As I was writing up my (promised, forthcoming!) analysis of a recent article on nonfatal gunshot injuries that was treated dismissively on the Gun Free Zone blog, Miguel published a follow-up, Again (and final) on the Yale study.
I could see that he had tired of discussing the issue on his blog, so decided to post my response here rather than in his comments section. To his points:
- Why is a study necessary? Even the simplest of low-information voters know that hanging around with a bad crowd will lead you into trouble. That admonition has been told since time immemorial by mothers everywhere and proven over and over. Why is a study necessary is beyond me.
For purposes of personal safety, it is not. For purposes of better understanding how society works, conducting rigorous research is good in itself. Sometimes research confirms conventional wisdom, and sometimes it does not. We can only know whether it does or not by doing the research. The anti-intellectualism that crept into the last series of comments was unfortunate, as thankfully some other commenters suggested.
The study may also be helpful (if not necessary) for formulating efficient and effective policies aimed at controlling or reducing crime. For example, don’t waste your resources on Constitutionally problematic policies like stop and frisk but instead focus on people who exhibit certain behaviors.
- This study will be ignored by most politicians. Not only because it may shine a good light of Gun Owners, but mostly because it is a demonstration of failed social policies in general. For Chicago that would mean that the Liberal would have to go Mea Culpa and discard decades of “social revolutions” and they rather see more bodies piling up in the morgue than admit failure. What needs to be done in Chicago? Way beyond my pay grade, but certainly what they are doing now is not working.
Possibly. Even probably. But this doesn’t make the study “lame” or a “waste of time and money.” IF the purpose of the study was to influence politicians, then Miguel might have a point here. But the purpose of the study was to better understand how society works. And better understanding can become the basis for better efforts to control or reduce crime. If politicians refuse to make evidence-based policies — as criminologist David Kennedy says happened to his efforts to implement a proven violence reduction strategy in various cities (see his book “Don’t Shoot”) – that is the fault of politicians not the authors of this study.
Disparaging the authors because of bad politicians is somewhat akin to disparaging all gun owners because of criminals.
- Till when are we going to treat ourselves as second class citizens? Why do we need to go after every lame study to show the people “Looky here! We are good! This study says so! Love me please!” If anybody needs numbers, there are two places to send them: NICS Background checks and FBI UCR and point out the obvious: We have a shitload more guns now and the violent crime went down. The stupid argument that more guns equal more crime is void and null. Time to Man/Woman up.
I 1,000% agree that law-abiding gun owners should not be treated nor treat ourselves as second class citizens. People who drink alcohol are not socially stigmatized because some drink and drive, and I do not personally feel guilty for drinking because some people drink and drive. Drinking and driving should be socially stigmatized, just as improper use of firearms should be – AND IS! – socially stigmatized. Banning guns will only make things worse, as was the case with banning alcohol in American history.
But connecting this good point to a blanket condemnation of “every lame study” – which really means every study is lame – is not right. To be sure a growing number of guns in American society along with the declining rate of violent crime in the past 20 years suggests any simple causal argument that more guns necessarily leads to more crime is “void and null.” But that does not mean the opposite simple causal argument — that more guns leads to less crime — is true.
It may be that more guns in the hands of the wrong people leads to more crime, or not. Or more guns in the hands of the right people leads to less crime, or not. I wrote previously about a promising study I saw presented at the American Society of Criminology which looked at homicide in New Orleans. The authors set out to move the guns and crime debate forward by distinguishing between the effect of legal and illegal guns on homicide. They hypothesized that presence of legal and illegal guns affect homicide rates, but in different ways. Legal guns reduce gun homicide rates (supporting Lott’s more guns, less crime argument), while illegal guns increase gun homicide rates (supporting Cook’s more guns, more crime argument). Their analysis found this to be the case. If there are no flaws in the study (it was unpublished at the time), then this work goes beyond stupid arguments on both sides.
Again, law-abiding gun owners do not need studies saying we are good, upstanding citizens. But understanding the precise empirical relationship between guns and crime is a different issue than that.
- If you are expecting that the Media will pick the study up and go “Oh God we were wrong! It is not the NRA but Gangs and assorted criminals the reason for the murders” get a comfy chair and lots of patience. The Narrative needs to be maintained even when it is a glaring mistake, but it is their lifeblood. And if you think I am kidding, yesterday the New York Times had a nice butt kissing editorial on the Violence Policy Center’s Concealed Carry Killers report. This “study” is so flawed on itself, it makes anybody with a half a brain and a calculator go “WTF were they thinking?” It shall be fisked at a later time.
Nothing has lessened my confidence in the media more than getting involved in the study of guns. I have posted about problematic reporting here and here and here and here and here. So, I do not expect the media to change its narrative entirely based on this study, but it is the case that in the original Chicago Sun-Times story about the study in question, no blame was placed on the NRA, gun culture, gun owners, etc. Similarly, in a Chicago Magazine story from December 2013 on Papachristos’s work, no blame was placed on the NRA, etc.
After the New York Times ran a story changing its tune on “assault weapons,” I thought maybe things were getting better there. The editorial cited here by Miguel is pathetic, and it is sad that the NYT puts so much stock in the Violence Policy Center’s “research” (which Clayton Cramer effectively criticized 2.5 years ago and was more recently taken down by Bob Owens).
So, I can’t argue with Miguel here, though equating of Papachristos’s research with that of the Violence Policy Center is not fair. I keep promising to say more about research on gun violence and its flaws, and I will do so. Soon.
In fairness, I will give Miguel the last word, since he makes many good points (and I wouldn’t follow his blog if he didn’t):
Now, you may disagree with me and that is fine. But to quote Patton (from the movie) “I don’t like to pay twice from the same real estate” and the Yale study and placing any hopes that it will help us, does that.