Second Amendment

Hunter Biden, Second Amendment Warrior?

Plus: Flaws in studies linking teen social media use to depression, debt ceiling deal passes Senate, and more...


President Joe Biden has long been an advocate for strict restrictions on guns, so his son makes something of an unlikely advocate for expanded gun rights. But Hunter Biden may soon find himself on the opposite side of his father's gun control crusade in at least one aspect. The younger Biden is reportedly considering a challenge to a federal law that bans illegal drug users from owning guns.

The issue hits close to home for Hunter: The Department of Justice is investigating a gun purchase he made in 2018. This is a time period during which he has admitted to regularly using crack cocaine. That could put him afoul of the law against drug users having guns.

Hunter Biden's "lawyers have already told Justice Department officials that, if their client is charged with the gun crime, they will challenge the law under the Second Amendment, according to a person familiar with the private discussions granted anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly," reported Politico. "That could turn a case that is already fraught with political consequences into a high-profile showdown over the right to bear arms."

Here's hoping?

The provision in question—part of the Gun Control Act of 1968—is, frankly, insane, preventing any person "who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" from buying a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has interpreted this provision to mean that anyone who has used any illegal drug in the past 12 months cannot legally purchase a gun.

And the time may be just right for challenging it. This Supreme Court has proved willing to strike down overreaching gun laws.

The investigation into Hunter Biden's 2018 gun purchase comes as part of a broader investigation, noted Politico:

David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, is leading the probe. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in May that Weiss is "capable of making any decisions that he feels are appropriate," and that he won't face political pressure. Weiss is widely reported to be examining potential tax crimes related to undeclared income, as well as Hunter Biden's purchase of a handgun in October 2018.

When he bought the gun, Biden filled out a federal form on which he allegedly avowed that he was not "an unlawful user of, or addicted to" any "controlled substance," POLITICO reported in 2021. But according to Biden's 2021 memoir, he frequently used crack cocaine at the time.

"I was smoking crack every 15 minutes," he wrote.


Not every study on teen depression and social media is bad—just most of them. Aaron Brown, who teaches statistics at New York University and at the University of California at San Diego, responds to psychologist Jonathan Haidt's critiques of Brown's skepticism around studies linking social media to teen depression:

[Haidt] characterized my critique of his work as consisting mainly "of criticisms of specific studies," conceding that many of those concerns are "justified," but asking "what level of skepticism is right when addressing the overall question: is social media harming girls?" He continued, "If multiple studies find that girls who become heavy users of social media have merely twice the risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm, or suicide, [Brown] doesn't want to hear about it because it COULD conceivably be random noise."

I didn't express "concerns" about specific studies; I argued that the majority of the 301 papers cited in his document are garbage. I went through each category of studies on Haidt's list, chose the first one that studied social media and depression to get a random sampling, and then showed that they were so embarrassingly bad as to be completely useless. They were guilty of coding errors, fatal defects hidden in mid-paper jargon, inappropriate statistics, longitudinal studies that weren't longitudinal, experiments in name only, and red flags for hypothesis shopping and p-hacking (that is, misusing data analysis to yield results that can be presented as statistically significant).

He should remove them from his research compendium and excise them from his upcoming book. Including them would be analogous to the financial industry's decision to bundle toxic mortgage assets in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. "A bad study is like a bad mortgage loan," I wrote in my original piece. "Packaging them up on the assumption that somehow their defects will cancel each other out is based on flawed logic, and it's a recipe for drawing fantastically wrong conclusions."

Haidt was correct, however, when he noted that I won't take a field of study seriously that can't produce a 3–1 odds ratio or greater, e.g. a subpopulation with at least three times the risk of depression than similar people who use less social media. That's because there are so many studies that draw conclusions based on weak findings. It's not that studies with weaker findings "COULD conceivably be random noise," as Haidt wrote; we must assume they're random noise until a researcher can meet a high enough bar to demonstrate actual causation. If you lower the bar so that studies can be rigged to confirm our suspicions instead of actually testing them, statistics is worse than useless, because it gives a false veneer of rigor, or what the economist Friedrich Hayek called "scientism."

More here.


The Senate has passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the deal struck by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) to suspend the nation's debt limit through 2025. "The Senate adopted the bill…by a bipartisan vote of 63 to 36," reported CBS News:

Both sides acknowledged that the deal negotiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden was far from perfect but necessary to avoid a disastrous default.

"I look forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible and addressing the American people directly tomorrow," Mr. Biden said in a statement late Thursday night.

Before the final passage, the Senate voted on 11 amendments to the bill, all of which failed.

Thirty-one Republicans voted against the bill, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Democratic Sens. John Fetterman (Penn.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (Ore.).


• Millennials are moving to the right.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new data on 2022 birthrates.

• The Biden administration "may attempt to expand the welfare state via a definitional trick," warned Kevin Corinth, deputy director of the America Enterprise Institute's Center on Opportunity and Social Mobility, at The Wall Street Journal.

Don't bring back public housing.