Friday, February 18, 2011

Why is Science Biased Against Gunloons?

In comments, we frequently get gunloons who demand "evidence" of whatever they disagree with.  And that's a good thing.  Assertions or the like ought to be backed up with facts and evidence, whenever possible.

Aside from the fact gunloons never, ever back up their NRA talking points assertions with facts or evidence, what is tiresome is that when facts and evidence are presented to gunloons--it is dismissed as "biased."

Many of the studies--and there are no shortage of them--showing guns cause harm to their owners, to society, to kids, etc.  are waved away by gunloons because they don't like the results. To the gunloon, many PhDs and MDs and academics are simply "bought" by "biased" anti-gun groups and they are paid to produce "biased" reports and studies.

However, like most gunloon claims, such idiocy is easily debunked.

First, researchers have professional reputations. If a researcher is caught--or even suspected--producing bogus results for money or other reasons, that researcher may as well find a new occupation.  See John Lott's career.

Second, bogus research will usually get caught.  Research is peer-reviewed.  In the case of gunloons, they are alleging that not only are there hordes of researchers producing fraudulent work but their uncompensated peers are also complicit in the fraud.

Third, researchers are usually employed by universities and/or professional organizations and associations.  They, too, have reputations to protect.  Is a Harvard or Stanford going to risk its considerable reputation to get a small grant?  Not likely.  But let's play the devil's advocate and say they would.  How is it some university hasn't taken a gazillion dollars from Phillip Morris to produce a study that says cigarette smoking isn't harmful?  Or a billion bucks from Exxon to say the oceans benefit from oil spills?

In order to justify the claims of gunloons, we have to believe thousands of highly educated professionals are actively or tacitly involved in a conspiracy.  We have to  believe our top universities and professional organizations are actively engaged in fraud.  And we must believe science is biased.


  1. Thanks for that wonderful post.

    "You are the brightest star in the musical firmament, Mozart."

  2. We call it biased because it often "cherry picks" only the information that supports your agenda, or fails to examine any factors involved except firearms.

    Let's get ALL the facts on the table, ALL the research, looking at ALL the factors of violent firearm-related crime, ALL the good and the bad that firearms are in our society, THEN see where the data points for a solution, shall we?

    "False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; what would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty - so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator - and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevento encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.. "
    --Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments

    I'm willing to honestly examine all aspects of firearms in our society and all of the causes of violent crime to find solutions that could actually work. Why aren't you?


  3. First off, to answer Orygunner's question--there are no accurate statistics on gun violence in the US. The gun lobby has seen to that by defunding anything which might call into question the utility of firearms.

    Which takes me to my next point: John Lott.

    While it is pretty obvious that John Lott and Michael Bellesiles engaged in pretty much the same amount of chicanery, Lott still has a cachet of respectability in the right wing of the US--in particular amongst gun loons.

    In fact, it appears that Lott was far more dishonest than Bellesiles, yet Lott has not come under the same amount of scrutiny. Lott is still quoted in the media as an expert.

    Likewise, Gary kleck has also been discredited, yet is still cited as gospel.

    So much for "cherry picking"--willfully using discredited surveys is even more dishonest. Or just plain ignorance.

  4. @Laci, The anti-gun studies try and show a relationship between guns and increased violent crime, the pro-gun studies try and show a relationship between allowing citizens to carry and reducing violent crime...

    Both ideas are relatively easily debunked by conflicting evidence, and the reason is simple: Guns don't cause crime, guns don't reduce crime. They aren't a significant factor, either way.

    I think it's humorous that you suggest that the "gun lobby" "defunds" studies that don't show the utility of firearms... Like government funding is the only possible source of a non-biased study.

    Sounds a little like a conspiracy theory to me... Do you have many of those?


  5. Could you list the "tons" of gun/suicide you refer to? Google scholar only returned a few published within the past decade. Thanks.

  6. O: Why quote Beccaria? He was, after all, not a researcher or scientist or doctor--he was essentially an editorial writer.

    Your claims of cherry-picking are without merit. If one reads the many studies you dismiss, you will see all of them control for other factors--as all good epidemiological studies must. For example, Kellermann controlled for about 3 dozen factors.

    WRT Lott, it's pretty plain his career has been an all-day plane crash. He starts out as a very respected researcher at the U. of Chicago, he takes a hit by going to a conservative think tank, now he's an assoc. prof. in a computer science dept run by a friend of his. He's reduced to writing op/eds that aren't based on any sort of research.

  7. MAGunner: To what end?

    I ask in all seriousness because a gunloon tendency is to try to deflect attention away from the issue? Are you trying to find out how much these studies weigh? Or are you actually interested in the topic?

  8. @Jadegold: I quoted Beccaria because the statement makes total logical sense and pretty much matches what you and other gun control advocates try to do.

    You see a problem ("gun violence"), and you want to eliminate that evil, but in doing so, you are only viewing the gun as the problem and refuse to see any positive utility. You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, trying to eliminate fire because it may burn, and water because people can drown in it.

    It's strange how you suggest Kellermann is inclusive, when it doesn't include any defensive gun uses where shots were NOT fired (which is around 95% of the time), doesn't include any defensive gun uses outside the walls of the home, and his collected data and control group comparison wasn't randomly selected or even very large (about 300+ households).

    IIRC, he wouldn't even release the core data his study was based on for any sort of peer review of his research. His study also found that firearms weren't even the leading tool used for suicide in his study.,2933,7217,00.html


  9. There are big differences between Lott and Bellesiles. Lott did not start out as pro gun but became so after he began studying the data. Bellesiles, on the other hand, had a predetermined position and bent his data to the conclusion he wanted to. Bellesiles ultimately was brought down by his own peers.

  10. OK< Ory I'm sure you're going to say these are all lefty conspiracy theories, but:

    There's even this one direct from the horse's mouth:

    Hardly a conspiracy theory since it goes beyond mere theory to established fact.

  11. @Laci, I'm not surprised that the NRA would lobby to prevent studies that are in conflict with protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

    Since you seemed to miss what I was saying, I need to clarify: The NRA has no power to stop private organizations from performing private research. There's plenty of liberals and statists willing to throw their money at gun-related studies, but they, too, want to make sure the studies "go their way."

    Unfortunately, there's no unbiased people wanting to spend their money on a real, unbiased study. At least until I win the lottery :)


  12. MAgunowner knows all the pro-gun tricks. He conceals them under a thin veneer of gentility and politeness, but they're shot through with dishonesty and chicanery just the same.

    Why don't you tell us your point with that question like Jadegold asked?

  13. "I ask in all seriousness because a gunloon tendency is to try to deflect attention away from the issue? "

    Gunloon? This country was founded by "gunloons".