Gun Control

You Know Less Than You Think About Guns

The misleading uses, flagrant abuses, and shoddy statistics of social science about gun violence


Woman with gun
Paul Chesley/Getty Images

"There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America," President Barack Obama proclaimed after the October mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. "So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work—or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns—is not borne out by the evidence."

In this single brief statement, Obama tidily listed the major questions bedeviling social science research about guns—while also embodying the biggest problem with the way we process and apply that research. The president's ironclad confidence in the conclusiveness of the science, and therefore the desirability of "common-sense gun safety laws," is echoed widely with every new mass shooting, from academia to the popular press to that guy you knew from high school on Facebook.

In April 2015, the Harvard gun-violence researcher David Hemenway took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to declare in a headline: "There's scientific consensus on guns—and the NRA won't like it." Hemenway insisted that researchers have definitively established "that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be…that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime…and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates." He concludes: "There is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide."

But the science is a lot less certain than that. What we really know about the costs and benefits of private gun ownership and the efficacy of gun laws is far more fragile than what Hemenway and the president would have us believe.

More guns do not necessarily mean more homicides. More gun laws do not necessarily mean less gun crime. Finding good science is hard enough; finding good social science on a topic so fraught with politics is nigh impossible. The facts then become even more muddled as the conclusions of those less-than-ironclad academic studies cycle through the press and social media in a massive game of telephone. Despite the confident assertions of the gun controllers and decades of research, we still know astonishingly little about how guns actually function in society and almost nothing at all about whether gun control policies actually work as promised.

Do More Guns Mean More Homicides?

"More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on August 26, 2015, just after the grisly on-air murder of two television journalists in Virginia. It's a startling fact, and true.

But do the number of guns in circulation correlate with the number of gun deaths? Start by looking at the category of gun death that propels all gun policy discussion: homicides. (Gun suicides, discussed further below, are a separate matter whose frequent conflation with gun crime introduces much confusion into the debate.)

In 1994 Americans owned around 192 million guns, according to the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice. Today, that figure is somewhere between 245 and 328 million, though as Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss in their thorough 2014 book The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press) wisely concluded, "the bottom line is that no one knows how many firearms are in private hands in the United States." Still, we have reason to believe gun prevalence likely surpassed the one-gun-per-adult mark early in President Barack Obama's first term, according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report that relied on sales and import data.

Yet during that same period, per-capita gun murders have been cut almost in half.

One could argue that the relevant number is not the number of guns, but the number of people with access to guns. That figure is also ambiguous. A Gallup poll in 2014 found 42 percent of households claiming to own a gun, which Gallup reports is "similar to the average reported to Gallup over the past decade." But those looking for a smaller number, to downplay the significance of guns in American life, can rely on the door-to-door General Social Survey, which reported in 2014 that only 31 percent of households have guns, down 11 percentage points from 1993's 42 percent. There is no singular theory to explain that discrepancy or to be sure which one is closer to correct—though some doubt, especially as gun ownership continues to be so politically contentious, that people always reliably report the weapons they own to a stranger literally at their door.

The gun murder rate in 1993 was 7.0 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (Those reports rely on death certificate reporting, and they tend to show higher numbers than the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program, though both trend the same.) In 2000 the gun murder rate per 100,000 was 3.8. By 2013, the rate was even lower, at 3.5, though there was a slight upswing in the mid-00s.

This simple point—that America is awash with more guns than ever before, yet we are killing each other with guns at a far lower rate than when we had far fewer guns—undermines the narrative that there is a straightforward, causal relationship between increased gun prevalence and gun homicide. Even if you fall back on the conclusion that it's just a small number of owners stockpiling more and more guns, it's hard to escape noticing that even these hoarders seem to be harming fewer and fewer people with their weapons, casting doubt on the proposition that gun ownership is a political crisis demanding action.

In the face of these trend lines—way more guns, way fewer gun murders—how can politicians such as Obama and Hillary Clinton so successfully capitalize on the panic that follows each high profile shooting? Partly because Americans haven't caught on to the crime drop. A 2013 Pew Research Poll found 56 percent of respondents thought that gun crime had gone up over the past 20 years, and only 12 percent were aware it had declined.

Do Gun Laws Stop Gun Crimes?

The same week Kristof's column came out, National Journal attracted major media attention with a showy piece of research and analysis headlined "The States With The Most Gun Laws See The Fewest Gun-Related Deaths." The subhead lamented: "But there's still little appetite to talk about more restrictions."

Critics quickly noted that the Journal's Libby Isenstein had included suicides among "gun-related deaths" and suicide-irrelevant policies such as stand-your-ground laws among its tally of "gun laws." That meant that high-suicide, low-homicide states such as Wyoming, Alaska, and Idaho were taken to task for their liberal carry-permit policies. Worse, several of the states with what the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence considers terribly lax gun laws were dropped from Isenstein's data set because their murder rates were too low!

Another of National Journal's mistakes is a common one in gun science: The paper didn't look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate. After all, if less gun crime doesn't mean less crime overall—if criminals simply substitute other weapons or means when guns are less available—the benefit of the relevant gun laws is thrown into doubt. When Thomas Firey of the Cato Institute ran regressions of Isenstein's study with slightly different specifications and considering all violent crime, each of her effects either disappeared or reversed.

Another recent well-publicized study trying to assert a positive connection between gun laws and public safety was a 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine article by the Harvard pediatrics professor Eric W. Fleegler and his colleagues, called "Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States." It offered a mostly static comparison of the toughness of state gun laws (as rated by the gun control lobbyists at the Brady Center) with gun deaths from 2007 to 2010.

"States with strictest firearm laws have lowest rates of gun deaths," a Boston Globe headline then announced. But once again, if you take the simple, obvious step of separating out suicides from murders, the correlations that buttress the supposed causations disappear. As John Hinderaker headlined his reaction at the Power Line blog, "New Study Finds Firearm Laws Do Nothing to Prevent Homicides."

Among other anomalies in Fleegler's research, Hinderaker pointed out that it didn't include Washington, D.C., with its strict gun laws and frequent homicides. If just one weak-gun-law state, Louisiana, were taken out of the equation, "the remaining nine lowest-regulation states have an average gun homicide rate of 2.8 per 100,000, which is 12.5% less than the average of the ten states with the strictest gun control laws," he found.

Public health researcher Garen Wintemute, who advocates stronger gun laws, assessed the spate of gun-law studies during an October interview with Slate and found it wanting: "There have been studies that have essentially toted up the number of laws various states have on the books and examined the association between the number of laws and rates of firearm death," said Wintemute, who is a medical doctor and researcher at the University of California, Davis. "That's really bad science, and it shouldn't inform policymaking."

Wintemute thinks the factor such studies don't adequately consider is the number of people in a state who have guns to begin with, which is generally not known or even well-estimated on levels smaller than national, though researchers have used proxies from subscribers to certain gun-related magazines and percentages of suicides committed with guns to make educated guesses. "Perhaps these laws decrease mortality by decreasing firearm ownership, in which case firearm ownership mediates the association," Wintemute wrote in a 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine paper. "But perhaps, and more plausibly, these laws are more readily enacted in states where the prevalence of firearm ownership is low—there will be less opposition to them—and firearm ownership confounds the association."

What About Suicides?

Removing suicides from "gun deaths" is a basic step for assessing whether a gun regulation is producing its proposed effect, which in most cases is to reduce the number and severity of gun murders. But what do gun suicide rates tell us on their own?

Chiefly, that a gun is a very efficient means of killing yourself. According to the CDC's National Vital Statistics System, 21,175 Americans committed suicide with firearms in 2013, more than twice as many as used the next most popular suicide method, suffocation. There were nearly twice as many gun suicides that year as gun homicides.

Gun owners are more than three times as likely to commit suicide as non-gun owners, according to a 2014 Annals of Internal Medicine meta-analysis by Andrew Anglemyer and his colleagues. They looked at 14 previous observational studies regarding suicide from 1988 to 2005, statistically re-analyzing them all together. They found that the studies (with one exception) indicated that the people who committed suicide (whether with a gun or not) were more likely, usually far more likely, to own guns than the control group of people with similar characteristics who did not kill themselves. This does not, however, allow us to conclude that the gun's presence caused the suicide, since it's always possible that those more likely to be suicidal are more likely to want to own guns.

A 2002 study by Mark Duggan, now an economist at Stanford University, seems to endorse that conclusion, writing that "much of the positive relationship between firearms ownership and suicide is driven by selection—individuals with above average suicidal tendencies are more likely to own a gun and to live in areas with relatively many gun owners."

The U.S. currently ranks 47th in total suicide rates among nations according to World Health Organization (WHO) calculations, and 11th among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations. But our firearm suicide rates are among the highest in the world, likely behind only Uruguay. Nations with far tougher gun laws and far lower known prevalences of gun ownership, such as Japan, India, and Korea, have far higher overall suicide rates. This suggests that the percentage of firearms in America leads us to have more firearm suicides, but not necessarily more suicides overall.

Of the 56 nations for which the WHO felt it had accurate reported method data, hanging remained the most popular means of death, accounting for over 40 percent of suicides in 35 of them. At least one study—"Small Arms Mortality: Access to Firearms and Lethal Violence," by Mark Konty and Brian Schaefer, published in 2012 in the journal Sociological Spectrum—used "nation-level…data from the Small Arms Survey and the World Health Organization's measures of mortality" to "examine whether rates of small arm ownership have a positive effect on rates of homicide and suicide." Their conclusion: "Contrary to the opportunity model, the accessibility of firearms does not produce more homicide or suicide when other known factors are controlled for."

Still, evidence from the Anglemyer meta-analysis suggests that policies like waiting periods, trigger locks, or other "safe storage" requirements might prevent some suicides by inserting at least a little extra time to think things through.

Is Having a Gun in the Home Inherently Deadly?

The idea that keeping a gun in the home puts owners and their families at elevated risk first rose to prominence in a 1993 New England Journal of Medicine article by Arthur Kellermann and his colleagues. "Although firearms are often kept in homes for personal protection," they concluded, "this study shows that the practice is counterproductive."

The study has many flaws. In addition to the predictable failure to establish causality, there's a more glaring irregularity: Slightly less than half of the murders Kellermann studied were actually committed with a gun (substantially less than the national average in 1993 of around 71 percent). And even in those cases he failed to establish that the gun owners were killed with their own guns. If even a small percentage of them weren't, given that more than half of the murders were not committed with guns, the causal relevance of the harmed being gun owners is far less clear. (The study found that even more dangerous risks than having a gun at home included living alone, using drugs, or being a renter.)

A 2013 literature review in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, written by the University of Utrecht psychologist Wolfgang Stroebe, starts with Kellermann but rejects the idea that firearm possession is "a primary cause of either suicide or homicide." However, he writes, "since guns are more effective means for [actually killing someone] than poison or other weapons, the rate of firearm possession can be expected to be positively related to overall rates of suicide and homicide." But even then we can't be sure of causality, since guns might be the choice of people with more serious lethal intent, against themselves or others, to begin with.

Stroebe notes that the two major post-Kellermann studies most often used to demonstrate an association between gun ownership and risk of homicide shared one of Kellermann's fatal flaws: They offer no information about whether the gun used to kill the gun owners was their own. And despite Kellermann's finding that living alone was very risky, one of the follow-ups, a 2004 study by Linda Dahlberg and colleagues, found that it was only those with roommates who faced a higher risk of a specifically gun-related homicide.

Are Guns a Public Health Hazard?

Public health—long associated with the prevention of communicable diseases—got into the gun social science game with a vengeance in the 1990s. These scholars commonly viewed weapons as nothing more than vectors for harm; leading lights, such as a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, could happily declare: "I hate guns and cannot imagine why anybody would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned." The CDC earlier in 1987 published a study openly recommending confiscating guns in the name of public health.

Public health scholars have continued to research from a place of hostility to firearms. An October 2015 special issue of the journal Preventive Medicine dedicated to guns began with an editorial that praised the role the public health movement played in spreading vaccines and reducing tobacco use, then cut to the quick: "It is the editorial position of this journal that there is one overtly visible and low-hanging fruit left in the tree, one that has surprisingly eluded concerted action from public health: gun violence prevention." Alas, there is an obstacle: the "peculiar proclivity that much of the American population has with firearms."

That proclivity is indeed vast. In addition to those owning guns for reasons of self-defense, there is the massive recreational component. A 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey found that "13.7 million people, 6% of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting." The National Sporting Goods Association says there were at least 20 million recreational target shooters in the U.S. as of 2014.

Less quantifiable, but still quite real, are the sense of self-fulfillment and identity that guns and gun culture bring to Americans, the same way any other recreation from surfing to sailing to car culture does. Attempts to scientifically demonstrate the "social costs" of guns—for example, a 2006 Journal of Public Economics paper called "The Social Costs of Gun Ownership," by Duke's Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig (then of Georgetown)—typically don't rigorously address these benefits.

While most of the articles in the Preventive Medicine issue were standard anti-gun material, one piece perhaps inadvertently undermined a popular argument for expanding background checks. "Sources of Guns to Dangerous People: What We Learn By Asking Them," by Philip Cook and colleagues, surveyed a set of jailed criminals in Cook County, Illinois. It found that they "obtain most of their guns from their social network of personal connections. Rarely is the proximate source either direct purchase from a gun store, or theft." So the go-to remedy for gun control advocates seeking to limit homicides might not have much impact on actual gun criminals.

How Often Are Guns Used Defensively?

One of the most powerful narratives gun advocates have on their side is the image of a woman pulling a handgun out of her clutch to prevent a rape, or a man cocking a shotgun at a burglar to defend his family.

Many social scientists who research this issue of "defensive gun use" (DGUs) say such scenarios are vanishingly rare, arguing that owning a gun is more likely to lead to harm for the owner than be his or her savior in a pinch.

There are no even halfway thorough documentations of every such event in America. They are not all going to end up reported in the media or to the police. The FBI and the CDC will have no reason to record or learn about the vast majority of times a crime was prevented by the potential victim being armed. So our best estimates come from surveys.

The survey work most famous for establishing a large number of DGUs—as many as 2.5 million a year—was conducted in 1993 by the Florida State University criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. Kleck says they found 222 bonafide DGUs directly via a randomized anonymous nationwide telephone survey of around 5,000 people. The defender had to "state a specific crime they thought was being committed" and to have actually made use of the weapon, even if just threateningly or by "verbally referring to the gun." Kleck insists the surveyors were scrupulous about eliminating any responses that seemed sketchy or questionable or didn't hold up under scrutiny.

Extrapolating from their results, Kleck and Gertz concluded that 2.2 to 2.5 million DGUs happened in the U.S. each year. In a 2001 edition of his book Armed, Kleck wrote that "there are now at least nineteen professional surveys, seventeen of them national in scope, that indicate huge numbers of defensive gun uses in the U.S." The one that most closely matched Kleck's methods, though the sample size was only half and the surveyors were not experienced with crime surveys, was 1994's National Survey of the Private Ownership of Firearms. It was sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department and found even more, when explicitly limiting them to ones that met the same criteria as Kleck's study—4.7 million (though the research write-up contains some details that may make you wonder about the accuracy of the reports, including one woman who reported 52 separate DGUs in a year).

The major outlier in the other direction, nearly always relied on for those downplaying the defensive benefits of guns, is the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), a nationally representative telephone survey, which tends to find less than 70,000 DGUs per year.

In the October 2015 special issue on "gun violence prevention," Preventive Medicine featured the latest and most thorough attempt to treat the NCVS as the gold standard for measuring defensive gun usage. The study, by Harvard's Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont, broke down the characteristics of the small number of DGUs recorded by the NCVS from 2007 to 2011. The authors found, among other things, that "Of the 127 incidents in which victims used a gun in self-defense, they were injured after they used a gun in 4.1% of the incidents. Running away and calling the police were associated with a reduced likelihood of injury after taking action; self-defense gun use was not." That sounds not so great, but Hemenway went on to explain that "attacking or threatening the perpetrator with a gun had no significant effect on the likelihood of the victim being injured after taking self-protective action," since slightly more people who tried non-firearm means of defending themselves were injured. Thus, for those who place value on self-defense and resistance over running, the use of a weapon doesn't seem too bad comparatively; Hemenway found that 55.9 percent of victims who took any kind of protective action lost property, but only 38.5 percent of people who used a gun in self-defense did.

Kleck thinks the National Crime Victimization Survey disagrees so much with his own survey because NCVS researchers aren't looking for DGUs, or even asking about them in so many words. The survey merely asks those who said "yes" to having been a crime victim whether they "did or tried to do" something about it. (You might not consider yourself a "victim" of a crime you have successfully prevented.) Kleck surmises that people might be reluctant to admit to possibly criminal action on their own part (especially since the vast majority of crime victimizations occurred outside the home, where the legality of gun possession might be questionable) to a government surveyor after they've given their name and address. And as he argued in a Politico article in February 2015, experienced surveyors in criminology are sure that "survey respondents underreport (1) crime victimization experiences, (2) gun ownership and (3) their own illegal behavior."

The social science quest for the One True DGU Number is interesting but ultimately irrelevant to those living out those specific stories, who would doubtless be perplexed to hear they shouldn't have the capacity to defend themselves with a gun because an insufficiently impressive number of other citizens had done the same. Even if the facts gleaned from gun social science were unfailingly accurate, that wouldn't make such policy decisions purely scientific.

Could More Guns Mean Less Crime?

The most well-known proponent of the idea that widespread private gun ownership might reduce the rates of violent crime is John Lott, a law and economics professor who has held positions at Yale, UCLA, and the University of Chicago, and who now works as an independent scholar with an organization he runs called the Crime Prevention Research Center. In 1998 Lott published the controversial book More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press), which was updated with a third edition in 2010. Lott's main argument is that pro-gun policies, such as shall-issue right-to-carry (RTC) laws, tend to lower most crime rates against person and property.

Violent crime has been going down in America in the era when right to carry has spread, but social science is more complicated than simply pointing to two quantities moving in opposite directions.

The most obvious and important fact in modern criminology—the huge decline in crime rates that started a quarter century ago—still lacks anything approaching a universally agreed-upon set of explanations. That fact should help contextualize the picayune and arcane level of argumentation over variables accounted for, specific data sets consulted, and number of different specifications tested when scholars try to buttress or refute Lott's thesis.

The range of contentious issues involved in Lott's techniques were summed up pretty thoroughly in a sympathetic but critical review of the third** edition in Regulation. The economist Stan Liebowitz of the University of Texas at Dallas wrote: "Should county level data or state level data be used? Should all counties (or states) be given equal weight? What control variables should be included in the regression? What violent crime categories should be used? How should counties that have zero crimes in a category, such as murder, be treated? How much time after passage of a law is enough to determine the effect of RTC laws? What is the appropriate time period for the analysis?"

Lott tried to demonstrate that on the county level, violent crime trends showed signs of improvement in counties that had or passed RTC laws compared to counties that had not, among other things checking both mean crime rates and the slope of crime rates before and after RTC passage. He attempted to control for many handfuls of other variables that might affect crime rates—indeed, some researchers accused him of accounting for too many variables, while others slammed him for failing to account for other factors, like conviction rates or length of prison sentences.

Trying to prove Lott wrong quickly became a cottage industry for others interested in the nexus of guns and public safety. The back-and-forths were so extensive that the latest edition of Lott's book is nearly twice as long, with his reactions to his critics.

The U.S. National Research Council (NRC), inspired in part by the Lott debate, assessed the state of the gun controversy in 2004's Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. The council concluded Lott had not fully proved that RTC laws lowered crime significantly; it also denied that the laws had provably increased crime. "Answers to some of the most pressing questions cannot be addressed with existing data and research methods," study authors Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie wrote, "because of the limitations of existing data and methods, [existing findings] do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence." That statement is perhaps the most important for people trying to use social science to make gun policy to remember, and there is no strong reason to believe the past decade of research has made it obsolete.

Lott has maintained for years that, even if his critics were right about his positive effects not being robust enough, if you are contemplating for public policy considerations whether expanded RTC is a good, bad, or neutral idea, no one had yet demonstrated that RTC laws made any relevant crime or safety outcome worse.

Then, in 2011, Abhay Aneja, John Donohue, and Alexandria Zhang came out with "The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws and the NRC Report: Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy," a paper in the American Law and Economics Review. Working at a very high level of statistical sophistication and running their data through a huge variety of different specifications and assumptions, the authors concluded that "aggravated assault rises when RTC laws are adopted. For every other crime category, there is little or no indication of any consistent RTC impact on crime." (While this kind of social science is always working with subtle attempts to figure out how much more certain quantities might have changed had things been different, it's worth noting that while the number of states with "shall issue" or unrestricted carry permit laws has more than doubled since 1991, aggravated assault rates overall have fallen by 44 percent since 1995.)

The study is suffused with an advanced sense of caution. As the authors write in a 2014 update of that study, "we show how fragile panel data evidence can be, and how a number of issues must be carefully considered when relying on these methods to study politically and socially explosive topics with direct policy implications." They stress "the difficulties in ascertaining the causal effects of legal interventions, and the dangers that exist when policy-makers can simply pick their preferred study from among a wide array of conflicting estimates." And "a wide array of conflicting estimates" is definitely what confronts anyone wading into the social science related to guns and gun laws.

Researchers can and should try to go beyond mere binaries about laws existing or not existing when making subtle assessments of causation. Lott, for example, gets as granular as he can when studying RTC laws, considering not just whether they exist or not, but how easy it is to actually obtain a permit where it's legal to do so. If it's more expensive and time-consuming to get one even in a "shall issue" state, that will likely blunt the law's causal effects at least somewhat.

Along the way, Lott has tried to compile the number of permit holders nationally. He figures the total is 12.8 million, up from 4.6 million as recently as 2007. And now six** states allow so-called "constitutional carry" without a permit, creating a pretty much uncountable body of potential RTC practitioners. We still don't know how many people with gun permits actually carry their weapons, and we have no idea about the end of the causal chain of speculations about how such laws affect crime: what potential criminals believe about how many citizens are carrying guns.

Do 'Common-Sense Gun Laws' Work?

At the top of the list of "common-sense gun safety laws" is expanding background checks beyond the current requirements for federally licensed dealers. The underlying belief here is that the various classes of federally prohibited gun owners, such as felons or those adjudicated mentally ill or known to be drug addicts, should never be able to use "loopholes" such as buying from a private citizen to get a gun (even though the vast majority of all those categories of people would never misuse a weapon).

An April 2015 study by Daniel Webster and three colleagues for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research earned positive press for claiming that the tougher laws Connecticut passed in 1995 (requiring a background check and a permit for any gun purchase from any source) lowered the state's gun murder rate by 40 percent.

Since Connecticut and most of the rest of the country were all enjoying huge murder reductions in the years after that law went into effect, the researchers couldn't meaningfully compare what happened in Connecticut with what happened in the rest of the country. They needed to compare Connecticut's post-law results to what they think would have happened with gun murders in the state had the law not passed. So they created a statistical model of a "synthetic Connecticut" that was 72 percent comprised of Rhode Island, based in essence on the principle that past results would guarantee future performance, since in the past Rhode Island's murder rates and changes tended to match Connecticut's. Then they compared the two states from 1996-2005. The results? "Connecticut Handgun Licensing Law Associated With 40 Percent Drop in Gun Homicides" blared the Johns Hopkins press release headline.

Rhode Island's murder rate went up unusually after 1997 (the researchers don't speculate on why that might have been), thus creating some "extra" murders (presuming that choices to murder in Rhode Island would have for some reason created a proportional number of choices to murder in Connecticut) that we can credit Connecticut with having evaded thanks to the more stringent gun law.

But what happens when you extend the analytic period beyond the arbitrary cutoff date of 2005? From 2005 to 2012, Connecticut's gun murders per 100,000 people increased 66 percent, from 2.05 to 3.41, while Rhode Island's went down 20 percent, from 1.83 to 1.45. It seems quite premature to take Webster and his team's counterfactual guess about expected murder rates over one 10-year period as establishing any reliable causal knowledge about the effects of tougher gun purchasing laws. Yet that study was used to help buttress a proposed federal law the week it went public, trying to pressure other states into following Connecticut's lead on background checks and permits, given what we now "know" about how life-saving that move had been.

Webster and his colleagues produced a similar but more rigorous study in 2014. It involved actual counts and not assumptions about what might have happened in a counterfactual, and it didn't stop looking at forward data at the most convenient time for its conclusions. This study tried to prove that Missouri's 2007 repeal of its "permit to purchase" law led to a 16 percent increase in murder rates there. Lots of other factors were controlled for, and the numbers indeed showed higher murder rates compared to the U.S. average at the time after the permit law was repealed.

It's tricky to credit the permit-to-purchase repeal with causing that rise, because in the four years prior to eliminating the law, Missouri's murder rates had already gone up 15 percent while the national one had stayed essentially the same. This suggests that unaccounted factors influenced Missouri's rising murder rate both before and after the law changed.

Even if both studies had been flawless, seeing one thing happening in one place over a limited time is usually not sufficient to establish a scientifically valid causal relationship that policy makers can confidently expect to see replicated elsewhere. Aaron Brown, the chief risk manager at AQR Capital Management and a statistician with interest in gun issues, has lamented that the overarching problem with most of these attempts to learn what effect any element of gun prevalence or gun laws has on any real-world outcome is that there simply aren't enough varied data to be sure of anything.

There's another very likely step between "law exists" and "law changes behavior" that most gun social science doesn't, and likely really can't, account for. After Webster's Connecticut study appeared, I asked him: Since you are presuming a strong causal effect from the law's existence, how did you account for how stringently or effectively the law is enforced? If people continued to blithely sell weapons without background checks or permits, that would blunt the notion the law would have such a strong effect on gun murder rates.

Webster's emailed reply: "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." Unknowables shadow the causal chain in nearly all social science involving any law's effects on behavior.

Elusive Knowledge

The Duke economist Philip J. Cook put the knowledge problem well in a 2006 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management article. "Policy analysts are trained to critique evaluation evidence, pointing out potential flaws," Cook and co-author Jens Ludwig wrote, "but are perhaps not so well prepared to judge whether the preponderance of the evidence points in one direction or another."

In other words, the most convincing element of any gun study tends to be the part where one scientist is explaining why another one's causal conclusions don't hold up. The parts where they claim strong or definite policy-relevant causal knowledge tend to be much more questionable.

Cook and Ludwig, in their aforementioned 2006 paper "The Social Costs of Gun Ownership," look at this loose link between scientific knowledge and policy differently. They grant that perhaps we're asking more of science than it can give to the policy debate. But that shouldn't stop us from using it to promote more gun law interventions, they maintain. "Suppose [a certain intervention] implies the treatment reduces gun crime by 25% but the p-value on this point estimate is just .15, short of the conventional .05 cutoff," they wrote. "Any academic referee worth her salt would reject a paper submitted for scientific publication that claimed this intervention 'worked.'"

But, Cook and Ludwig wonder, are those scientific standards too rigorous for statecraft? "Would that referee really want to live in a jurisdiction where this evidence persuaded policymakers that they should not adopt the new treatment, but rather stick with the status quo?"

As Harvard's Hemenway explained to me, the confidence intervals of the social sciences in colloquial terms demand a belief that the chances are 19 to 1, or at worst 10 to 1, for you being right about your conclusion before you accept it as provisionally verified. Hemenway also believes, given the good he thinks can come from legal interventions about guns, that we don't need to be that certain we are right for policy work.

But that's easier to accept if you don't value any particular benefits to relatively unrestricted private gun ownership—scientific, constitutional, or just personal. Some researchers, particularly in the public health field, act as if there were no values to balance on the other side of the policy goal of making it harder for people to get guns.

Whether you consider the associations and causations supposedly demonstrated by gun-related social sciences to be proven beyond whatever level of doubt you see as appropriate, applying those stipulated facts to policy questions can never itself be a purely mathematical or scientific process. It's politics all the way down, and that politics is less informed by rigorous and certain knowledge than President Obama thinks.

**Correction: The article originally and incorrectly stated that it was the first edition of Lott's book being reviewed, and that there were only four constitutional carry states.

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  1. There once was a girl from Brighton
    Whose boyfriend said “My, that’s a tight one”
    She said “You poor soul”
    “You’ve got the wrong hole”
    “But there’s plenty of room in the right one!”

    1. Rhymed a word with itself – no points.

      1. SHIT!!! I just made that point yesterday!! But – in my defense – I was rhyming “tight one” with “right one” …. not “one” and “one”.

        That’s my story and I’m sticking to it….

        1. Ats a right proper rhyme, that is. You’re rhyming two syllables (i.e. Brighton) and you get FULL CREDIT.

          1. YAY ME!!!

      2. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

        Clik This Link inYour Browser….

        ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.Com

    2. This is my rifle
      This is my gun
      This is for shootin’
      This is for fun.

    3. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

      Clik This Link inYour Browser….

      ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.Com

  2. We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.

    Does this asshole even have the ability to make a statement without lying?


      1. Because Planned Parenthood Profits depend on it?

        /not really my position.

        1. Still a good point, tho. As we know, immigration and abortion are the two areas where us *libertarian-like creatures* will never agree….

          1. I think it might be easier to cover those topics where there is agreement. Judging by the ven-diagram of opinion sets on this commentariat (troll outliers removed) I think the only overlap can be summed up in the repeated refrain “fuck you, cut spending”.

            1. Ironic that two government employees agree on that…

              1. How can you be a libertarian while working for the government, or accepting any government benefits, such as roads, utilities, etc.?

                /troll outlier

                1. A: I’m not a libertarian. I’m a fiscal and social conservative.

                  B: It’s a job. I provide a service, they pay me, just like any other employer. Also, there’s nothing that says an employee cannot be critical of the actions or policies of their employer, public or private. (unless you’re a spokesperson and you have a contract where your job is shilling said employer, etc. But I work in IT).

                  C: If the roads, and utilities were not a government-backed monopoly, I’d have the ability to do business with someone else. As it stands we’re forbidden from having the choice.

                  1. yes, I know your comment was snark, but I felt compelled to answer it.

                    1. Hey, man. Whatever helps you sleep at night. You don’t even want to know what I do for the government….but I’m still a libertarian!

                    2. And if I was would you hold it against me?!?!

                  2. Well put, although I personally chose never to work as a gov’t employee after having worked for them before. The deciding moment was when my bureaucrat boss told me to go buy a $10,000 printer for $30,000 so that we could use up our budget and not lose it the next year. I wondered: if my department is doing this, how many other departments are doing this, and how much taxpayer money are they wasting overall? Can I be a part of this wholesale waste and look at myself in the mirror every morning?

                    The answer for me is no.

      2. So is muck at the bottom of a lake, and dead fish, and the Titanic.

    2. Lies. Damned lies. And Statistics. He makes sure to cram all three into each and every statement he makes.

    3. “We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.”

      We also know that large cities like Chicago where gun laws are the strongest have more gun deaths on any given weekend than rural areas have in a year.

      I live in a rural Louisiana parish. We had no gun deaths last year, or the year before. In fact our last shooting was in 2011 and no one was killed. How many shootings were there in Chicago last weekend? D.C.? New Orleans?

      You can count on gun grabbers to lie like you can count on the sunrise.

      1. Before guns were invented, there were zero gun deaths.

        However, there was far from a lack of violence or death of any kind.

        1. Before guns were invented, there were zero gun deaths.

          And lo, there was a great silence across the land as each progressive knelt and pondered a previously unconsidered truth.

          1. There was no income tax before there were guns. The income tax of 1848 in the Communist Manifesto requires men with guns to go out and collect the tax, as belabored by Lysander Spooner. Ergo, no guns, no income tax. Whose side are the sensitive, concerned and aware progressive socialists on, anyway?

            1. What if the tax collector had a pointed stick? Or at least some fresh fruit?

    4. Of course not. He can’t open his pie hole without telling a ie.

    5. Right from the start, even the word “We” is a lie!

  3. Good morning.

  4. Also, GREAT article by Doherty…

    1. No kidding…I laughed, I cried, I raged, and I rejoiced. “The Force Awakens and Gets a Cuppa” isn’t as good as this article.

      1. Article?

        There are articles on reason?

        1. They are the non-essential filler before the comments.

          Sort of like a salad before your steak and baked potato.

        2. Well, yeah. But nobody actually reads them.

          …Do they?

          1. You start, but then it gets boring, so once you have the gist:
            On to the comments!

            1. I read Shikha’s articles, but only if I need to induce vomiting.

    2. This might be the biggest Tony signal in recent memory. Hopefully he had to call in sick today.

      1. I thought the Tomy Signal was an image of an 11 year old boy with his pants pulled down bent over.

  5. The bottom line is that statists like Barack Obama don’t want Americans to do for themselves. The state knows better than you your wants and needs, and what is required of you to contribute to the health of the state. For you to be able to defend yourself against an aggressive fellow citizen means you could also defend yourself against state agents coming with your orders. The more we rely on the state for anything, the more power it has. Central planning requires powerful hand and fails when the chess pieces can resist their moves around the board. Armed chess pieces are especially troublesome.

    It’s easy to paint those who correctly make the 2nd Amendment about a check on government power as crazies, because most people are ignorant of the history of powerful governments or incorrectly believe that this powerful government will stop at their doorstep.

    So we will continue to get lies and obfuscations about guns because they know that the 2nd Amendment is the greatest barrier we have against successful central planning.

    1. It seems to me,with the antics of those in the Secret Service,maybe they need to be disarmed. Coke ,alcohol ,hookers and guns are not a good mix.

      1. Coke ,alcohol ,hookers and guns are not a good mix.

        But it does make for a helluva Saturday night.

      2. Coke ,alcohol ,hookers and guns are not a good mix.

        I don’t think you are a True Libertarian.

        1. Hey, he didn’t say one word about ass sex, weed, or Mexicans.

      3. But it would make for a great convenience store.

    2. This brings up a point I have been meaning to address, Fist. We all know the quote from Solzhenitsyn about ” “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?…”

      But – and this may be off topic – someone in the commentariat here brought up that it is this very same sentiment – a sentiment that we all approve of – that the cops use to justify murdering citizens with impunity because “they don’t have to risk their lives just to determine if it was a cell phone or a gun!”

      How do we still agree with Solzhenitsyn’s quote and still logically call for police reform? If our sentiments are in agreement with the quote, aren’t cops justified in being the pants-shitting pussies that murder children?

      1. I would say there is a qualitative difference between the kind of Gestapo/Statsi agent who rounds up adults for political crimes and simply out of control cops who escalate situations with under-age people who don’t have the understanding or self-control of a mature adult.

        The former are enforcing the rules of a police state where the “crimes” they enforce are understood by all even if they might not have true legitimacy.

        The latter just don’t seem to think they have to make room for people who might not expect – through lack of maturity, experience, or understanding – that they are about to be shot.

      2. They’re not justified in feeling that scared if they’re not actually threatened, and they’re not.

        1. Nikki, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing THEM of that when it has been an integral part of their rookie training for DECADES…

      3. No. If you’re scared of that, either don’t fuck up or don’t become a cop.

      4. How do we still agree with Solzhenitsyn’s quote and still logically call for police reform?

        Something like “Your cop tribe will continue to get gunned down by armed citizens unless and until they reform”?

        There aren’t enough SWAT teams, and never will be, to send a fully gunned-up squad every time a door needs kicking down.

        The critical piece that would accelerate this badly-needed rebalancing is laws and/or juries who recognize that citizens have a right to defend themselves against cops.

        1. The critical piece that would accelerate this badly-needed rebalancing is laws and/or juries who recognize that citizens have a right to defend themselves against cops.

          Or, perhaps just as good, juries who understand that citizens have a right to defend themselves from cops, regardless of any laws to the contrary, and recognize that they’re empowered to recognize this right, regardless of a judge’s instructions to the contrary.

      5. I think the essence of the reform at least I’m looking to see has to do with a change in the nature of the relationship between police and non-police, specifically the power dynamic. Currently, police are the authority, and non-police essentially have to hope that police behave in a fair, just manner. Ideally, and I think you get this in a situation where police don’t have a monopoly on force, police should behave as disinterested third-party mediators and as the defenders of last resort. Frankly, if someone is legally empowered to use deadly force against someone outside the scope of self-defense, that person’s power should absolutely be tempered by the cost of possibly being killed. If you’re willing to use lethal force to prevent someone from selling loose cigarettes, for example, the calculus of the decision changes once real personal risk enters the equation, and I believe that’s as it should be.

      6. You are undoubtedly the most ignorant fool that posts here.

    3. This is correct, not only because of the direct power of resistance afforded by being armed but also because someone who provides for his own self-defense tends to an annoying habit of taking care of himself in other ways. We are skeptical of state intervention in all areas of life. The progs find our lack of faith disturbing.

    4. i.e. Central planners know they cannot enact their preferred policies with an armed populace. That really says all we need to know about those policies.

    5. yup. the kinyun and his minions have a strong policy standard: thy government is thy god and thou shalt have no other gods before it. And individual subjects of that god must never be allowed the priviledge of making their own decisions, nor of taking responsibility for their own lives.

      They fail to comprehend that that much hated Second declares that “the security of a free state” rests on “the people”. Clearly NOT on government, as god or otherwise. Nor on military nor police nor……..

  6. I’d really like to see a study that removed the top 10% of counties per population density and showed the homicide and violent crime rates of the remaining 90% compared to the counties removed.

    I’m willing to bet the homicide rate is at least 4x higher in the removed counties than in the remaining 90%.

    1. And I bet the laws in place in the states don’t cause much variance in crime rates when compared to population density.

      1. The actual correlation appears to be poverty and population density, not strict density. The more poor people piled on top of each other, the worse the crime gets (almost exponentially so).

        1. Looking at the rough statistics I noticed something interesting. There is a rapid drop-off in density within the top ten territories. (Several of these are subordinate components of other states, but the shape of that curve is impressive) Numbers are persons per square mile:

          1 Macau (China) 54,970
          2 Monaco 48,951
          3 Singapore 19,935
          4 Hong Kong (China) 17,019
          5 Gibraltar (UK) 11,007
          6 Vatican City 4,709
          7 Bahrain 4,224
          8 Malta 3,421
          9 Bermuda (UK) 3,139
          10 Bangladesh 2,871

          As a comparison:

          182 United States 85.02

          1. One bone I have to pick with this – while, yes, the headcount per square mile for the US is 85.02 there are very few Americans who live in areas which are that unpopulated. It would make more sense to calculate the average local population density for each American.

            Look at it this way – if somehow Singapore gained ownership of Antarctica would the average Singaporean suddenly have more living space?

            1. Yes, I was going to add another point for NYC at 27,000 p/sqmi

              Which provides another interesting comparison because Signapore and Monaco have far less crime than NYC.

              1. Across the river in Union City, NJ the density is even greater (IIRC, 57,000 per square mile) and they have a slightly lower crime rate than NYC.

      2. Look at Chicago for conformation of your opinion.

      1. I meant in the US.

        Singapore is an outlier

        1. I kept reading that as “Countries” not “Counties”

          Ugh. Silly me.

    2. I imagine that it tracks closer to counties with high participation in assistance programs. The rural counties in KY that are fueled by welfare are violent as all get out. Especially intrafamily murders.

      1. And don’t forget the hillbilly feuds!

        1. ‘Hunting accidents’ .

          1. ‘I thought it was the orange-vested deer, honest’

            1. ‘He was coming right at me’!!

            2. ‘He was coming right at me’!!

              1. So… the hunters shot each other? Were the squirrels to blame?

                1. Damn tree rats.

        2. Hillbillies cause a lot fewer deaths then Inner city gangs.

    3. “I’m willing to bet the homicide rate is at least 4x higher…”

      1000x would probably be a safe bet.

    4. I like to mention this when people compare Canada and the US in terms of homicides and gun laws. Canada has two areas with pop. densities greater than 250/, where the US has way more than that.

    5. I’d be more interested in separating out each gross data set into a county by county data set, analising each “population” separately, then comparing them by population density for the variables and controls. You bet, the murder rates in dense city areas WILL be higher than in rural counties. As well, the gun ownership/CCL ratios per person will radically change between dense urban settings and spare rural ones. I believe the total number of CCL’s in Los Angeles County California is well under a hundred (and it is certain most of those are to somebodies who are SOMEBODY (as in, more equal pigs) while at the same time, Tulare County, 150 miles to the north in sparse Central Valley farm country (or what WAS farms until the Three Inch Delta Smelt acceded to the throne in the temple and MUST be bowed down to and worshipped) has a population of about 100,000 but the sheriff in that county has issued more than FOUR THOUSAND permits. Now, compare violent crime rates, and even housebreakings: Tulare County is FAR safer to live in than Los Angeles County. MANY TIMES more guns, a fraction of violent crimes and housebreakings. Could there be a correlation between those stats? I rather think so….

  7. Poor NYC. First they find out that deep dish is better, and now this:…..ntcmp=hpff

    1. Deep dish is better than what? Certainly not better than actual pizza.

      1. In a blind taste test, Deep Dish beat out Hard tack.

        1. How could it be blind? Completely different textures – one is a pizza, and one is some sort of bastard casserole. Deep dish tastes okay, but it is not pizza.

          1. A pizza/casserole hybrid?

      2. Real Italian pizza is deep dish. It’s known as pizza pie.

    2. I’m sorry, but I’m siding with the anti-scoopers. This is pretty much how I feel.

      “It was the moment I realized my ex was a monster,” Lisa Rosenberg, a 27-year-old graphic designer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, says of a guy she dated for about a year. “Even watching someone eating [a scooped-out bagel] is completely repulsive.”

    3. bagel scoopers are lumped in with people who eat their pizza with a fork

      This makes me so fucking angry!!!! I eat my deep dish pizza with a fork!

      1. One: Deep Dish is not pizza, it’s casserole, and thus forking it is acceptable behaviour.

        Two: What the fuck is “Bagel Scooping”?

        1. They scoop out the insides of a split bagel with a spoon, leaving only the “skin.”

          1. That’s barbaric!

            Break their fingers until they learn to stop doing such awful things to food.

        2. Same here UnCivil. I read the article but it is just word salad to me. I don’t know what any of that means.

          *takes another bite of delicious toasted buttery English Muffin*

          1. Now I keep thinking of bagel sandwiches. (replace standard bread or roll with bagel of choice.) I vote either cheddar cheese or salt for a pastrami and swiss sandwich.

            If only I had time to swing by the store on my way home…

          2. Bialy: The delicious miscegenation of bagels and English Muffins.

            1. The funny thing is, the stores tag the bialy at a higher price to the bagels, but the cahsiers always ring them up as bagels, even when you state uneequivocally that they’re bialys.

              1. I had a surprisingly good bialy in Seattle. Big, with lots of onions and cheese.

                1. Were they trying to make a pizza and failed?

                  1. Well, “lots” in comparison to the NYC version. It was the bread for a smoked salmon scramble and goat cheese sandwich. So good.

  8. Look. Guns are an efficient way to kill. There’s no denying that. So therefore that means that the mere presence of a gun increases the risk of death. How could it not? Prove that it doesn’t. And don’t go and cite “statistics” gathered by those stupid right-wingers. Their studies are tainted because of their politics. You can only cite studies by people who support gun control. There. You can’t do it. Ha ha. You’re wrong.

    1. Sadly, this is what actual proggies really believe.

    2. I would say that owning a car increases the risk of death too.Maybe at a higher rate

      1. Same goes for swimming pools.

          1. And living next to Warty.

            1. You violated the exclusion zone, we accept no liability for your actions.

          2. Two story homes? Or homes with lots of front steps?

          3. What about hammers, baseball bats and other blunt instruments?

      2. Owning a car increases the risk of death to everyone, being that it increases global climate change.

    3. Re: Sarcasmic,

      Guns are an efficient way to kill.

      Actually, the most efficient way to kill is with poison. A person has to become proficient in the use of a gun before he or she can use it with “efficiency” which would mean shooting A bullet (not two or several) in the head or directly to the heart. Gaining such proficiency takes a lot of practice. Instead, to poison a person does not require any special skills from the murderer.

      I have made this point to several Marxian posters in FB and they still think a gun is infallible and 100% deadly. They have this image of the pioneer women in old matinee movies who always felled an Indian by pointing the musket anywhere.

      1. I don’t know who made the claim that guns are the most efficient way to kill. So while your argument does have merit, you’re wasting it on a straw man.

        1. Why do you want to make the world unsafe for strawmen?

          1. *opens a case of 7.62 incendiary rounds*

            1. I kinda wish they’d have released a ‘making of’ or BTS video for this.

    4. Guns are an efficient way to kill. There’s no denying that. So therefore that means that the mere presence of a gun increases the risk of death. How could it not? Prove that it doesn’t.

      If the mere presence of a gun increases the risk of death, then the huge increase in private ownership of firearms over the last two decades, and particularly the greatly increased presence of guns carried in public, should have resulted in the blood-running-in-the-streets scenario predicted by the anti-gun folk.

      Instead, (using statistics gathered by the FBI, which is not made up of stupid right-wingers) deaths are dropping. While that doesn’t prove that the increase in gun ownership is causing the drop in deaths, it clearly shows that the increase in gun ownership isn’t causing deaths to increase. Because they aren’t.


  9. “There’s scientific consensus on guns?and the NRA won’t like it.”

    You know, a while ago there was this place where there was scientific consensus on Jews, and look what happened!


  10. But don’t let anybody snooker you with that line about “guns are only for killing”. Wrong. A guillotine is only for killing – it has no other purpose (it can be purposed for other things but those are not the purpose of a guillotine).

    A firearm is a tool for managing a violent encounter. It carries the potential for pain, injury, and death and in that can be used to negotiate through and possibly avoid injury during a violent encounter but all that depends on the skill of the user.

    1. I own several firearms that were expressly designed for poking holes in small pieces of paper at a known distance. Are they still only for killing? Killing what? Paper?

      (Based on an actual conversation with a progtard colleague, by the way.)

      1. “I own several firearms”

        You’ve probably been duped. These are air guns unless I’m mistaken. Not firearms. The lack of fire is the give away.

        1. Nope. A Ruger Competition Target, while only a .22, is a firearm. So is a .22 caliber 1930s-vintage Colt Officer’s Target.

    2. “guns are only for killing”. Wrong.”

      Only a fool would use a gun for something other than killing or wounding. Those clowns in Oregon, for example, armed themselves to the teeth and didn’t use their guns for anything other than waving about trying to look tough. They never fired a shot and now they’re in prison. If you are not prepared to use a gun properly, you have no business carrying one. They are not fashion accessories.

      1. Original statement: “guns are only for killing

        Response: “Only a fool would use a gun for something other than killing or wounding.”

        Yeah, so…. you said something about fools, do they, by any chance, strawman?

        Also, target shooting is an actual sport.

        1. “target shooting is an actual sport”

          They were brandishing their guns. Not shooting, not killing, not wounding, not sporting. If these clowns had no idea of using guns as god intended, they shouldn’t have had them in the first place.

        2. It’s mark trueman. He says stupid & nonsensical things for the express purpose of getting one or more people riled up to the point they respond. By keeping his pronouncements sufficiently cryptic and facilely changing his argument, sometimes by redefining words in hilariously wrong ways, he entertains himself for hours pissing people off.

          The sensible thing to do is to ignore him. He is utterly useless and worthless. There literally is no benefit to interacting with him at all.

  11. Great article, Mr. Dougherty. I do want to pick just one nit. I think you’re probably being a bit too generous in saying that the science isn’t clear. It sounds a lot more to me like the takeaway here is that the research is cooked.

    1. Agree, fantastic article.

    2. Some things defy scientific analysis, because there are too many variables and science is impossible unless you can eliminate, or minimize, the existence of variables.
      Human interactions are such a thing, thus the concept of “social science” is a canard.

  12. Wait, I thought the CDC was forbidden to study gun violence for the last 20+ years… where is all this data coming from? Good thing Obama is going to make a new law today saying the CDC can now study gun violence again. We’ll finally have some statistics to use in our policy-making.

    1. CDC? No. Obama’s asshole? probably. Where he pulls a lot of his other lies.

  13. Obama gets an E for effort for his well intentions as far as guns are concerned.

    However, nothing will be accomplished with this STUPID executive order. There’s no way to enforce person A selling or giving away a gun to person B.

    Besides, the retards and the criminals will not register. They will simply buy the guns from the street.
    Or in the case of Sandy Hook, the retard will simply take the guns from his mother.
    I Tell you, the only good thing that came out of the Sandy Hook Shooting is that the Retard Kid first killed the biggest retard of them all, his Mother. One less so-called responsible gun owner to deal with in America.

    1. None of the legislation ever proposed after a shooring would have prevented the shooting . They’re never even remotely connected. Which tells you that the legislation is never about prevention in the first place. Its juat part of they’re incremental eating away at the 2nd while atanding on dead bobies. That is the goal.

      1. Agreed.

        It’s just political grand standing. No law in America is effective in combating gun crime. Each an every law created in the gun control effort only stops (or slows down) people that want to own guns. The criminals and Retards have full access to guns in America since guns are so ubiquitous.

        1. “The criminals and Retards have full access to guns in America since guns are so ubiquitous.”

          I think you underestimate the resourcefulness of people. If criminals and retards have full access to guns, then surely the same goes for the rest of us.

    2. He gets an A for Asshole. The effort isn’t about preventing another mass shooting since no law would have prevented any mass shooting.

  14. “the retards and the criminals will not register”

    Register what? Do you know what you are talking about?

    1. People who intend to commit crimes with their guns will simply find illegal means of acquiring their guns.

      1. Your telling me that criminals commit crimes that they are not allowed to? I refuse to believe that.

        1. has anyone tried telling them not to be criminals?


          1. Expecting a gun law to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is like putting up a fence to keep out birds.

            1. One flaw with that analogy – you can design a fence that stops birds, though it resembles a cage more than a fence.

              1. I prefer my 12 gauge O\U.

          2. has anyone tried telling them not to be criminals?

            Teach Criminals Not to Crime!

            Like that?

            1. There should be a law against commiting crimes

  15. Another of National Journal’s mistakes is a common one in gun science: The paper didn’t look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate. After all, if less gun crime doesn’t mean less crime overall?if criminals simply substitute other weapons or means when guns are less available?the benefit of the relevant gun laws is thrown into doubt.

    I know Doherty is just trying to be generous, but that’s not a “mistake.” It’s data pimping, which is the natural result of positivism & physics envy taking over the social sciences and most people’s reluctance/inability to tackle the intimidating combination of reams of statistics and men whose extraordinary confidence is matched only by their ignorance.

    When I have to debate GC advocates, the first point I usually make is that we’re not interested in gun violence, but all violence. I have yet to meet a single person who was prepared for that, which goes to show the depth of ignorance we’re dealing with here. It’s no wonder they have the confidence of a fundamentalist preacher–they’re completely ignorant of the most basic facts about the issue.

    1. Damned! You beaten me to the punch!

      1. We’re just shouting into an Austrian echo chamber anyway. Positivism will continue to march ahead until a generation of philosophers comes along that’s willing to kill it.

  16. Another of National Journal’s mistakes is a common one in gun science: The paper didn’t look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate.

    You say this as if these were honest mistakes that crept in those studies rather than a purposeful skewing of the data to prop up a particular narrative, Brian. I don’t see much difference between these studies that ostensibly show a direct correlation between more gun ownership and violent crime and current “Climate” science, with its penchant for moving the goal posts as expediency dictates, the most recent and egregious case being the scandalous change (which they called it “adjustments”) in temperatures by the NOAA.

  17. TEH SYENSE IZ SETTELLED!!!11!1!!! HERTIK!!!1!!!!!!!! FILTHEE SYENSE DENYER!!11!!1111!!!!!!! /progtard

  18. According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, 21,175 Americans committed suicide with firearms in 2013, more than twice as many as used the next most popular suicide method, suffocation.

    I wonder how many of those suffocations were from auto-erotic asphyxiation related accidents? Should those really be counted as suicides?

  19. This was an excellent article but who beyond Reasonoids are going to read it? Facts and statistics matter very little when there’s an endless supply of unethical social scientists who 1) arrive at a politically motivated conclusion, 2) design studies that are customized to support that conclusion, and 3) release those conclusions to a compliant and sympathetic (and in some cases ignorant and stupid) press with the collusion of a political class that don’t give a tinker’s damn about what the truth of the matter is..

    Their MO is twisting facts to reach a foregone conclusion and good luck convincing the left their science isn’t really science (it isn’t), you right wing, knuckledragging, children hating, gun fetishists.

    1. No point attempting to reason with or negotiate with progtards anymore.

  20. As long as there are people willing to kill people, people will need the right to be armed.

    We have the 2nd Amendment not to protect against the fools we have voted for now, but in case we vote for Mussolini or Hitler like fools in the future.

    Most gun deaths are from:
    2006 Total (30896)
    55% Suicides (16992)
    41% Homicides (12667)
    2% Unintentional (accidents) (618)
    1% Legal Intervention (309)
    1% Other (309)

    2010 Total (31,076)
    62% Suicides (19392)
    35 % Homicides (11,078)
    2% Unintentional (accidents) (606)

    Better mental health is the best way to decrease suicides.

    Solutions to gun violence:
    1. Remove public-sector gun free zones.
    2. Enact better mental health laws and treatment. (Mandatory treatment for those adjudicated violent mentally ill.)
    3. End the drug war and decriminalize drugs.

    Allow teachers to be armed if they wish. Require they are trained.

    We know what happened to unarmed Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in Ottoman Empire/Turkey during WWI.

    We know what happened to the unarmed Jews in Europe during WWII.

    We know what happened to unarmed Cambodians in Cambodia during the 1970’s.

    We know what happened and is happening to unarmed Darfurians in Darfur.

    We know what happened to unarmed Tutsi in Rwanda.

    We know what is happening to the unarmed in Africa today.

    We know what is happening to the unarmed in the Middle East today.

    How is the liberal agenda of disarming America still a thing?


    1. How is the liberal agenda of disarming America still a thing?

      Because, despite their claims to the contrary, libs/progs would be happy to see some of those “happenings” directed at non-libs/progs. Just as long as those doing the “happening” are in service of the state.

      Don’t see too many libs/progs wanting the security details surrounding lob/prog politicians to be disarmed.

  21. So the porous border liberals, who are OK with whatever and whoever strolling into the US, are fighting vehemently for for stricter gun laws in America? Mmmkay.

  22. Gun ban advocates in this country routinely perform the scam of including gun suicides in “gun death”, more than 60% of the total. Suicides are a voluntary act committed by people with many deep problems, and they choose a gun or other means to end their difficult existence. But including them into “gun death” greatly inflates the statistic and it is regularly mindlessly regurgitated by our ignorant media.

    Consider the top four methods of suicide in the US:
    Someone who commits suicide by jumping off a bridge or structure is not a victim of Bridge Violence or Building Violence.
    Someone who commits suicide by Poisoning is not a victim of Drug Violence or Natural Gas Violence.
    Someone who commits suicide by hanging himself is not a victim of Rope Violence.
    Someone who commits suicide by using a gun is not a victim of Gun Violence.

    1. They also include homicides with murders.

      Many of those homicides belong to criminals who, in the process of committing a crime, wind up getting shot. You’ll forgive me if I don’t shed too many tears over an attempted rape that concludes with the would-be rapist’s death by gunshot.

  23. Colonel Jeff Cooper has some wisdom on the subject of violence:

    “One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that ‘violence begets violence.’ I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure ? and in some cases I have ? that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.”

  24. According to that logic, Police officers carry guns and Nuns do not.
    Nuns are shot at a vastly lower rate than Police.
    Disarm the Police?

    1. Arm the nuns.

  25. Regarding reporting of defensive gun use, the article notes, “There are no even halfway thorough documentations of every such event in America. They are not all going to end up reported in the media or to the police.” Perhaps one of the main reasons DGUs are underreported to authorities is that making such a report carries risks of its own, such as what actually happened to a good friend of mine some years back in Eugene, Oregon. He heard someone on his back porch trying to jimmy open his sliding glass door, so he flicked on the living room lights and the would-be burglar found himself staring down the barrel of my friend’s Glock. The bad guy fled–most likely with a sizable load of excrement in his pants, and my friend dutifully called the cops to report the incident. They dispatched two officers to take his statement, at the conclusion of which one of them said–ever so politely–“We’re going to need to take your gun with us.” Fortunately my friend, who is the son of a police officer and has a lot of friends who are lawyers, knew his rights and told the cop to go boil his head. But had the cop not eventually backed down, this could have gone sideways in a hurry. And I’m willing to bet if there’s ever a similar incident, the last thing he’ll think of doing will be to call the cops. When the people you call for help end up trying to rob you themselves, is it any wonder we would all just prefer to provide our own security with our own privately held firearms?

    1. That’s horrible.

      And I’m willing to bet if there’s ever a similar incident, the last thing he’ll think of doing will be to call the cops.

      The police: encouraging self-reliance and RKBA advocacy one 911 call at a time.

      1. Indeed, that was a discouragement of making a DGU report. Which makes the survey-based minimal 55,000-80,000/yr estimate of such DGU incidents, not drawn from any official records, all the more MINIMAL.

    2. Asset-forfeiture has already turned government personnel into “looters-by-law” and the 2007 crash and depression was the practical application of The Money Speech straight out of Atlas Shrugged.

      1. In a recent George Will column he reported that in 2013 more property was taken by asset forfeiture than by thieves.
        We are now living in a kleptocracy (as if it wasn’t before.)

        1. Link please?

  26. Look, nobody’s gonna convince a progressive (indoctrinated by a life of bullshit) to stop pursuing a “gun-free world.” NADA. All this Obama crap is designed to move the ball incrementally towards their goal – the executive orders, the bullshit consensus, the media shit-eaters.
    This is political and the people who support liberty and citizen’s rights over government power are pissing in the wind to try to convince the progressive gunphobes otherwise.
    Instead of playing defense and digging in to slow the forward movement, we need to find leaders who will take the game to offense and start passing laws that eliminate ANY and all gun restrictions and laws that support the 2nd amendment. Stop accepting gunhating judges, stop funding departments that support infringement.
    The left will shit its collective self and things will change for the better. Imagine that all our liberties were supported by our representatives.

    1. Okay. I already vote libertarian, and I know that “the case for voting Libertarian” is that it gets moronic laws repealed.

  27. i commend Doherty on his civility and courtesy.

  28. Great article, thanks for putting it together

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  30. That was a very well researched and written article. Thanks for your efforts. In an issue so fraught with emotion, articles like this aren’t especially common, and this level of detail is even more rare. Thanks again.

  31. I don’t see why we can’t find a compromise on these issues. Communists and Dems don’t like the Second Amendment, fine. But cars, according to The Atlantic, still kill more people than guns–and there is no constitutional amendment protecting auto ownership. Recently in Austin TX a berserker named Rashad recently committed plural murder driving a car into a crowd. So where are the handwringing cries of Ban! Ban! and Terrorism? Banning automobiles would show voters Congress is serious and not hypocritical, and would pave the way for disarming enforcement personnel and enacting Barry Commoner gun laws. Libertarians don’t like the individual income tax, and point to roads that existed before its 1914 enactment. With no cars, communists would not need the income tax for the roads they refuse to believe already existed. So a ban on deadly automobiles would also… er… pave the way for repealing the other force amendment, as destructive of individual rights as the prohibition amendment turned out to be.

    1. Is that meant to be some form of satire?

      1. Hank, your comment, let’s say is just stupid.

  32. You might want to mention that Lott is infamous for not being able to produce the data from the surveys he based his 1997 paper on. That’s a huge red flag and when you cite him to people in the know, you lose credibility. He’s in the same category as Michael LaCour, so I think you should at least mention that and explain why you think his current research is meaningful.

    That being said, there is plenty of social science that comes to the same conclusion Lott does. It’s just that referencing him will give people on the anti gun side an easy target to attack.

    Also, mentioning that prisoners in from Cook County, IL got guns through social connections triggers alarm bells. That’s Chicago, with very strict gun laws. So it’s evidence that criminals will get guns even if there are strict laws (as long as it’s easy to move guns from places with permissive laws to places with strict laws,) it’s not a great indication that criminals in general get guns through social ties. Prisoners in, say, Texas, would be a better source of evidence for that. As it stands, this just adds fuel to the fire that we should have strict national laws because local laws can’t control what people do outside their jurisdiction.

    Other than that, I really enjoyed the article.

    1. You might want to mention that Lott is infamous for not being able to produce the data from the surveys he based his 1997 paper on.

      I believe only the data from one survey was lost in a (verified as fact) hard drive crash, and the survey was largely redone from scratch, producing very similar outcomes to the original surveys.

  33. No one so far has pointed out that the anti-gun “studies” all seem to come from Harvard.

    You’d think that, were there really consensus on the subject, SOME might come from the University of Nebraska or Colorado State, &c.

    There can be no correlation between gun ownership, gun regulation, and crimes with guns. As one poster pointed out, there are more shootings in Chicago in a week than there have been in his corner of Louisiana in 5 years. That is not because of gun control or the failure of gun control; it is because of Chicago, where even police routinely shoot African Americans in the street.

    If the polity is of a mind to tolerate using guns for violent crime, it should come as no sociological revelation that gun crime will increase.

    Furthermore, even if all these self-appointed Harvard experts were right, their findings are irrelevant. Guns won their place in the Constitution not so we could kill the hedgehogs and certainly not so we could kill each other. Guns won their place in the Constitution to ensure the balance of power by which we ultimately secure liberty. Indeed, we accept democracy as the primary means of settling political disputes precisely because it’s more sensible to throw balls of paper at opponents than balls of steel.

    There’s no reason for a minority to pay any attention to a democratic result if the winners aren’t prepared to back up their con with a sufficiency of force.

    But, where in these Harvard “studies” has anyone measured that?

  34. For the sake of argument let us assume that more guns mean more crime, murder, suicide, accidental shootings and cause diabetes. The whole idea of protecting the God Given Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms is to protect us from a tyrannical government; not so I can hunt, put holes in paper or even keep the local outlaw from mugging me.

    I am quite willing to put up with a larger amount of gun deaths so that I and my fellow citizens can protect ourselves from our government. In the same way I am willing to put up with a certain amount of car related deaths so that I and my fellow citizens can travel where we want efficiently.

    The correct reply to this and all “studies” that “prove” that guns are bad for me and the children is “Fuck Off Slaver”!

    Also, “cold dead fingers” should have gone somewhere in there.

    1. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
      –Ben Franklin

      Thus, some soccer mom claiming a “right” to feel safe does not trump our right to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government. The evils of a tyrannical government are far worse than the sneak thief in the night or the worry of a foreign invader. A tyrannical government combines the worst of both.

      I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it. — Thomas Jefferson

  35. “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America,” President Barack Obama proclaimed after the October mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

    Where do I get mine?

    1. At your local gun dealer.

      1. But hurry – – – – – –

  36. Why even bother using stats? They’re irrelevant even if true. The 2nd Amendment was, at least in part, an effort to keep the government in check by having an armed citizenry.

    1. “The 2nd Amendment was, at least in part, an effort to keep the government in check by having an armed citizenry.”

      As long as this armed citizenry of yours is more content to live on their knees than to die on their feet, all the 2nd Amendments in the world aren’t going to keep a government in check.

      1. In the nearly 240 years of this Republic we have transitioned from the frontiersman to the suburbanite lifestyle. The self-reliant, utterly free frontiersman is gone, replaced by others who have an interdependence on each other for their existence. If a president gave Obama’s speech in, say 1816, there would have been a mob of angry individualists with torches and rifles banging on the White House doors demanding his hide.

        We’re more likely today to “play by the rules” of legal actions and protests instead of direct action. This was even the case in 1775. The colonists suffered many years under the Crown before declaring independence.

        “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

        We simply have not reached the point of contempt for the government that existed in 1775.

  37. Very nice review, thanks. However, I was surprised to see it twice mentioned that failure to determine if an owner’s gun were used against them was a flaw in associating a gun in the home with outcome of a criminal event. While an interesting aspect in its own right, it’s plainly not a necessary condition to claiming that association. An assailant doesn’t have to possess your gun for it, or even the presumption of it, to alter their behavior. Both sides readily make that claim.

    It’s more relevant to know whether the gun actually factored in – to what extent was it brought to bear, rather than simple being a demographic factor?

    1. I think I know what you’re trying to say. However, given the thrust of the Kellerman study which claimed that having a gun increased your risk of death, establishing whether the gun was involved in the death IS necessary.

      If a study claimed that owning a box of Corn Flakes increased your risk of death, a necessary part of that study would be to establish a relationship between the cereal and the death. That a homicide victim merely owned a gun has no more significance with regard to his/her risk of death than the fact that they had a box of Corn Flakes or they were a black belt in Karate.

      1. I think we’re saying the same thing. You might not die from eating the Corn Flakes, your sister might kill you for emptying the box. “…whether the gun was involved in death…” plainly encompasses more than having the gun turned on you. Not that I in the least disfavor wide latitude in self defense including ready access to a gun, just pointing out a twice-made statement that exhibited poor logic.

  38. Guns used for suicide is nobody else’s business.

    Guns used for mass shootings are an outlier.

    Guns used in homicides outside of “mass shootings” are largely part of the de facto wars fought by the black (no pun intended because Whites and Hispanics are a part of the subset) marketeers. We have large scale wars fought by the “legitimate” institutions (the laundered mafia known as governments) and we have small scale wars being fought by the shadow markets of organized crime. Nothing the Feds do will impact the availability of ordnance for those fighting their turf wars in our inner cities, leaking out into some suburbs. What remains of white gangs tend to move their venues for battle around while the blacks and hispanics fight over city blocks, sometimes house by house. Idiotic, blanket rules sticking red tape to the 99.99% who aren’t a problem does no good. I firmly believe the likes of Obama knows this, but the “laundered mafia” has every interest in disarming the 99.99% as best they can for their own interests.

  39. The intent of gun laws isn’t to lessen crime or even lessen the # of guns. It’s for some people to pat themselves on the back that they forced someone else to comply with something against their will. It’s really just a purely human motivation about the abuse of petty power.

  40. One HUGE problem comparing violent gun usage rates between states and cities is that researchers simply refuse to consider what is likely the SINGLE most important factor — race. See? Me even SAYING “race” makes you cringe.

    But consider:

    Blacks constitute about 13.2% of America’s population.

    Yet when it comes to crime, the FBI reports that in 2012 blacks committed:
    49.4% of all murders
    32.5% of all forcible rapes
    54.9% of all robberies
    34.1% of all aggravated assaults
    28.1% of ALL crime…..verviewpdf

    1. Where are the studies relating murder rates to signs of the Zodiac? To phrenology?

      1. Where they belong. In the minds of mystics and weak-minded people.

    2. I remember that a newspaper in Baltimore added an interactive crime map to their website for while. You could examine crimes by type over several time periods and map their locations. It was all grins and giggles until someone posted a screen capture of homicides. The crime locations clustered around the predominately black neighborhoods with only a very few in other areas. It was quite the eye opener. But the map disappeared from the website shortly afterward without explanation.

  41. Below are the 30 cities with the highest murder rates. At least 28 of them have a black population above the national 13.2% average. Most are SUBSTANTIALLY higher than that average. The top ten worst cities likely ALL are predominantly (at least a plurality) black. Yet no researcher wants to consider race — a verboten topic regarding violent crime.

    The countdown for the Top 30 Murder Capitals of America:

    Rank City
    30 Baton Rouge, LA
    29 Youngstown, OH
    28 San Bernardino, CA
    27 Oakland, CA
    26 Barberton, OH
    25 Poughkeepsie, NY
    24 Cincinnati, OH
    23 Petersburg, VA
    22 Wilmington, DE
    21 York, PA
    20 East Palo Alto, CA
    19 Jackson, MS
    18 Wilkes-Barre, PA
    17 Birmingham, AL
    16 East Point, GA
    15 East Chicago, IN
    14 Compton, CA
    13 Baltimore, MD
    12 St. Louis, MO
    11 Harvey, IL
    10 Newark, NJ
    9 New Orleans, LA
    8 Trenton, NJ
    7 Detroit, MI
    6 Flint, MI
    5 Saginaw, MI
    4 Chester, PA
    3 Gary, IN
    2 Camden, NJ
    1 East St. Louis, IL

    BTW, it’s likely that most of these cities have ‘strong’ gun control laws. And all but 1 or 2 are controlled by the Democrat Party. But, of course, correlation does not prove causation, yada, yada, yada.

    1. Sorry, Richard, but cities controlled by Democrats isn’t the reason for the high homicide rates in these cities. These cities are more concentrated with persons having well below a decent standard of living, be it housing, schools, jobs, etc., and thus are more concentrated with minorities who face discrimination than the rest of the country. With little opportunity and little hope, the matter of life is of less importance. Living in poverty isn’t conducive to living a good life.

      1. Living in poverty isn’t conducive to living a good life.

        I’m an immigrant from a country where the majority lived below the US poverty line. Yet, there was very little violence. Poverty does not cause violence. What causes violence is dysfunctional government and dysfunctional culture.

        more concentrated with minorities who face discrimination than the rest of the country

        You’re right that these minorities face discrimination and hopelessness. And who is responsible for that? The schools that educated them, the social programs that raised them, the employers that discriminate against them, and the bureaucracies and regulations that keep them in poverty: overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats.

        Democratic policies promote violence in minority communities around the country, largely because that serves the political interests of the Democrats, just like Democrats used to promote segregation, eugenics, and slavery. Democrats are always about dividing people up by race, it’s only the details that change over time. It’s utterly reprehensible.

  42. Just an aside regarding the 30 highest murder rate cities. I suspect all but a handful (at most) have tough gun control laws.

    And I’m pretty sure that, with perhaps 1 or 2 exceptions, all are Democrat controlled cities. But of course, correlation does not prove causation, yada-yada-yada.

  43. It’s impossible to know how often guns are used in self-defense, because defending yourself with a gun doesn’t always require pulling the trigger. You can even defend yourself with a gun over the phone: “I bought a gun so stay the hell away from me.” How can anyone measure that?

    1. “I bought a gun so stay the hell away from me”

      What if you only said that but actually you were lying and didn’t buy a gun or have one in the first place?

      1. Actually an interesting point. If we could not own guns, then THREATENING to have a gun would be ineffective.

        By villains not knowing who is armed and who isn’t, our right to own firearms helps defends those that chose NOT to own firearms. Without that uncertainty, we’d ALL be at greater risk.

      2. The height of stupidity is making a threat that you can’t back up. I can and will back it up.

        1. “I can and will back it up.”

          No doubt those clowns in Oregon were saying the same thing. Guns lend themselves to this kind of bravado. If you’re lucky you’ll just end up in jail like our friends in Oregon.

    2. I think it was Kleck’s study that tried to give some basic measurement. My memory says the number of DGUs where no shots were fired was over 90%. As I recall only about 8% of DGUs involved actually discharging the gun and only about 2% resulted in a room temperature intruder.

      Seems that when a potential victim turns out to be armed the majority of criminals suddenly remember they’re overdue at church choir practice … or something. Doherty is also spot-on about why such things are not reported to police. And of course the media isn’t interested unless there’s a body, blood or flashing lights.

  44. A good article in general, but I’m disappointed that you don’t call out the one absolutely uncontroversial *causal* connection between gun laws and violence: the kidnapping and caging of those that violate those laws. I know it’s kind of standard libertarian rhetoric to say that a gun law “bans” guns, but in fact it does no such thing: guns don’t listen to bans. What a gun law does is make a violent threat: “if you do X [buy a gun, sell a gun, possess a gun, etc], then we *will* commit a violent act against you.”

    Any calculation of violence with respect to gun laws *has* to take into account the number of people who will be/have been jailed as a consequence.

  45. The divergence in gun ownership polls is based on citizenship and voters. The two polls that show downward trending household ownership rates survey anybody, and the two that show relatively stable rates poll only registered voters.

  46. I find it a curious omission that an article which includes such prominent placement for the work of John Lott ignores the even more significant efforts in this field performed by Mary Rosh.

  47. This article is well written & reasoned by Mr. Doherty. .

    I’ve been around the gun debate for years. Names like David Hemenway Philip Cook, Ludwig, Wintemute, Kellerman, Zimring, et al are familiar names in anti-gun “research”. The drumbeat from all these people is always negative about firearms with little acknowledgement that firearms MAY be useful to certain people.

    It seems that the above authors have almost always been shown to have been wrong. Whether by cherry-picking their data to support their ideology or failing to account for the simplest of variables.

    More interesting is to look up the source of their research dollars. I’ll let the reader do their own research, however I will tell them to expect to find most are funded by a few left-wing foundations.

    With crime rates falling over the last 20 years, the anti-gun left has been forced to adopt a position against a new scourge — “Gun Violence.” This allows them to lump together different activities other than violent crime and murder to bolster their statistics. Though it’s curious that they get away with including suicide as “gun violence.” That’s like including self-abuse (masturbation) under the heading of “domestic violence.”

    These are separate and distinctly different problems requiring different approaches. Yet the left wishes to treat them the same. And if you propose a solution for one issue and they dismiss it because it doesn’t solve both issues (only banning guns will “solve” it).

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  49. Re: “But perhaps, and more plausibly, these laws are more readily enacted in states where the prevalence of firearm ownership is low?there will be less opposition to them?and firearm ownership confounds the association.”


  50. Re: “…since it’s always possible that those more likely to be suicidal are more likely to want to own guns.”

    I’d say it’s not just possible but probable. Men commit suicide at a rate four times higher than do women, and men are much more likely than women to want to own and in fact possess a gun.

    1. Don’t tell my wife that. She carries and she is a damn good shot.
      However, most women that commit suicide prefer other means such as sleeping pills.

      Suicide by gun is a messy affair.

      1. Women also have a lot more unsuccessful suicides than men, in fact they attempt suicide far more often.

        So, its NOT that those that are “more suicidal” are more likely to own guns…the opposite in fact. Men are just far more effective at carrying it out, as they use a more, uh, decisive method.

  51. I assume it is fair to extrapolate from your choice of name that you are biased in favor of “free markets” correct? You conflate “reason” with “fair markets”, correct?

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  53. The paper didn’t look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate. After all, if less gun crime doesn’t mean less crime overall?if criminals simply substitute other weapons or means when guns are less available?the benefit of the relevant gun laws is thrown into doubt.

    This, along with lumping in suicides, is why it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion on this topic. The goal should not be to reduce “gun deaths”, it should be to reduce overall deaths. People looking for simple solutions to complex problems view these as directly correlated data points, and conclude that reducing the former will automatically reduce the latter. It’s like suggesting grounding all airplanes will reduce travel deaths because no one will die in plane crashes anymore — ignoring that, in the absence of air travel, people won’t simply start sitting at home.

    If you look at the worldwide data on gun ownership rates, homicide rates, and suicide rates, there is no correlation between the first one and the last two, on a country-by-country basis.

    1. The goal should not be to reduce “gun deaths”, it should be to reduce overall deaths.

      But the actual agenda is to promote the progressive agenda. You see the same with the slicing and dicing of “mass shooters”: after you put mass murders committed by Muslims, mass murders committed by black gang members, mass members committed by Hispanic gang members, and mass murders committed by women (mostly poisoning) into separate categories (“terrorism”, “gang violence”, “domestic violence”), you are miraculously left with a high proportion of white male mass murderers. Then, progressives can go to work and attribute “terrorism”, “gang violence”, and mass murdering women to “white male privilege and oppression”, and voila, you have it: white males and their guns are responsible for everything that ails America. Progressivism and its use of reason and science are impressive, aren’t they?

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  55. It is unfortunate that Brian Doherty is so provincial and spent all his time analyzing restrictive gun laws of the USA, 4% of the world’s population and perhaps 15% of the developed world’s population. It so happens that the 85% experiences significantly less gun violence, homicides and suicides since they have much less gun ownership largely due to restrictive gun laws. All of what Doherry has written isn’t worth the paper on which it is written. His analysis falls apart when applied to Australia, Germany, UK, Scandinavian, countries, Russia, Japan, etc. For the love of Pete he can even explain our neighbor, Canada. Obviously he suffers from having a gun affection sickness as do most of the staff at Reason. Sorry guys, when it comes to guns you lose.

    1. ‘It so happens that the 85% experiences significantly less gun violence, homicides and suicides since they have much less gun ownership largely due to restrictive gun laws. ‘
      Japan has a higher suicide rate than America and has way less guns.

    2. His analysis falls apart when applied to Australia, Germany, UK, Scandinavian, countries, Russia, Japan, etc. For the love of Pete he can even explain our neighbor, Canada.

      Different countries and cultures have different homicide rates. That’s been true since colonial times.

      However, the simple fact is that gun violence in the US is almost entirely a problem of African Americans and Hispanics. If you factor out those populations, the US is not significantly more violent than European nations.

      It so happens that the 85% experiences significantly less gun violence, homicides and suicides since they have much less gun ownership largely due to restrictive gun laws.

      If you believe that that shows only one thing: you haven’t looked at the data at all.

      For starters, legal gun owners have far lower rates of gun violence than the population at large.

      Obviously he suffers from having a gun affection sickness as do most of the staff at Reason

      I have never owned a gun and don’t intend to purchase one ever. Nevertheless, I strongly support the right of all Americans to own and carry guns of any type. Restricting gun ownership is the market of totalitarian or dysfunctional societies.

      1. Boom. This.

        Fmontyr, your just posting a bunch of crap we’ve all heard before that doesn’t have a cup of piss worth of nuance or rigor.

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  60. A “war on guns” – like the President contemplates – would, like the “war on drugs”, likely ensnare a disproportionate number of poor and minority Americans, since it is in urban areas where gun crime is most heavily concentrated. Such unintended social consequences create tremendous potholes in a road paved with good intentions.

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  64. From my perspective, somebody (or somebodies) should back the Progressives into a corner and tell them, “All the crime statistics in the world are irrelevant. he Constitution says ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’. If you are ready to ashcan that in the name of momentary expedience or ‘common sense’ why should I trust you to respect any other part of the Constitution? Write a Constitutional amendment allowing the government to regulate guns, and start trying to get it passed, and we’ll talk. Until you do that you are a bunch of scofflaws.”

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    1. We take pride in the fact that our passion for better health and fitness is 100% backed by science and helps 100’s (if not 1000’s) of people every year since 2010.

      Is there a scientific consensus that it works? Thanks, but I think I’ll pass then.

  66. David Hemenway took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to declare in a headline: “There’s scientific consensus on guns?and the NRA won’t like it.”

    Which only goes to illustrate again that “scientific consensus” and “scientific truth” are two unrelated concepts.

  67. Whenever someone starts using “science” and “consensus” in the same sentence, you are being had. Science is based on data and observation, not consensus. Appealing to consensus is merely a fallacious ad populum. Religion is based on consensus however.

  68. Did they just push an article from 2016 to the front page?

    1. Yeah, so what’s your point?

  69. “Despite the confident assertions of the gun controllers and decades of research, we still know astonishingly little about how guns actually function in society and almost nothing at all about whether gun control policies actually work as promised.”

    And that is fine, because none of it is relevant to the fact that the constitution says what it says.
    And no one tells a pollster the truth if they even talk to them at all. So all the polls on guns are as reliable as the ones that had what’s-her-name winning in a landslide.

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