Don B Kates, Jr. writes:

In vol. 62 # 3 (1995) of the TN Law Rev, Henry Schaffer, three
professors at Harvard and Columbia Medical Schools, and I have an article
evaluating the medical/public health literature on firearms. Our general
conclusion goes beyond simple negativity. We conclude that it is not just
methodologically incompetent, but an ideologically based “literature of
deceit.” In almost 90 pages and with over 360 footnotes we document that
the literature meets the specification of a model based on the law of
actionable fraud, including overt misrepresentations, partial statements
used to deceive by failure to reveal the entire truth, and fraudulent
non-disclosure of material facts. Among the practices we document in
wearisome detail are: a) the statement of falsehoods and false statistics
“supported” by references to non-existent reference sources or sources that
do not address the issue they are cited as proving; and b) reference to
“supporting” references which do address the issue but say
the OPPOSITE of what they are cited as saying.

Dear Mr Kates,
I have read your paper and I have some questions that I hope you will
be able to answer. In Section XIII “A Critique of Overt
Mendacity” you accuse several authors not just of being wrong but of
actually lying. It seems to me that it is much harder to establish
that someone is lying than it is to establish that they are in error
since you must prove that knew what they said was wrong as well as
showing that it was wrong.

The only support I found for the charge of lying (as opposed to the
charge of being wrong) was on page 578 where you state that “innocent
mistakes tend to be random and to balance each other rather than all
erring in favor of the position for which they are presented”. I feel
that if you observe such a pattern it does not prove that an author is
lying, since it can easily result from unconscious bias on the part of
the author, where data that supports the author’s position is not
examined as carefully as data that does not. Such a pattern can also
result from unconscious bias on the part of the reader, where the
reader only notices those errors that support the author’s position,
and where the reader may have counted as errors things where there is
room for honest disagreement and things where the reader has
misunderstood what the author was trying to say.

When I read section XIII and checked it against the sources I found
what appeared to me to be ten errors that all happened to support your
position, and only one correctly identified such error by the authors
that you say were lying. I am hoping we can determine which of the
possible explanations I mentioned in the previous paragraph applies.

Here are the details of what I found (all your statements come from
pages 577 and 578 of your paper):

A. Dianne Schetky.

You state:

  1. that she claimed handguns account for only 20% of the firearms in
    use today, but they are involved in the majority of criminal and
    unintentional firearm injuries.

  2. that she claimed handguns comprise only 20% of all guns,
    yet are involved in 90% of gun accidents and crime.

  3. that she falsified a citation for 2.

  4. that she claimed that 90% of gun murders are committed with handguns.

I could not find any of the above claims in her paper. Not one. The
closest she comes is a statement that handguns are involved in 50% of
homicides.

Have I misunderstood something? Can you explain please?

B. Gordon Smith and Henry Falk.

You state:

  1. that they claimed handguns account for only 20% of the firearms in
    use today, but they are involved in the majority of criminal and
    unintentional firearm injuries.

  2. that they claimed handguns comprise only 20% of all guns,
    yet are involved in 90% of gun accidents and crime.

  3. that they falsified a citation for 2.

Smith and Falk do not make claim 2. They do make claim 1.

You state that claim 1 is “false in every respect”. That is, each of
these claims are false:
1a. handguns account for 20% of the firearms in use today and
1b. handguns are involved in a majority of criminal firearm injuries.
1c. handguns are involved in a majority of unintentional firearm injuries.

I am puzzled as to why you say this. According to the data you
present elsewhere in your paper, the only one that is false is 1a.

1a: According to your table 3, they should have said “handguns account
for 33% of the firearms in use today”, ie. 1a is false.

1b: In footnote 268 you give figures that show handguns are used for
70-75% of firearm homicides. In footnote 179 you estimate that long
gun injuries are 4-11.4 times as deadly as handguns. If these
estimates are correct, it follows that handguns are involved in 90-97%
of criminal firearm injuries, ie. 1b is true.

1c: In table 2 you give figures that show handguns are involved in
41% of fatal gun accidents. In footnote 179 you estimate that long
gun injuries are 4-11.4 times as deadly as handguns. If these
estimates are correct, it follows that handguns are involved in 74-89%
of unintentional firearm injuries, ie. 1c is true.

I am also puzzled as to why you describe the citation that Smith and
Falk gave for claim 1 as a “fabrication”. The citation only supports
part 1b of the claim and not parts 1a and 1c so you could certainly
criticize them for not fully supporting their claim, but calling their
citation a “fabrication” seems unjustified.

Have I misunderstood something? Can you explain please?

C. Sloan et al

You state

  1. that Sloan claimed that the 1978 Canadian gun law caused Vancouver
    to have less homicide than Seattle and

  2. that Sloan lied when he claimed that the “intent of our article was
    not to evaluate the effect of the 1978 Canadian gun law”

Now, I don’t believe Sloan’s article shows that much, (since a
correlation based on two points is not going to be statistically
significant) but when I read it, they seemed to be stating that
Vancouver’s more restrictive laws are associated with lower rates of
homicide, not that the 1978 law was specifically responsible. In five
earlier pages of discussion of Sloan’s paper you never mention the
1978 law. You also state that Centerwall’s data in his paper
“Homicide and the Prevalence of Handguns: Canada and the United
States, 1976 to 1980″ contradicts Sloan. As is evident from the
title, Centerwall uses pre-1978 data, so if Sloan really was making
the claim that the 1978 law was responsible, Centerwall cannot be used
to contradict him.

The quotation in 2. is given correctly. Right afterwards Sloan et al
state: “[The 1978 law] was just one step in a continuum of national
policy over the past few decades moving towards stricter control of
handguns.” I am puzzled as to why you did not quote this or comment
on it.

Have I misunderstood something? Can you explain please?