sponge Bob Square Pants will win the 2016 presidential election. My children’s research states so. Should I tell them they are research bias?

    • Yes. Even if Sponge Bob wins in 2016, Budweiser will still be King of Beers (TM).

  7. What about us disarmed Scandinavians?, Oh Wait…We’ve had no murders, suicides or mass shootings in decades and we are very, very safe.

    Last time I checked, Our murder and suicide rates remained down for decades and we have strict gun control, good education and quality healthcare.

    And while our crime rates have been down for years, Your crime rates have been going up with more guns showing up on the street.

    You gun nuts eat anything your gun-cultists masters tell you.

    Only the US thinks this is somehow a way to ensure the government isn’t going bad. Other countries have democratic laws in place to prevent this and fights corruption.

    Most the guns out there that criminals have are the result of the gun companies lobby group, the NRA, promoting guns so they can make more money even from those who go on these shooting rampages. Take the recently Colorado theater incident: you could have had dozens of shooters in there if they were all armed (and I believe one of them was armed) so that when the police show up they might wind up shooting everyone; their priority is their own lives (a statement from a member of the NYPD from a few years ago.)

    Even Australia, Eliminated gun violence and they’ve never had mass shootings at all..

    All and All, We don’t want your gun laws, The people here of europe don’t want them and don’t need them.

    The open carry we saw here in europe was a generally bad idea in the first place.

    Last time I checked, Your country is even become a more backwards 3rd world nightmare than it ever was.

    I’m glad I don’t live in your nightmarish craphole.


    A Norwegian.

    • Our crime rates are going up?

      Australia has eliminated gun violence?

      Norway has had no murders or mass shootings in decades?

      What are you, some kind of jokester protesting the news today about Anders Breivik being allowed to join a political science course from prison?

      By the way, your country is tiny, yet it holds the distinction of having had one of the largest mass murders by an individual in modern history. It also has nothing resembling U.S. inner cities or gangs.

    • Sorry to burst your sheltered Norwegian bubble, Australia still has mass killings. Just because guns weren’t involved doesn’t mean bad people didn’t find other means. At least they didn’t die by guns, right?

      Plus, our crime rate is decreasing. It has been for decades even while our gun laws have become less strict throughout most of the country.

      You might want to take some of that free education and put it to good use doing some real research on violence, not just “gun violence” before and after multiple countries enacted stricter guns laws. Additionally, look at historical norms. Your low murder and crime rate is not because of strict gun laws, but due in fact to multiple other reasons.

      Australia’s crime rate went up right after and during their gun bans. Check the stats for yourself on their government website. After a few years the murder rates decreased at about the same rate as they had been for the past two decades.

      You lost any credibility when you started going on about the “gun lobby” and the NRA. It shows you really don’t have a clue what the NRA does, how it is organized and how much money it actually gets from gun manufacturers. (A hint, it’s really not that much.)

      Lastly, you are another arrogant European that has not done their own research and is unable to do critual thinking and basic analysis of real data. Thanks for trolling.

    • “What about us disarmed Scandinavians?, Oh Wait…We’ve had no murders, suicides or mass shootings in decades and we are very, very safe.”

      You gun grabbers help us plenty with your bald faced lies. It shoots your credibility straight to hell. Using the most recent date, the suicide rates per 100,000 were:

      22.2 for Finland.

      16.2 for Sweden.

      13 for Norway.

      13.2 for Denmark.

      As for mass murders, who can forget(except a dishonest, probably paid troll) the 2011 Norway Massacre? 77 people were murdered by one man. That is one of the massacres in history.

      You feel very, very safe? Then why do so many women report being physically or sexually assaulted? 52% in Denmark, 47% in Finland, 46% in Sweden, and in Norway, its capitol is now considered unsafe for female tourists. In Norway, one in 10 Norwegian women over the age of 15 has been raped, according to the country’s largest shelter organization, the Secretariat of the Shelter Movement. But at least 80 percent of these cases are never brought to official attention and only 10 percent of those that are end in a conviction, the Justice Ministry says. Arming the women there would help at least some of the victims to not become victims.

  8. Never trust an anti-gunner with a computer or without for that matter, usually the lies are deliberate and calculated, but sometimes it is because they were educated in government schools.

    • He he , I think that is nearly all schools today , brown shirts all . Of coarse not all , but them boys are working on it , and now with the recent court rulings , a lot of those private schools will disappear . Tow the line comrades .

  9. “Premises, like their conclusions, may be questionable.”

    What do you mean MAY be questionable. I take all of that crap with a heavy dose of don’t read and move on. It’s never questionable, but it is always a lie.

  10. He makes a salient point about not needing a statistics degree to make opinions regarding the research, hopefully this MD Follows his own insight and is able to read between the lines of the biased, industry produced vaccine research.

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