Gun Control

5 Problems with the New Study 'Proving' that More Background Checks Lowered Connecticut's Gun Murder Rate by 40 Percent

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A new study in the American Journal of Public Health purports to show that a 1995 tightening in Connecticut's gun permit laws led to a 40 percent reduction in gun homicides over the next decade—nearly 300 fewer gun homicides than their counterfactual construction of a Connecticut without those laws would have had. Despite its immediate adoption by gun control advocates, the study may not actually deliver what's advertised.

If you are eager to tie together various gun-violence-related items in one messy stew of proposed restrictions on gun possession rights, do note that Charleston mass murderer Dylann Roof would not have been prevented from obtaining a weapon by Connecticut-style background check laws (whose details are given at more length immediately below).

The study was conducted by researchers Kara E. Rudolph, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Jon S. Vernick, and Daniel W. Webster under the aegis of the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A press release from that Bloomberg School of Public Health sums up the findings of the study and the nature of the law whose effects it purports to chart:

[the study] compared Connecticut's homicide rates during the 10 years following the law's implementation to the rates that would have been expected had the law not been implemented. The large drop in homicides was found only in firearm-related killings, not in homicides by other means, as would be expected if the law drove the reduction…..

The Connecticut law requires all prospective handgun purchasers to apply for a permit in person with the local police regardless of whether the seller of the handgun is a licensed dealer or private seller. It also raised the handgun purchasing age from 18 to 21 years and required prospective purchasers to complete at least eight hours of approved handgun safety training.

"Permit-to-purchase laws, which require prospective handgun purchasers to first obtain a license from the police after passing a comprehensive background check, appear to reduce the availability of handguns to criminals and other people who are not legally permitted to buy guns," says study author Daniel Webster….

Note that "appear to reduce" from Webster, a matter we'll revisit later.

Curiously for a paper that purports to be a work of objective social science and not a pure tool of politics, the press release announcing the study wraps up like this:

Public opinion survey data from Webster and his colleagues recently published in Preventive Medicine show that the majority of Americans (72 percent) and gun owners (59 percent) support requiring people to obtain a license from a local law enforcement agency before buying a handgun to verify their identity and ensure they are not legally prohibited from having a gun.

Weird, huh? Science that its institutional sponsors believe is somehow made more important/valid by public opinion regarding aspects of its conclusion? (Here's a site, by the way, dedicated to Connecticut's permit process.)

Gun rights enemies in the media leapt upon the study eagerly, painting it as a killing blow to supporters of relatively unrestricted Second Amendment rights; it was dubbed "The NRA's worst nightmare" by Salon.

Politicians have also used the study's release as a hook to introduce a new bill to establish a new federal grant funding program for states that institute their own "permit to purchase" gun regulations. Such regulations would have to emulate Connecticut's allegedly powerfully death-reducing ones, applying to all sales (not just those from federally licensed gun dealers), and include no sales to under-21-year-olds, fingerprinting, background checks, and licensed permission from a local law enforcement agency. 

Does the study prove what it claims to prove?

Given the amazingly complicated set of causes and incentives feeding into any human decision—and every gun homicide is the result of a human decision—establishing that the change in background check laws that "led to" a reduction in gun homicides "caused" them (even in that one Connecticut case, much less concluding that such laws can be relied on to have that effect in other places and times) is likely beyond any final authoritative conclusion via the usual methods of the social sciences.

There's a whole lot to unwind when it comes to what we reliably know about how the presence of guns or gun laws affects public safety—it's not an area where the "science is settled" by any means—and most of it should be of near-zero policy relevance for anyone who respects either constitutional rights or the right to self-defense.

Other people's misuse of a tool in either crimes or accidents has no clear bearing on our legal attitudes toward those tools. All "facts of reality" are hugely underdetermined by any singular supposed cause. And how many people would have been killed by guns in Connecticut from 1995 to 2005 absent the gun law change isn't even a fact; gussied up in the methods of the social sciences as it is in this paper, it is a guess.

The researchers do seem to be trying hard. Obviously, they are facing a problem: we can see what happened in real Connecticut after these laws passed: the murder rate per 100,000 population started dropping significantly after 1996. Does that settle it? No, because very similar gun murder rate drops happened in most other states, states that did not have such tougher background laws instituted. The study's own major chart shows all other control states largely moving in lockstep with Connecticut on murder rates.

So they can't learn anything meaningful comparing what happened in Connecticut to what happened in most other states. So they create a "synthetic Connecticut" which they posit shows what would have happened in Connecticut minus the new laws. 

The "synthetic Connecticut" to which they compare the real Connecticut, and which fares far worse in gun homicides minus those supposedly life-saving laws, is derived from a "weighted combination of states that exhibits homicide trends most similar to Connecticut's prior to the law's implementation." (It ends up being 72 percent Rhode Island, with a mix of Maryland and California tossed in.)

The authors have an impressive list of covariates considered to ensure other things are kept as equal as they can be, including "Population size, population density (log-transformed), proportion 0-18 years, proportion 15-24 years, proportion black (log-transformed), proportion Hispanic (log-transformed), proportion ? 16 years living at or below poverty, and income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient are from the U.S. Census Bureau."

Granting that neither I nor anyone else I know has done extensive social science research on the results of Connecticut's gun change ourselves, let's walk through five potential problems with leaping from this study's results to the conclusion that instituting Connecticut-like laws nationally is a public safety imperative, one we can be confident will reduce gun homicides by 40 percent.

1) How do we know that synthetic-Connecticut really is a good marker for real Connecticut? The weight of that point seems to be almost entirely a pure case of believing that "past performance guarantees future results." Without saying anything about why it was so or should be presumed to always be so, the authors note that in the past Rhode Island's gun homicide levels matched Connecticut's very closely.

I ran the study by Aaron Brown, a math whiz who currently works as chief risk manager at AQR Capital Management. He pointed out to me that, especially given Connecticut's continued rough matching of national gun homicide trends before and after the law passed, the real phenomenon to be explained here is not why Connecticut's gun homicides went down, but why Rhode Island's went up unusually for part of the period.

As Brown wrote, the "claim that Connecticut's law reduced gun homicides is not based on any fall in Connecticut's rate (which merely mirrors the national trend) but on an increase in gun homicide rate in Rhode Island (to be precise, 0.724*Rhode Island + 0.147*Maryland + 0.087*Nevada + 0.036*California + 0.005* New Hampshire). Given that Rhode Island is the outlier, it makes more sense to look for things in Rhode Island that increased gun homicide rates in 1998 than to ascribe the entire effect to a change in Connecticut in 1995."

The study says that "The third assumption [behind their results] is that there are no unmeasured confounders during the post-law period. This is an untestable assumption given the absence of randomization of PTP law implementation across states." That seems to be an admission that there was no attempt to think of any reason that Rhode Island should be an outlier from national trends, except that of course it must still be matching what would have happened in Connecticut absent the background check laws, because it used to.

Given Connecticut's continued matching of national trends over the studied period, I just don't see that as so clearly the real explanation as to rest the study's bold conclusion on it. (There are also some law enforcement related reasons that Connecticut's real homicide rate might have gone down as well, unconsidered in this paper.)

The raw numbers involved are always very small by the way, so small that for many of the years the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the source of the data the study relies on, say that "Rates based on 20 or fewer deaths may be unstable. Use with caution." In a few years of the study, Rhode Island's total homicide deaths are fewer than 20. The study did not note any caution about it that I saw.

The rise in murder rates in synthetic-Connecticut begins in 1997; if you look at Rhode Island, its main component, we see in the raw CDC numbers (sent to me by CDC, numbers this study does not provide, merely showing a graphic of the rates) that the actual raw number of "extra" murders from that year through 2005 in Rhode Island amount to 52. (This number is derived by subtracting 14, 1997's raw number, from the actual number for every year from 1997-2005 in which the raw number was higher.)

Near as I can tell, then, the entire edifice of their result is based on the fact that in Rhode Island over the course of eight years, 52 people made the decision to murder, and the study presumes that because of past patterns, a proportional number of people in Connecticut would also, for some reason, have made the decision to murder over those years minus the laws. You can decide if that seems irrefutably true to you, minus the apparati of the social sciences. 

2) To return to the "appear" mentioned above in "Permit-to-purchase laws…appear to reduce the availability of handguns to criminals," given that we are assuming that the law is having all sorts of powerful effects on behavior and outcomes, don't we need to know something about how extensively or effectively the laws are being enforced, and have some decent data or reasonable guesses to be sure that the law's existence almost certainly is preventing many, many gun purchases by murderers that would have occurred without the law?

The study doesn't try to answer that question. One of the authors, Dr. Daniel Webster of the Center for Gun Policy and Research, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, said in an email to me that "Virtually no studies of gun control law take enforcement into account because data are lacking and we don't really know the degree to which deterrence (people not wanting to violate the law) is a function of levels of enforcement." Noted, and undoubtedly true. But I can't help but think that unknown is of huge significance to how authoritatively the results of a study like this should be taken.

3) The authors are sure their gun-related cause leads to a gun-related effect by noting that the effects on homicide rates they allege to have found are almost all in gun homicides, not in other homicides. Curiously to me, the synthetic-Connecticut used to compare the non-gun homicides is very different than the mostly-Rhode Island one used for gun homicides; it is mostly New Hampshire. That comparison seems to be apples-oranges, and one wonders what the results would have been if they'd used the same synthetic Connecticut for both comparisons.

4) The study traces changes from 1995 to 2005; when I asked the CDC to send me the raw data numbers that the study relied on, the CDC warned me that "the coding of mortality data changed significantly in 1999, so you may not be able to compare number of deaths and death rates from 1998 and before with data from 1999 and after." [UPDATE: In an email sent after this post went up, the CDC says that "the change in…coding has almost no effect on homicide or suicide unlike other causes of death." So this point seems to be of little relevance.]

I did not see anywhere in the study an acknowledgement that the source of the numbers considers comparisons across 1999 to be questionable. Webster said in an email on that point that "even if there was a change in classifying homicides in 1999, why would this have affected Connecticut dramatically different than in other states?" It might be worth noting that real Connecticut's gun homicide rate had already fallen 29 percent in the mere two years prior to the 1995 law, from 4.57 to 3.23 per 100,000 (as with all rates given in the study and this post).

5) The study stops looking for effects 10 years after the law went into effect. Why might that be? Six of the eight years since 2005 for which CDC had data show Connecticut with a higher real gun homicide rate than 2005, the year that the authors chose to stop. If they had gone out to 2006, the reduction in rates in real Connecticut from 1995 to 2006 is cut to 12 percent.

From 2005 to 2006, Connecticut's gun homicide rate went up 38 percent, from 2.05 to 2.84. Rhode Island—again, the bulk of their synthetic Connecticut—saw its rate go down 5 percent in that year, from 1.83 to 1.73.

If you look at the CDC gun homicide data from 2005 to 2012, you see Connecticut's rate going up 66 percent, from 2.05 to 3.41, and Rhode Island's going down 20 percent, from 1.83 to 1.45.

Recall that they got their effect from the fact that up until 2005 Connecticut's rate was going down while Rhode Island (mostly) saw theirs going up, generating all those extra murders that they assume Connecticut would have had if not for the background check law.

That all makes it seems like stopping in 2005 might be classic cherry-picking to make their results seem stronger.

Murphy et al.'s stated reason for stopping after 10 years in the study itself is "We conclude the post-law period in 2005 to limit extrapolation in our predictions of the counterfactual to 10 years, as has been done previously."

Previously in some other important study related to gun law changes and homicides? No. The footnote on that statement is to "Abadie A, Diamond A, Hainmueller J. Synthetic control methods for comparative case studies: Estimating the effect of California's tobacco control program. J Am Stat Assoc 2010;105:493– 505." While I'm not a professional social scientist, that reasoning seems unconvincing, especially when you see how much the year changes affect the outcome.

Webster repeated in an email, "As we explain in the article, we limit the analyses to the first 10 years after the law was implemented (1995) as has been recommended for research with synthetic control methods.  Estimation of policy effects is based principally on a forecast of trends for the post-law period and the further you get out from the new policy, the less certain that forecast becomes." The tobacco study in question whose methods they rely on for the 10-year cutoff did so because of a change in the laws it was studying, not as a general principle of synthetic forecast social science.

While what the researchers did seems impeccable by the standards of their professional game, this laymen does wonder how we can be so sure that the decisions of a few dozen people over a decade in Rhode Island to kill someone with a gun can be attributed so confidently to a change in gun laws in Connecticut?

Some of those critiques above have been offered in some form by Robert Verbruggen at Real Clear Politics and John Lott at the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Even if the results of the study are true and robust, and Connecticut-style permit and background check laws apparently do keep a significant number of guns out of the hands of people who might kill others with them, they also keep guns out of the hands of far, far, far more people who would merely use them for pleasure or security the same way other Americans do. The nexus between prohibited classes under federal weapons law and people who will illegitimately harm others with weapons is very, very tenuous. And it might also be valuable to look at what crime rates in Connecticut relative to the rest of the country did in areas other than gun homicides if overall social policy decisions are to be made based on this analysis; Lott offers some charts on aspects of that question.

Dr. Webster was very helpful in answering a long series of questions that likely seemed like badgering, including helping me think through how some criticisms of the study that seemed cogent to me at first were 100 percent wrong.

He seemed suspicious of my motives. After I ran by him a series of potential issues with the study generated by either me or others I had read or communicated with, he wrote "No doubt, you're trying to come up with some explanation for scientific findings [that] don't fit your views." 

The John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, from whom the study came is financed (see the name) by former New York mayor and busybody moneybags Michael Bloomberg, for whom restricting Second Amendment rights is a holy cause. 

The study itself states "The study goal is to estimate the effect of Connecticut's PTP [permit to purchase] law on homicides in Connecticut—not to extrapolate the effect of Connecticut's law on homicides in an average control state." Regardless of that limited goal, and regardless of whether any of the objections to the study's conclusions discussed here are valid, to a certain class of consumers of news and commentary, thanks to this study and the press it received, it is already a settled fact that "science has proven that tougher background checks reduce gun homicides by 40 percent."

No doubt raised about the study, either here or elsewhere, will likely dislodge that "knowledge." In which case, the study has achieved its goal whether or not its results are replicable or rigorously proved.

NEXT: Educator and Porn Star Conner Habib Gets Campus Thoughtcrime Treatment

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  1. I’m still a little surprised that after Sandy Hook there was no meaningful gun legislation passed. I’m not complaining, just surprised.

    I would imagine a similar outcome this time (minus the feinting over the flag of course.)

    1. Well, that’s not true. NY and CT passed shit-ass gun laws that suck for the people who live there (and make it so that I’m never going to live there again). But yeah, federally and in most states nothing happened. And that is a good thing, though I am less surprised than you. The tide since Heller has been brutally against the gun banners. Which makes me smile.

      1. Yes, this. The SAFE act was rammed through in the immediate aftermath with virtually no debate since you can’t debate assholes that are standing the bodies of dead children.

        I tried in vain to get an AR or M1A before it passed but there wasn’t much available – the gun-grabbers did a great job of selling rifles that year.

        1. Finally got an M1 a couple years ago (“complete with bayonet!”). SUPER fun gun. AR is on my plate again….looking to acquire one (finally) yet this year.

          1. I tried recording the *ping* of the ejecting clip for a ringtone. It’s ok, and recognizable if you know what it is, but I think even someone with M1 experience might not recognize it right off the bat.

            And it is a fine fun gun. I have shot way too much ammo with it, and now am down to a few clips left.

            1. I don’t know if they have any left but MidwayUSA had gobs of M1 ammo in clips for sale a while back.

          2. I can still get an M1 Garand – and maybe I should!!!!! – but what I wanted was an M1A, the civilian version of the M-14. Hopefully some of the stoopit feature bans (threaded barrel, forward facing pistol grip, bayonet lug, grenade launcher mount, etc…) will be relaxed in the coming years but I doubt it.

            Anyone know if it is possible to modify and M1 Garand to take a box magazine?

            1. You can look here. Very nice people to deal with.

              http://www.fulton-armory.com/M14-M1A.aspx

            2. What you want is a BM59. It’s a post WWII Beretta-produced rifle that was originally manufactured using M1 Garand tooling. They are more rare than M1s, but you can still find them without too much trouble.

              And they even come with a super evil folding stock, if you want…

              1. Interesting! There is one on Gun Broker for $800…just have to check if the flash suppressor is illegal in NY under the SAFE act…because flash suppressors make a gun more likely to animate and become lethal instruments of death all on their own.

            3. The Garand Guy (Tony Giacobbe) , in NJ, sells BM-59s, which are box-mag M-1 pattern guns, made by Beretta under license, chambered in 308, which was the nearest thing I could find a couple years back.

              In the end, I just bought an M1A Scout Squad – which is legal in CT because it has a loudener (muzzle break) instead of a nasty evil flash hider. I even spoke to CTDPS to confirm I was legal.

              1. Thank Igor!

                1. You know your own state best, but as I understand it, under SAFE, you’re OK with a semi-automatic with a detachable mag, as long as it doesn’t have ANY other naughty features. Which most importantly for you means a flash hider *or* muzzle break.

                  1. I’m not a gunsmith
                  2. I’m not a lawyer

                  But – if you shorten a barrel, you can mess up the harmonics and thereby the accuracy of a firearm, but would removal of the flash hider from a standard M1A compromise its accuracy? If it didn’t, you could simply have a gunsmith (out of state) chop the barrel and recrown it. A ‘standard’ will still have enough barrel length to avoid it being considered an SBR.

                  You might be able to scratch that itch.

                  1. Two followups.

                    1. Better than chopping the barrel, get an out-of-state gunsmith to remove the flash hider and put a threaded sleeve over the thread on the barrel and either pin it or soft weld it in place. That means the barrel itself is unaffected.

                    2. LRB of Long Island claim to have an NY-compliant M14 model (yep, the real thing, not an M1A). Warning. Only monocle-wearing capitalists need apply. LRBs aren’t cheap.

          3. You don’t have an AR? Turn in your passport, commie.

            1. *hangs head in shame*

            2. He’s trying for an even more iconic gun; when you need to reach out and really send a commie a message, you do it with something meaningful, not some pansy-assed round that’s only a bit bigger than a varmint round.

              To quote a bumper sticker I own, “We don’t 911, we 7.62”

              1. *grins a little while still hanging head in shame…*

          4. This is an excellent time to buy most any weapon, but I would not wait as I suspect given the law of supply and demand [manufacturers overproduced given the demand 2012-2013 and there currently remains a glut in supply] will even out soon. Just saw a basic AR for $419.

            I would use the site slickguns.com which is user based and will give you very up to date deals, prices, and reviews. I only buy online now as it beats retail by at least 30% or more; you just need a local and reliable guy or girl with and FFL who charges a reasonable fee to run the NCIS background check and transfer. That and shipping usually costs less than you would pay in local sales tax.

        2. “I tried in vain to get an AR or M1A before it passed but there wasn’t much available – the gun-grabbers did a great job of selling rifles that year.”

          Build a featureless NY legal AR (look up Thordsen FRS-15)? Or get the Ares SCR.

      2. NY and CT passed shit laws but they are NY and CT. Other states passed laws that relaxed gun restrictions, so one could argue that was a wash.

        Federally they attempted the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, both of which were defeated.

        1. Manchin and Toomey are supposedly gearing up for a second try.

    2. Since then, a number of notorious police killings have caused some leftish liberals to realize that any gun laws, old or new, will be enforced selectively, to the disadvantage of those who are Black and or poor. You don’t have to be a gun owner to be damaged by such laws; for instance, they are a mainspring of harassments like stop & frisk, where 95% of the victims are entirely innocent. In addition they can be used, like the drug laws, to put numerous persons who have done no one any harm in prison.

      The shift of opinion is an interesting turn of events.

    3. There is no such thing as “meaningful gun legislation”. No legislation can end violence and trying to control weapons is stupid due to the sheer number of weapons out there – guns knives axes baseball bats, samurai swords etc….that can all cause mass murder.

    4. They did pass some more restrictions that made many gun owners criminals.

  2. Confounding variables much?

    “Well, after we passed the gun law, traffic deaths and deaths from diabetes went down. So, using the same logic applied in this ‘study’, this gun law also reduced deaths in what would otherwise be completely unrelated areas. It’s like Magic Unicorns of Wonderfulness!!!”

  3. I predict that without a law banning transfats more people would have died. If I take what actually happened vs what I predicted, I will prove that my hypothesis is correct.

    Is that what they just did?

      1. Ok, just making sure I understand that they’re just making shit up.

  4. Also

    “No doubt, you’re trying to come up with some explanation for scientific findings don’t fit your views.”

    The irony – it BURNS!

    1. One would think, particularly post-Bellesiles and several others, that word would have gone around the social science table that gun control studies will get lots more peer review and press than other science.

      1. “Arming America” was the first thing that came to mind when reading this drek.

    2. “No, I’m not dealing with scientific findings right now, I’m dealing with your “study””.

  5. “According to my model, my model is correct.”

    1. according to my supermodel my theoretical model is hard to understand.

    2. I work in sports quantitative analysis. I never say “prove”. My models “suggest” that something may be true.

  6. See? Correlation is causation! I knew it!

  7. “[the study] compared Connecticut’s homicide rates during the 10 years following the law’s implementation to the rates that would have been expected had the law not been implemented. The large drop in homicides was found only in firearm-related killings, not in homicides by other means, as would be expected if the law drove the reduction…..”

    I can disprove this scientific study w/ one google search.

    That’s Connecticut’s murder rate vs. the murder rates of adjoining states, and you’ll notice that the rise and decline of Connecticut’s murder rate is almost identical to the surrounding states. In particular, the decline is identical to Rhode Island. Now, unless Rhode Island passed the exact same law in the exact same year, this seems unlikely if the law resulted in fewer murders.

    Meanwhile, Texas’ crime rate has improved more than the US average, despite very loose gun laws.

    1. STICK TO THE NARRATIVE, DUDE!

      C’mon man!

    2. Every time someone gets killed in Texas now, it’s going to be blamed on the Open Carry legislation that they passed this congressional session. Just watch.

      1. Sure, whatever.

        Texans won’t give a shit.

        1. They needed killin’

        2. I know I won’t.

          And what Bobarian said.

    3. I don’t disagree with your take on the study, but that graphic is measure total crime rate, not murder rate.

      1. I noticed my mistake right as you did and corrected it below! Don’t judge me!

        1. Lies make baby Jesus cry.

    4. Correction: That’s Connecticut’s total crime rate vs. adjoining states, not specifically the murder rate.

      To make up for the fact that that link helps my point but isn’t perfect, here’s a link showing the ratio of gun homicides in Connecticut vs. the rest of the Northeast and the United States.

      You’ll notice that the ratio bounces up and down over time and that there isn’t even any sort of downward trend, which implies the gun law had no impact.

        1. I think the scientific name for that is ‘noise’.

        2. And I fucked up again because that last one is the violent crime rate rather than strictly the murder rate.

          I’m having an off day with my link choices and would like everyone to please forgive me for my many failures.

          1. NEVER

          2. You keep it up and Nikki is going to kill you for taking “the worst” from her.

        1. Another scientific name might be ‘squirrel shit’.

  8. This makes perfect sense when you realize that criminals lined up to apply for their gun licenses and were soundly rejected, unlike when like they applied with Hedley Lamar.

    1. The KKK guys were rejected! Even though stampeding cattle through the Vatican is kinky.

    2. You mean all those rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists were turned down?!

      1. Yes. And you said rape, twice.

        1. Gotta be ready for the number six dance…

      2. They weren’t turned down, but they needed a shitload of dimes.

  9. I doubt if the gun-grabbers care whether or not the stats hold up. Their idea is to bury the discussion in the stats, thus completely avoiding the issue of individual rights.

    1. What issue of individual rights? Individuals are subordinate to the collective. Guns are dangerous to the collective, so there is no individual right to have guns. End of discussion. Next?

      1. some guns are dangerous to the collective. others are needed to enforce the will of the collective.

      2. Yeah, but other than Tony and a few others, they’re careful not to state their position so clearly. They’d rather obfuscate it in a cloud of bullshit.

        1. Cowards obfuscate…

          was that too harsh?

  10. The gun grabbers are like the global warming crowd. How many times can you be caught lying before you lose credibility? An infinite number of times apparently, if you are pushing something a lot of people really really want to believe.

    1. People in general have low self esteem. They really want to “make a difference” so they support/vote for feel good bullshit. That’s my theory anyways.

      1. Yeahr and they’re assholes.

    2. Gun culture is really the perfect enemy for “progressives”. It’s about people taking responsibility for their own safety instead of relying on the government. It’s about people shooting animal in its natural habitat and enjoying it for dinner. It’s about ignoring the squealing of the you’ll-shoot-your-eye-out nanny statists. And just for good measure, there’s the fact that those evil big corporations are making – gasp – profits!!!

  11. Is their data even meaningful? I mean, the article questioned it, but is the 10 year drop even statistically significant? Based on what the CDC said, the answer is no.

    The first joke I had when I heard about this study was that if it worked for the mean streets of Connecticut, surely it will work anywhere.

    There are places that have basically banned guns, and it hasn’t done anything to help with murder rates. But, magically, requiring some more background checks from where a fraction of gun owners get their guns is going to lead to a 40% drop? It’s obvious bullshit.

    1. I’d almost like the left to get their way on something like this for a while just so it would prove how ineffective it really is. But I know they wouldn’t learn anything, and they’d try to cut the numbers up in a way to show they were right, anyway.

      1. They also employ blame shifting. Being a Virginian, I’ve been lectured many times that the gun control laws in Washington D.C. would work if Virginia would just adopt them too. But Virginia doesn’t adopt them because Virginia’s gun owners are evil and want little children to die.

        1. You should remind them that you don’t like when little children die, it means less labor in your coal mine.

        2. Yes, and if criminals would just stop committing crimes, that would save lives, too.

          Death sentence for all criminals. Clearly, it is the only way.

        3. You should just ask them that, if they really do believe Virginia gun owners (such as yourself) are evil and want little children to die, why are they yanking your chain?

          Seriously, do they make a habit of going up to people sporting gang tattoos and busting their balls? Probably not, because they don’t want their family fishing their body parts out of dumpsters all over town.

          So why are they busting your balls? Aren’t they worried about their family fishing their body parts, etc.? Or perhaps they don’t really believe that Virginia gun owners are evil baby-killers.

          1. LOL, they have a ready-made dodge for that. When I point out that I’ve had a CC permit since 1994 and none of the awful things they predicted have actually happened, they say “well, you’re a decent guy, but what about everybody else?” I reply that, as a certified firearms safety instructor, I’ve actually met this “everybody else” they’re referring to, and they’re nothing like the gun grabbers imagine them to be. I tell them to stop talking, get off their high horse, and actually meet some live gun owners. This usually leads to them going away mumbling.

            1. If the average gun owner were as dangerous as gun grabbers assume, then people would be driving their cars into crowds every day of the week.

              For some reason, people we trust to drive without running people down on the sidewalk would inexplicably begin shooting everyone if provided with firearms.

              1. Irish: But it’s totally different, cars are not designed for killing!

              2. It really is projection. They have fever dreams of killing their political opponents in cold blood and just assume that everyone else is as depraved as they are.

          2. I think, too, that much of what they say is just social signalling. When Virginia amended it’s CC law to allow permit holders to eat in restaurants that serve alcohol (provided that the permit holders don’t imbibe while carrying), the gun-grabbers went into the predictable hysterics and loudly declared that they’d never be able to take their families out to eat ever again. But in addition to the fact that nobody’s been killed in a shootout by a drunken permit holder, I notice that the restaurants didn’t get any less crowded. The gun-grabbers kept going out to dinner, no matter how much they wailed and waved their arms about.

        4. “Being a Virginian, I’ve been lectured many times that the gun control laws in Washington D.C. would work if Virginia would just adopt them too”

          ????

          DC’s homicide rate is 4 times the US rate.

          DC’s homicide rate has improved drastically since the ’80s, but that’s largely because their murder rate in the late-80’s was approximately what you’d expect from Caracas. It’s still a very violent city, so who the hell is telling you this?

          1. The gun-grabbers are trying to cover for the utter failure of their precious laws by claiming that the laws would work if Virginia adopted them too.

        5. The other side of this stupid blame-shifting coin, of course, is that if banning guns is so crucial to preventing crime, why the heck does Virginia have a significantly lower murder rate than Washington D.C.?

          What’s so special about D.C. that attracts murderers, that Virginia doesn’t have, and forces those murderers to get their guns in relatively peaceful Virginia? Congress and its accompanying interns and lobbyists? The Supreme Court? The White House? Headquarters of dozens of bureaucracies?

          Oh, wait. I think I see the problem…

  12. basically this study proves background check laws should sunset after 10 years because the law causes deaths to increase at that point.

  13. Shy of throwing the population in jail, any claim of a 40% reduction in gun murder rates is a lie on the face of it.
    Why do gun grabbers find it necessary to lie so transparently?

    1. Because it’s for a Good Cause?, and the ends justify the means.

    2. This is just another 40% number pro gun rights advocates will have to hear for the next 25 years and it’s just as flawed a number as the “40% of guns a bought without background checks” bull shit line.

  14. Oh, you really shouldn’t try to do your own thinking on this, silly layman.

    If in doubt, does the consensus of social science and smart-looking, talking heads on TV say that you should accept the study, regardless of it’s methodology? Then, do so, good peon, and be gone!

  15. Question for Brian Doherty: did their data on homicides only include unlawful homicides? I’m just suspicious because the Bloomberg anti-gun org has puffed up their numbers in the past by including lawful self-defense and police shootings (e.g. calling Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a “gun victim”).

    1. Like the “was alcohol involved” question from the police report. Sneaky.

    2. The CDC data they use does not seem to make legal distinctions.

  16. There’s a certain epistemological inertia whenever someone makes a claim that “the science is settled.” Usually, the person refuting the science is seen as some mouth-breathing troglodyte who is too stupid to see the obvious truth. But I wonder how many people claiming that “the science is settled” regarding any point actually do the research that they expect their opponents to do.

    I once, as an exercise, tried to thoroughly vet a “settled science” claim. I read a study, and when I found a footnote leading to another paper, I in turn looked up that paper. This led to an explosion of other footnotes and endnotes that had to be, in turn, researched. Eventually, you will find the raw numbers of researchers in the field, but then this raises a whole host of other epistemological issues. How do we know that the numbers were accurately notated? How do we know that researchers didn’t use confirmation bias to toss outliers? How do we know how the data was transmitted, to whom, that the instruments were accurately calibrated, etc.? Each step of the way, more and more doubt creeps in.

    I guess the long and short of it is that “settled science” claims rest on near-endless concatenations of research which must, in varying degrees, be based on trust. Remove some links in the chain, and the much-vaunted conclusions fail with them.

    1. That’s a good point. One example of this is in national murder figures: every country has it’s own particular definition of what a murder is. So you’ve got to be very careful when you compare murder statistics of various countries.

  17. “and most of it should be of near-zero policy relevance for anyone who respects either constitutional rights or the right to self-defense.”

    See, right there is your problem. Most people who are against civilian gun ownership are against constitutional rights, and the right to self-defense.

  18. There was a time when scientists understood the importance of skepticism in testing scientific theories for validity. The new scientists are actually politicians and cultists masquerading as scientists, as can be seen in their hostility toward skepticism and their persistence in using their skills to push their pre-existing political agendas.

  19. Bloomberg should worry more about banning woodchippers.

    1. No one needs a 50 hp woodchipper.

  20. i was struck by two things in the article i read. the first was the degree to which they readily admitted they were pretty much just assuming cause and effect; but they really, really believed that it must be true and so the article was mostly written with that in mind. second is that there was a blurb about how two years into the drop -after the law was passed- connecticut authorities were crediting new investigative tactics as the overwhelming factor….that blurb was quickly forgotten as the article went on. the study isn’t bogus, it’s just half a thought with no conclusion, because the conclusion gets in the way of what might otherwise be a beautiful idea.

  21. The John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research will find whatever results Bloomberg pays them to find.

    1. [A small fortune] is a hell of a drug.

  22. Vermont:

    No licensing or registration, open carry, no permits (carry or concealed carry), legalized suppressors (just passed 17 June), no mag restrictions, no “AW” laws, no NFA restrictions.

    May carry open or concealed without permit as long as you are a citizen of the U.S. or a lawfully admitted alien, and not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law.

    All of the above apply to both long guns and handguns

    49th in gun murders.

    1. That’s unpossible!!!1!!

  23. Can we stop calling is “social science” and start calling it what it really is: hokum?

  24. It is interesting to me that gun control advocates who called Connecticut’s gun laws “lax” in the wake of Sandy Hook are now holding this state law up as part of the cure for “gun violence”… because Bloomberg study!

  25. What happened in the several years prior to ’96 that caused the drop nation wide? Prohibition enforcement started only going after the bad actors. Wholesale gang take downs stopped.

    The experience in Rockford was exemplary. They took down a whole gang and the murder rate skyrocketed. The FBI stated, “that was to be expected.” The locals were up in arms about it. It was never repeated.

    I lived next door to the head of the gang. Nice feller. They were smoking so much weed you could get high by inhaling in the hallway. I was going to work when the Drug Task Force swooped down on him. Agents everywhere.

  26. Re the calculations that “support” such conclusi0ons, at the risk of giving away the fact that I border on the ancient, who is pushing the slide rule,or in more up to date terms, who is pressing the buttons on the calculator or computer, and what sort of axe might they be grinding?

  27. If Second Amendment supporters and other legal gun owners were as evil and bloodthirsty as the gun control freaks claim, there would not be any “out of the closet” gun control freaks.

  28. Once more we see that The Left has no plausible position on most issues of public policy once you strip away the falsehoods they traffic in.

  29. Connecticut is dishonest about taxes — no reason to expect different from this bogus claim.

    Check the 2013 official Texas statistics on crime. There are over 800,000 concealed carry permit holders in the state. In 2013 there 364 convictions for murder. THREE of them were concealed permit holders. There were 91 convictions for manslaughter. ZERO were permit holders.
    http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/RSD/CHL/…..rt2013.pdf

    If you want to check the Texas convictions yearly back to 1996, here’s a great source:
    http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/…..vrates.htm

    Funny how no one actually checks the facts before making wild claims about the dangers of concealed carry.

    1. Actually my comparison is a bit unfair. Most people who commit murder do it in the HOME. Hence in most gun deaths, the ability to pack heat outside the home was not a factor in the killing.

      1. That and the gun control premise is that only people who have gone through the rigors of a concealed carry permit should be allowed to buy a gun.

  30. Why would the effect of the law disappear after 10 years unless Rhode Island passed a similar measure or there was in fact no effect? The reference to the tobacco study is an excuse, not an explanation.

    If the effect were real you would expect it to gradually increase and then hold steady over time. It might degrade as other factors came into play but it should not fall off a cliff.

  31. One common way to get results like this, as bad as they are (eg: the real issue being the
    INCREASE in Rhode Island killings) is:
    1. First determine what results you want from the data
    2. then – SELECT the data set that provides the desired results.
    With so much data around, you can use all sorts of complicated, detailed selection criteria that
    might area to make sense- just keeping running it all through you regression testing until some
    nice looking selections give the desired results. 5% from here,, 10% from there, etc. it reeks of
    completely cooked data.
    In addition to the Rhode Island flaw, it is HIGHLY likely that many other data sets that
    appear to be “selected” with similar analytical anguish would yield very different, if not opposite results.

    That is the fun of social “engineering” with statistics – especially with so much data and analysis
    capabilities available today. It is easier than every to get results you want, with what appears
    to be “accurate, targeted” data. and I guess it is – targeted at the results desired, but not
    necessarily unbiased by any means.

  32. I’m also skeptical about this “synthetic Connecticut”. How do you determine the amount of gun deaths that WOULD have occurred if not for the gun laws?

    If i understand this article correctly (it got technical on me) CDC projects 52 extra “decisions” to commit murder without the tougher permit law. So that’s around 7,8 annual extra murders that might have been prevented in a span of 8 years?

    Who committed the majority of gun crime in Connecticut? Legal gun owners who happen to be criminals, or criminals who obtain guns illegally (straw purchases, stolen guns)? If it’s the latter, then you probably have to credit law enforcement efforts or other factors for the decline of gun deaths. SOMETHING is making it harder for them to get guns in the black market, but gun permit process doesn’t affect that realm.

  33. CT’s past trends are important, to see if they changed when the predictor changed. The larger population of other states is also important, to show the affects of other, even unidentified, predictors. You can also use comparables, but on it’s face it seems stupid to use only 5, and 72% of the total based on one other state.

    I also realize different types of communities have different rates of crime, so I can see calculating an expected rate based on how many of the people live in an inner city. I’ve driven through CT several times in recent years and it seems very small town/suburban, with a handful of medium sized cities. Why weren’t adjacent areas of western Mass or upstate NY considered comparable?

  34. Tha CT Constitution guarantees that a citizen can have a gun in his home but some misguided laws have made it hard to get one in there. Luckily there is a gun seller on every city corner in Corrupticut-so we are all set.

  35. – ” the murder rate per 100,000 population started dropping significantly after 1996.”

    That’s not even correct. In fact the murder rate in CT had already dropped from 6.6 in 1994 to 4.6 in 1995…a ~30% decline in one year, and before the law was enacted and took effect.

  36. Are there any real scientific studies anymore? This one was obviously built around a pre-determined conclusion, just like AGW papers. Of course, what do you expect from an institution with “Bloomberg” in its name.

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