Gun Controller’s Ox Gets Gored

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

Anna Clark at Columbia Journalism Review:

At a time of high-profile shootings and rising crime in many cities, the journal Preventive Magazine has published a special issue on gun violence, bringing together leading scholars to illuminate a subject that is often overwhelmed by political rancor. Guest editors David Hemenway and Daniel Webster apply a public health perspective to a field in which policy decisions have life-and-death stakes.

Yet, in at least one case, an attempt to dislodge a myth had a curious boomerang effect: The media reverb interpreted the study’s conclusions to mean the opposite of what researchers intended.

In the fall of 2013, researchers from Duke University and the University of Chicago asked people with a history of gun offenses at Chicago’s Cook County jail about how they got a weapon. By analyzing their responses, the researchers hoped to find ways to limit the ability of dangerous offenders to access firearms. Most of them, it turns out, got their guns not by stealing them or by buying them from authorized dealers, but via their social networks: family, friends, and gangs. They avoided obtaining guns from people they didn’t know out of concern that the person could be an undercover officer or an informant, or that the gun could have been used in a previous crime they could be implicated in if they are found with the weapon. As one respondent to the study said: “As far as Chicago, it’s so close to Indiana … there’s gun laws, but it’s easier to get access to guns in Indiana, so most people either go to the down-South states or go to Indiana to get guns, or people obtain gun licenses, go to the store and then resell.”

A key takeaway, then, is that policing and regulations impact how the underground gun market functions. With more enforcement and the targeting of key intermediaries, researchers say, gun access to dangerous people can be even more constrained. In other words, regulations may not yet put a complete stop to illegal trade, but they do make it more difficult for guns to get in the wrong hands. But much of the media pick-up boiled the study down to the notion that universal background checks on gun purchasers don’t work—a conclusion two researchers from the study emphatically deny.

For example, the Las Vegas Review-Journal cited the study to support the editorial board’s claim that background checks are “not a cure-all.” (Media Matters for America pointed out that this stance contradicts the edit board’s earlier position.) David French at the National Review  used the study to argue that gun regulations only “make it harder for ordinary, law-abiding people to buy guns.” The National Rifle Association acknowledged the researchers didn’t conclude that background checks don’t work—but suggested the researchers were blind to where their own evidence pointed them. Even the “Mallard Fillmore” comic strip weighed in, sarcastically inveighing that “more gun laws are the answer!”

This puts the researchers in a tough position. Philip J. Cook, the Duke professor who is the lead name on the gun study, has worked in this field for 40 years. He’s had his share of interactions with the NRA over those four decades. But, he says, it’s different this time. Rather than seeing the media that supports gun rights attack his study or his own expertise, it is actually running with his study—and using it as evidence to support their opposing view.

“I would be glad to have a forum to rebut the scurrilous lies being told about (this study),” Cook says. “But how do you rebut a comic strip?”

Well bless your heart, Mr. Cook!  Did your Ox get gored?  Could you not control the narrative after publication of your screed?  Is nobody interested in interviewing you to see what you wanted people to conclude?

Here’s the deal, Anna, and Mr. Cook.  Criminals will get their guns, even if they have to make them.  Or they will get their hammers, or knives, or garden tools, or whatever they want to use to perpetrate their crimes.  The only universal background check that will work to stop the legal sale of firearms is one that disallows it entirely (we know that’s what you really want, after all).  Furthermore, my God given rights aren’t subject to the vicissitudes of your studies and what you can or can’t demonstrate with them.  And finally, I don’t really think you can meet the conditions for calling what you do science.  I don’t think you can meet the central limit theorem with any of your data, with a first (mean), second (FSD) and third (VOV) moment.  So I’m not impressed.

But even if such a horrible government program got kicked off, it would never come to fruition, and the awful, bloody civil war it started would be worse than anything a collectivist could ever imagine, with dead cops on front lawns all over America as they tried to confiscate firearms from otherwise peaceable men.

Perhaps I’m assuming too much, though.  You’re not under the impression that we will willingly go along with such laws, are you?  You’re not persuaded that there are enough LEOs in the world to make that happen, are you?  You’re not ignorant of the noncompliance movements in Oregon, New York and Connecticut, are you?  And you know, prim and proper Connecticut isn’t Marietta, South Carolina, or Fines Creek, North Carolina, or Damascus, Virginia.  Now that I think about it, you’ve never really pondered the lives of the men you would be sending to their deaths trying to confiscate weapons, have you?


Comments

  1. On September 30, 2015 at 8:31 am, TexTopCat said:

    “Guest editors David Hemenway and Daniel Webster” – any article based on statements from these two is wrong. Why are these people still allowed to be part of the discussion, they have been caught making up data numerous times?

  2. On September 30, 2015 at 11:29 am, Bobbye said:

    ” Now that I think about it, you’ve never really pondered the lives of the men you would be sending to their deaths trying to confiscate weapons, have you?” I am not aware of the citizens of any nation effectively resisting the confiscation of weapons by their own government. Why do you believe Americans would be different? During the Revolution, the British were considered foreigners. Russians didn’t resist, Germans didn’t resist, Armenians didn’t resist, Guatemalans didn’t resist and any other peoples that were disarmed by their own government didn’t resist. Why are you confident that Americans would resist? Boston during the Marathon bombing took away most of my confidence.

  3. On September 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm, Archer said:

    Americans are different. The Russians, Germans, etc., all had full gun registries in place. The authorities knew where all the guns were. Additionally, they all were raised with the expectation of subservience to the government, and fed a steady media diet of, “For the children” and “For the good of everyone” and “The rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few”. There was no point in resisting, but there was also no will to resist.

    Not so with Americans. We have no full registry; the government may think they know where some of the guns are, but not nearly all of them. And many of us still remember individual freedom enough to fight for it; there’s a definite will, too.

    Also, not every American, or even every gun owner, needs to resist — only enough to make the authorities fear doing confiscatory raids. What’s the risk management threshold here? How many doors are they willing to bust down when there’s a 2% (for example) chance they won’t make it back out? How about 3%? 5%? 10%?

    And how many of those gun owners do you suppose will get gunned down by authorities (who “just want to go home at the end of their shift”) in the name of “officer safety” before they start taking the fight to the guys giving the illegal orders?

    I think that if (and that’s a big “if”) this goes sideways and those orders are given, you’ll find the “risk management” numbers and the “gun owner death tolerance” numbers are both far lower than you thought. Plus, it’s not like the order-givers haven’t been warned, repeatedly.

  4. On September 30, 2015 at 3:19 pm, Bobbye said:

    Thanks Archer. I think winning the hearts and minds pro-2nd Amendment battle might make the other battle not needed.

  5. On September 30, 2015 at 4:01 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    In addition to what he said – and I cannot quantify what I am getting ready to say, it’s more of a qualitative judgment – there is a distinct difference between citizens in, say, NY or NJ, and SC and NC and GA. John Stossel recently interviewed about 20 folks on the streets of NY, and the vast majority of them responded that they would have absolutely no problem having a Muslim as President of the U.S.

    I feel that I live in a completely different country. There is the North, and then there is the South. We have a common language – and not so much even that – and that’s about all we have in common.

  6. On September 30, 2015 at 5:41 pm, Archer said:

    I certainly hope so. I’m doing my part to advance the “hearts and minds” battle.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Gun Control and was published September 29th, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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