Gullible gunners, episode V

The London Daily Telegraph has been running a cynical and dishonest campaign in the UK to give people the right to defend themselves against burglars. It’s dishonest because, as I have detailed here and here, people in the UK already have the right to defend themselves against burglars or anyone else who threatens them. The Daily Telegraph‘s campaign is nothing more than a beat up to create an issue to attack the government with. The truly disgraceful thing about their scare campaign is that it could convince people that self-defence is unlawful and frighten them out of defending themselves against an attacker, resulting in injury or even death of a crime victim. I am disgusted.

One of the features of the campaign is the use of deceitful and fabricated statistics and quotes. Let’s look at some examples: Dominic Lawson writes:

Remember Robert Symonds? It is the name of the 45-year-old Putney teacher who six weeks ago was stabbed to death in the hall of his home by a burglar. His body was found by his wife while their two children slept upstairs.

It was as a result of that incident that this newspaper launched our “right to fight back” campaign, which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defence against intruders in their own homes. The point that struck me so forcibly at the time was not just the horror of Mr Symonds’s death, but the fact that had Mr Symonds picked up a kitchen knife before encountering the burglar, and managed to get blows in first, then he would now, as the law stands, be facing a murder trial.

It’s telling when they can’t provide real cases where people have been put on trial for murder after killing a burglar in self-defence and instead present hypothetical cases. Here is a real case that the Telegraph will never mention because it destroys their campaign: John Lambert (no relation), who killed a burglar in self defence and was not put on trial for murder or even prosecuted. I have collected more examples here.

Lawson then states:

But the doubling in recorded violent crime over the past eight years is a domestic apocalypse now.

Notice how Lawson was careful to write “recorded violent crime”? That’s because violent crime has been falling for the past eight years. But rather than mention this, Lawson uses the fact that the police have improved their record keeping to dishonestly create the impression that crime has increased.

Next, we have Charles Laurence, who writes:

[In 1987] the Oklahoma state government passed legislation that became known as the Make My Day Law, named for the celebrated scene in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film. … “Our law says you can use any force, including deadly force, to defend your home.”

It has been an unqualified success. Since the Make My Day Law came into force, burglary has declined by almost half in Oklahoma. In 1987, there were 58,333 cases; in 2000, just 31,661.

But as Eugene Volokh points out, burglary also declined by almost half in the rest of the US as well, so there is no reason to believe that the law deterred burglars.

And then there is Mark Steyn, who writes:

But the trouble is that this kind of burglary – the kind most likely to go “wrong”—is now the norm in Britain. In America, it’s called a “hot” burglary—a burglary that takes place when the homeowners are present—or a “home invasion”, which is a much more accurate term. Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are “hot” burglaries, and in my part of the world it’s statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it’s more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police’s petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

Now, it is true that in the US, about 10% of burglaries are “hot”, while in England and Wales it is more like 50%, but Steyn has added his own fabricated statistics. The part about the rate being zero in New Hampshire was made up by Steyn, as was the part about the hot burglary rate in England going up. Steyn doesn’t even bother to give a single example of the police pursuing citizens who resist criminals, he just asserts it again and again. I am concerned that Steyn’s misinformation might frighten people out of defending themselves. And, no, “home invasion” is not a more accurate term. A “home invasion” is a domestic robbery, not a “hot” burglary.

Steyn continues:

In New Hampshire, there are few burglaries because there’s a high rate of gun ownership.

Not so. In fact, in the US, higher gun ownership tends to lead to more burglaries. (Presumably because guns are valuable loot.)

And then there is Joyce Lee Malcolm. She produces a whole list of false claims. She uses fabricated quotes to claim, falsely, that the right to self defence has been practically eliminated from British law. And she writes:

Crime has rocketed. A UN study in 2002 of 18 developed countries placed England and Wales at the top of the Western world’s crime league.

Now Malcolm is well aware that the British Crime Survey shows that crime has declined, so she is deliberately misleading her readers here.

Of course the cynical genius of the Telegraph‘s campaign is that if they are able to instill into enough people the false belief that the law does not allow self defence, the only fix is to to re-enact the current law to convince people that self defence is legal. And then, having created the problem, the Telegraph will take credit for solving it.

Just as in the cases of Gullible Gunners part I, II, III and IV, American pro-gun bloggers have lapped this up. They all seem convinced that self defence is not lawful in the UK. There are too many to list; some examples are Kevin Baker, Glenn Reynolds, Dave Kopel and Jim Treacher.


  1. #1 Tim Lambert
    December 28, 2004

    Kevin P, the numbers in the Media Research Center study are not hard numbers. Why on earth should anyone trust their classification of whether a story is pro-gun or not?

  2. #2 Kevin P.
    December 28, 2004

    Tim, note that MRC finds that in many cases, the number of “neutral” stories is near the number of “anti-gun” stories. From my own experience in listening to media coverage over the last few years, this seems reasonable to me: About equal numbers of neutral and anti-gun stories, with a very small number of pro-gun stories. This study was conducted in 2000; since then I will say that the coverage has improved, but only slightly. In the recently concluded debate about the death of the assault weapons ban, all the old bad habits came back.

    Also, note that they did not classify a story as anti-gun until the number of anti-gun statements exceeded the pro-gun statements by a factor of 1.5 (and vice-versa)

    If you feel that MRC’s classification scheme is incorrect, it should be simple to find a subset of stories, follow their methodology and see if it is reasonable. To my knowledge, nobody has attempted to seriously dispute their findings.

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    December 28, 2004

    I pretty sure that their classification scheme is incorrect. Whether a story is anti-gun or not is a subjective decision. If a different person did the classifying, they would get different results. These are not hard numbers.

    I did my own analysis of the stories about the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law. The claims of anti-gun bias in the reporting were not well founded.

  4. #4 Jadegold
    December 29, 2004

    Kevin P. makes a rather fundamental error; he assumes all conservatives own guns while all liberals do not. This is a huge leap of logic.

    In fact, gun ownership in the US cuts across many demographics. Additionally, gun ownership isn’t as widespread as Kevin P. believes and tends to be heavily concentrated among a relatively small number of middle class, rural, white men. It is estimated that 10% of US adults own 80% of the guns. Most gun purchasers are people who already own one or many more firearms.

    Kevin P. also failed to answer my question: why is it that conservatives are underrepresented in college faculties?

  5. #5 ChrisPer
    December 29, 2004

    Jadefold, are you smoking something wierd? You completely mischaracterise Kevin’s broad correlation. Please read his posts and prove that he assumes any such thing.

    Kevin would agree that ownership cuts across many demographics; given claims that 50% of all households own guns it would be hard not to have lots of Democrat voters as gun owners.

    Then you immediately contradict yourself claiming its a small number of middle class rural white men that own the guns.

    And perhaps the reason conservatives are under-represented in faculties is partly the same reason they are under-represented in jail…

  6. #6 Kevin Baker
    December 29, 2004

    Scott Church wrote:

    I have 12 and 20 gage pump shotguns, a 30-06 deer rifle, a hand made 6.5 Mannlicher Shonar rifle (which is a collector’s piece), and a 9mm semi-auto WWII era Lugar that was carried by a German officer during that war.

    Um, that would be a Mannlicher-Schoenauer and a Luger.

    I don’t doubt that you shoot, but I wouldn’t call you an enthusiast.

  7. #7 Kevin Baker
    December 29, 2004

    How would you classify this news piece? The link to the video is still good, so you can watch it yourself rather than take my word for it.

  8. #8 Scott Church
    December 29, 2004

    Kevin P. You are right about my own status with guns, and those of the liberals I know, as not necessarily being representative of the larger population. Given my own poor fit with your equation, my reaction to it was visceral. But the real issue is your larger points, which if I understand them correctly, are as follows;

    1) Conservative Republicans are the most educated sub-group of the population.

    You cite the 1994-2002 General Social Surveys for this, but the link you provided went only to someone else quoting Jim Lindgren. I searched the General Social Survey databases for the data to support this and found none. Nor did I find proper support for it anywhere else where the data were actually made available. Even in Lindgren is right, I fail to see how two-word tests constitute a valid measure of literacy and education level. Furthermore, Lindgren’s remarks make no discrimination to what sort of degrees were involved in his GSS figures or to where they came from. There is a considerable difference for instance, between an MS in Economics, or Statistics from MIT, and a PhD in “Church Growth” from a small unaccredited college (the former pastor of a very large, extreme fundamentalist church near my home has one of these). A more valid measure of politically relevant literacy and/or education level would be provided by a direct test of voter issue awareness on a wide range of domestic and international issues. This year, just prior to the Nov. U.S. presidential election, just such a test was conducted this year by the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland. The test was large, well characterized, and statistically significant with standard errors of less than 3 percent. Scores per question varied, but on average, fewer than one in every 3 or 4 Bush voters could even correctly identify his positions on a wide range of issues, much less discuss any of them. The corresponding figures for Kerry voters ranged from 65-85 percent. The test methodology is here and the the findings report is here. Personally, this strikes me as a much better test.

    2) “I am smarter than you” comparisons are not useful.

    I agree completely. But smart vs. stupid isn’t the issue – active information seeking is. The smartest guy on earth, as measured by two-word tests and degrees of an unspecified nature from unspecified schools, will be functionally illiterate if he believes whatever he’s told by ideologues and does not have active research habits of his own. Note that the above test results I linked do not reflect I.Q. or attained education level, but the degree to which people have active information seeking and verification habits as opposed to to running off of opinion or passion. I could introduce you to countless people, family and friends, who have college degrees and GPA’s that are quite admirable, yet who haven’t set foot in a library to investigate something that concerns them in many years.

    3) Compared to the ordinary gun-toting guy on the street, Ivory-Tower academics know little about the realities of gun ownership and its public impacts.

    The sort of issues covered in the NAS Report – gun ownership and crime as related to public health and safety – are ultimately driven by State and Federal data on crime (particularly violent crime), gun ownership, gun theft and trafficing, domestic violence, suicide, shall-issue laws, demographic data, etc. This data is hardly “ivory-tower” – It comes directly from the front lines, and the best research available based on it has been analyzed with proper data and metadata characterization and statistical methods that have shown themselves to be reliable in countless other fields of research. And they do not support the usual NRA doctrine. If anything on this earth is truly Ivory-Tower, it’s being paid huge honorariums by the Olin Foundation, the NRA, and other Right-Wing special interests to sit in an office at Yale, collect carefully chosen subsets of this data, and then fuss with input parameters to poorly designed multiple regression models until one get just the right amount of data clustering and spurious correlations needed to get the results their Right-Wing benefactors are paying for – e.g. The John Lott School of Econometrics.

  9. #9 Kevin Baker
    December 29, 2004

    Unfortunately, Scott, as both the NAS and Wright-Rossi studies seem to indicate, the Ivory-Tower academic studies are equally skewed by Left-Wing benefactors, resulting in the same unreliable studies, only biased the other way.

    Recall, there have been two meta-analyses of all of the gun control research to date, separated by twenty years, and they both conclude that the overwhelming bulk of the research done proves nothing useful. They not only do not support the NRA doctrine, they don’t support the Brady/VPC/et. al. doctrine either.

    Don’t you find that fascinating? I do.

  10. #10 ChrisPer
    December 29, 2004

    Scott, I like the way you argue.

    We might make a useful distinction between academics who use their critical faculties and do good research on the gun issue, and the ones who let the climate of ‘liberal’ values direct their research goals.

    The data you correctly describe as coming from the front lines suffers from a selection problem – they collect what is collectable, and they only count harms. Benefits accrue to individuals without headline-grabbing payoffs. The costs of misuse are headline-grabbing. We combine this kind of data – ignoring benefits – with a values-driven climate in academia. The result is obvious; research even if done well is not balanced in its social effect. In Australia, the Auustralian Institute of Criminology is paid by the Howard Government (who spent all that money taking useful, legal guns away). The AIC data appears to be well gathered, their low-level analysis rational and fair; yet the AIC senior management have staged media stunts to misrepresent the results as ‘Buyback Saves Lives’, and the media have uncritically accepted this.

    By contrast, look at the case of cars and access to private transport. The benefits are similarly accrued to individuals, but for obvious reasons few road safety activists deny that the benefits exist or that they exceed the costs.

    The data don’t support either extreme pro-gun or anti-gun cases; they seem to show that the effect of new gun laws is negligible or close to it. Kevin finds that fascinating; but I have another fascinating question.

    If the overall evidence is that violence as a whole is little affected by gun laws, why have we no mass shootings in Australia since 1996? My belief is that this piece of data may indicate that the influence of media coverage on violence is far stronger than they have been prepared to acknowledge.

  11. #11 Scott Church
    December 29, 2004

    Kevin Baker, Yes, Mannlicher-Schoenauer and Luger. Sorry ’bout that, I was in a bit of a hurry when I typed it.

    Regarding your statement about the NAS and Wright-Rossi studies, it might actually be relevant had I said that ivory-tower studies were not skewed by “Left-Wing” benefactors, academics, or anyone else. Of course, I said no such thing. What I said was that the available evidence and the best studies based on them (as opposed to “ivory-tower” studies, of which I know of none) did not support Right-Wing benefactors and ideologues, and in point of fact they do not. What the data do say is that the evidence does not support concluding that handgun prevalence either adds to, or detracts from, crime rates, and that criminal access to handguns is not independent of legal gun ownership as so many pro-gun advocates assume (“if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns…”). There is also a strong case to be made that handgun prevalence does contribute to violent crime fatalities, simply because shootings tend to be more lethal than stabbings or bludgeonings.

    Furthermore, as I clearly pointed out, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with “ivory-tower” academics, “Left-Wing” or otherwise. The data comes from State and Federal crime, shall-issue law, and demographic data among other things, and the most thorough analyses of this this body of data can be found in places like the ATF Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative Reports. The gun trace reports for instance, which bear directly on the “only criminals will have guns” bit, can be found here for the year 2000. In addition to the NAS Report, you might also check out the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (the Year 2003 Report is available here) or this 1993 NAS Report on violence. Please note that the actual sources cited in all of these reports use data that comes right off the street and from the precinct headquarters – not the Faculty Lounge at Harvard.

    Unless we are prepared to believe that the FBI, the ATF, and similar law-enforcement agencies are all populated by ivory-tower academics who get police departments to fabricate data for them, the whole “Left-Wing” Academics bit is a red herring, and I’m not buying it. Those who think otherwise should produce the data that says so and demonstrate how it has been skewed by supposedly Left-Wing academics, in precisely what manner, and how a corrected methodology would reach different conclusions. Note that this has been done, and done extensively, in regard to Right-Wing academics such as John Lott.

    ChrisPer, Can you provide me an example of someone who let a “climate of liberal values” direct his or her research goals? The sources I have been citing have no such connections. I cannot speak for Australia, but here in the U.S. there are no examples of this I have seen. Tim can, and has, spoken to the situation in Australia. The best analyses of the U.S. situation have in fact weighed alleged benefits, and almost without exception, the firearm-crime studies that were cherry picked and/or based on obviously flawed methodology have been mainly on the Right – again, John Lott being a classic case in point. So I do not see the sampling problem you speak of, or the evidence of massive Liberal conflation. Where is all of this in the data?

  12. #12 ChrisPer
    December 29, 2004

    Scott, if you are willing to read it, try for my essay on this matter.

    IMHO, the ‘climate of liberal values’ creates underlying assumptions in the research that frame what people look at. For instance, the idea that ‘social conditions’ cause crime means that ways of looking at crime in research avoid questions of individual responsibility and choice of action. In my experience of deadly industrial safety environments, only strong and continuing emphasis on individual acts and choices can build an effective safety culture; yet the hidden assumption of much of the literature is that guns in some way cause violent acts by availability alone.

    We see study after study focused on contrasts in laws that entirely neglect the idea that a law operates via a mechanism on individual choice. For instance, they refer to ‘tightening’ without saying what was tightened, what were the effects on choices people made, what were the intended and unintended responses. Example would be the good Professor Ozanne-Smith et al 2004.

    I was thrilled when I started reading on this topic to find how much there was; and disappointed as I realised how bad a lot of it is. The extended ad hominems of Kates et al on ‘gun-aversive dyslexia’ (for example) were a disappointment. However, the way the activists misuse even the good stuff convinces me that being aligned with some nitwits is better than accepting the oppressive laws drafted to make smart people feel morally righteous. Prohibition saved a lot of lives – didn’t mean it was right or wrong in the end.

  13. #13 Tim Lambert
    December 29, 2004

    Kevin B, I would classify that story as a beat-up. The media often tries to create a controversy because that attracts viewers/sells newspapers. It strikes me as pretty well the same thing as the Daily Telegraph‘s campaign I commented upon in my original post.

  14. #14 Carl Jarrett
    December 29, 2004

    ChrisPer, you are demonstrating a poor level of knowledge of Sociology. Humans are social animals and are heavily influenced by social conditions. At the community-level, 95% of criminal behavior can be by social conditions and social structure. The availability of guns is part of the social structure. It is rather foolish to try to focus on only 5% of the source of variance, as you want to do.

  15. #15 JadeGold
    December 29, 2004

    I fear ChrisPer has been hitting the crack pipe. Crime is a function of a number of social conditions including economic and educaional factors, among others. Trying to foist it off on ‘individual responsibility and choice’ is akin to trying to blame sickness and disease on ‘ill body humours.’

    Guns, in and of themselves, don’t cause crime. But there is no disputing the fact guns tend to make crime more violent and more deadly. Further, guns greatly enhance the ability and feasibility of violent crime.

    Moreover, there is exactly zero evidence guns as a self-defense tool –or crime deterrent–offsets crime or even accidental injury or death.

  16. #16 Kevin Baker
    December 30, 2004

    That piece was a one-off, not part of a continuing series dedicated to getting legislation passed…

    Or was it?

    The Telegraph has been documenting evidence of what has happened. The MSNBC piece was a fear-mongering effort to strike terror into people over what might happen, using images that had nothing to do with the topic at hand, which was the raffle of a hunting rifle and a .22 rimfire.

    This was the most blatant piece of propaganda I’ve seen since Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne duped (?) CNN into portraying that “post-ban” “assault rifles” were somehow less powerful that “pre-ban” weapons of the same design and caliber.

    The Telegraph is certainly trying to affect public opinion – but AT LEAST THEY’RE OPEN ABOUT IT.

  17. #17 ChrisPer
    December 30, 2004

    Jadegold, no not crack just a nice Coonawarra shiraz.

    Are you going to tell me that a murder is caused by social conditions without choice being involved? That’s good, it removes me from responsibility for shooting a burglar in the back in ‘self-defence’ should the situation arise.

  18. #18 Tim Lambert
    December 30, 2004

    Kevin B, the Telegraph is not documenting what has happened. It is lying about what the law is in order to scare people.

  19. #19 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    Tim Lambert wrote:

    I pretty sure that their classification scheme is incorrect. Whether a story is anti-gun or not is a subjective decision. If a different person did the classifying, they would get different results. These are not hard numbers.

    But if you read through the MRC report, it describes the classification scheme in the second paragraph:

    Methodology. To assess the tilt of stories, analysts counted the number of pro- and anti-gun statements by reporters in each category. Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were deemed neutral. Among statements recorded as anti-gun rights: violent crime occurs because of guns, not criminals; and gun control prevents crime. Categorized as arguments for gun rights: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns are the problem; Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms; right-to-carry concealed weapons laws caused a drop in crime.

    In 653 gun policy stories, those advocating more gun control outnumbered stories opposing gun control by 357 to 36, or a ratio of almost 10 to 1, while 260 were categorized as neutral. Anti-gun soundbites were twice as frequent as pro-gun ones-412 to 209-while 471 soundbites were neutral. Gun control advocates appeared on the morning shows as guests on 82 occasions, compared to just 37 for gun-rights activists and 58 neutral spokesmen.

    As can be seen, the classification scheme can in fact be objectively applied. If a different person did the classifying, I doubt that their results would be hugely different. Of course, you can dispute the classification scheme itself, but it seems reasonable on its face.

  20. #20 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    95% of criminal behavior can be by social conditions and social structure … Trying to foist it off on ‘individual responsibility and choice’ is akin to trying to blame sickness and disease on ‘ill body humours.’

    So this means that people who are poor or black are really a criminal class regardless of their individual choice? Seriously, is this what you believe? And you accuse conservatives and others of being racist!

  21. #21 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    I like ChrisPer’s motive for self-defense: The gun made me do it!

  22. #22 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    Jadegold wrote:

    Kevin P. makes a rather fundamental error; he assumes all conservatives own guns while all liberals do not.

    I said no such thing.

    But you knew that, of course.

  23. #23 Carl Jarrett
    December 30, 2004

    Kevin, P – Jadegold said you “assume” those things, she didn’t say you stated it. She does essentially hit on a correct assumption you do make. You assume that there is a statistically significant difference in gun ownership between conservatives and liberals and that the difference does significantly influence their level of knowledge about guns. Neither you nor any of your buddies have demonstrated that such significantly different levels exist.

  24. #24 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    Scott: Regarding the GSS survey, I am not going to debate you on it. As I said before, I consider myself a (small “l”) libertarian, not a conservative. I have no bone in that fight, and frankly, I have no interest in that entire debate. To me, it seems like a sophisticated version of “mine is bigger than yours”.

    You make the interesting point that education and degrees are not the same thing as active seeking of information and the truth. This is of course true. I am guessing that you are implying that people who share your viewpoints more actively seek out truth. This is, of course, your perspective. If I may gently suggest, your assumption that your side is the “better” side may be ultimately self-defeating, because it makes you less willing to pay attention to the other side.

  25. #25 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    I am not sure if JadeGold is a man or a woman. In past blog comments, JadeGold has claimed a variety of things, many of which have been suspect.

  26. #26 Kevin Baker
    December 30, 2004

    Tim wrote:“Kevin B, the Telegraph is not documenting what has happened. It is lying about what the law is in order to scare people.”

    And that’s where we disagree. The Telegraph has:

    A) Illustrated numerous cases of people being brutally attacked in their homes – generally elderly people who are physically overmatched by their attacker(s)

    B) Illustrated cases of people being prosecuted or threatened with prosecution (including time spent in jail, legal expenses, charges hanging over their heads for extended periods before being dropped) for acts of self-defense, because while the law is what it is, how that law is interpreted apparently varies quite widely. You call this “lying about what the law is.” I call this “pointing out the realities.”

    The Telegraph is attempting to reform the law so that it is uniformly interpreted, and reduces the burden on the defender. That’s a burden you don’t recognize, or dismiss. In fact, you blame the Telegraph for the public’s misunderstanding of the law. However I pointed out back when this “gullible gunner” controversy started out that the media was part and parcel of the effort to convince the public that they should not defend themselves because it was legally risky, and that the only legitimate use of force belonged in the hands of government actors. They did so in the manner in which such reports were made, and the one that generated this entire discussion is a perfect example. The story simply stated that a man’s home was broken into by thugs, that at least one thug had a gun, that he had grabbed a sword with which to defend himself, that he had killed on of his attackers, and that he was going to jail for doing so. With no more information than that, what conclusion is the reader to draw? When faced with numerous stories, all told the same way?

    The difference is that the Telegraph has decided to convince the public that they can do something about that. You are disgusted by that effort. I applaud it.

    Again, I repeat: The Telegraph is trying to affect public opinion, but at least they do so openly.

  27. #27 Kevin P.
    December 30, 2004

    After making the above remark, I thought that it was perhaps a tad rude to make implications about someone’s gender, so I Googled JadeGold (single word) to see if I could figure out the gender.

    Well, I was ultimately unsuccessful, but I will say that he/she/it appears to be one of the Internet’s favorite personalities. This one made me laugh:

  28. #28 Scott Church
    December 31, 2004

    Kevin P. Yes, I agree. “Mine is bigger than yours” arguments are unproductive, and I’m as anxious to move beyond that as you. I only pursued that tangent in the first place because as near as I could tell, you were arguing that liberal, “ivory-tower” academics were somehow less informed about guns and gun-related public health issues than the average gun owner on the street. That is a “mine is bigger than yours” argument, and one makes a clever end run around the relevant science – which, incidently, we seem to be avoiding at this thread. My intention was not to imply that my side is “better”, or that I am unwilling to read opposing points of view. You are quite right to assert that being unwilling to do so would create many problems for me. I’m simply evaluating what I have read and seen in pro-gun studies, editorial, and commentary. Nearly all of it is based either on endless opining about “liberals” or the “liberal media”, opinions about studies based on science being flawed (without specifics), or rabble rousing patriotic speeches (“you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!!!… etc.). Impassioned opinions are fine, as are opinions that someone else’s study is biased or lacking a suitable emphasis on what one personally wants to see – this seems to be a favorite arguing tactic of ChrisPer.

    But opinions are poor replacements for demonstrated conclusions, and I call ’em like I see ’em. Please note that scholars on the pro-gun side who have attempted not to opine about, but to demonstrate that more guns make for less crime (for instance) have been soundly discredited – once again, the most obvious example being John Lott. Note that Lott has not been rejected by the NAS and others because they didn’t like his views or were of the opinion that his study sucked – they did so because others replicated his analysis using his own dataset and showed that his numbers were clustered, his social variables poorly designed, and that his results vanished when a single data point was removed (Black and Nagin, J. 1998. J. Legal Studies 27: 209-219). Note also that Lott has a demonstrated history of cherry picking, and even fabricating data, as Tim has repeatedly shown at this site, and with citated sources. Lott has even been shown to have used incorrect code in his runs.

    Note that these criticisms are specific and rooted in data and methodology. Anyone who wants to can replicate them and show how the inclusion of other relevant data and/or alternative analyses would have produced different and more robust results. Contrast this with the arguments of ChrisPer, most of which seem to be based on opinions that someone else’s work was “spin” or “fraudulent”, yet without specifics, or attacks on straw men. And yes Chris, I did read your article at C.L.A.S.S. – though in fairness I have only had time to check a few of your sources so far and have not yet gotten through the whole thing so this statement is based only on what I have seen so far. I did note though that you claimed there that the attacks on Lott were “principally ad hominem” that got “wide media support” because he is funded by Olin. Note however that the criticisms I made of him above (and cited by the way) have nothing to do with any of that. His numbers and methods are wrong, and if you think otherwise you’re welcome to duplicate them and show that they aren’t, or show where the published analyses of others who have refuted his methods are flawed as well. Note that Tim has quite a few very specific examples of Lott’s analysis flaws right here at this site, and you could do worse producing demonstrated refutations of his specifics.

    Guys, we could belabor this whole “liberal” vs. “conservative”, or “liberal media” thing to death until the end of time and get nowhere, if for no other reason, because too much of it is rooted in highly emotional perceptions. If you want to make your case, then you need to do more than argue “liberal bias” – you need to demonstrate where this alleged bias has actually altered the results, and produce the data that shows this, the way the NAS and Lott’s critics have done. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

    One last note, my personal life is getting a little consuming right now (Holidays and all) so I will probably have to drop out of this thread for awhile. But I will note your further comments here and in the similar threads, and ChrisPer, I promise I will finish reviewing your article. One last note Kevin, I did not mean to ignore your remarks about conservative vs. libertarian – point taken. I should note however that here in the States where I live (I can’t tell yet where you live), libertarian usually falls off on the Right side of the fence with a resounding thud. The Cato Institute ( is a libertarian think take – one of the wealthiest in the world today – and it is a decidedly vociferous vehicle for Far-Right platforms on a wide range of subjects. So at least where I live, the distinction is often academic.

    Anyway,if I don’t get back here for awhile, thanks to you both for a stimulating discussion on an important issue.


  29. #29 ChrisPer
    December 31, 2004

    Scott, thanks for your reply.

    Guilty as charged. I do criticise articles for not covering things that should IMHO be covered.

    I accept what has been reported against Lott. My article at CLASS was written a couple of years ago, and at that time the main criticisms around the discussion boards (remember before blogs?) were over the Olin funding or just plain abuse.

    It is nice to find a few people who do actually address the merits of an argument, and I hope to learn from your examples.

  30. #30 Kevin P.
    December 31, 2004

    Scott, I don’t think that anyone here is arguing that John Lott is anything other than an untrustworthy researcher. Tim Lambert has conclusively demonstrated that, long before you came along. You are arguing against someone other than the people on this thread.

    Regarding my “ivory tower” argument, I disagree with you that it is a “mine is bigger than yours” argument. Rather, it is a “let me pull you down to reality on the street” argument. It was prompted by Tim Lambert’s claim that neighborhoods with high gun ownership are associated with a higher rate of burglaries – in other words, that high gun ownership causes higher burglaries. He also quoted some academic who crunched some numbers and found this correlation. I, and many other people, found this wholly incompatible with what we know about real life and gun ownership in the States. You can follow the whole train of argument above.

    Hence my “ivory tower” claim. I am a chemical engineer who works in a real world manufacturing environment, has done his fair share of statistical work on the factory floor, and is well aware of the high potential for finding out what you want to find. Science has to comport with observed reality. You can’t just crunch numbers in a university and expect that the people in the real world will accept them blindly, especially when your findings contradict what these people experience in reality.

  31. #31 ChrisPer
    January 1, 2005

    Good statement Kevin P.

  32. #32 Carl Jarrett
    January 2, 2005

    Science does not have to “comport” with observed reality. Kevin P., science, especially social science often contradicts what people experience in reality because what they experience is biased and skewed by their perspective. Social science involves the systematic collection of data in ways that are designed to reduce the many known biases that people have when they experience the world. Do you think that individual job satisfaction is a good predictor of individual job performance? If you do, you’d be wrong. Do you think that outgoing and extroverted people make good call-center employees? If you do, you’d be wrong. Do you think that increasing an employee’s salary is an effective long-term motivational tool? If you do, you’d be wrong. There are literally hundreds of examples in social science that show that ‘what people experience’ is simply wrong. That’s why we do science. If simple ‘observing reality’ was all that was needed, we wouldn’t need to engage in science.

  33. #33 ChrisPer
    January 2, 2005

    Carl, all true but ‘observing’ includes measurement and design of measurement so you seem to be creating afalse distinction. You would be making a case if you said that ‘common sense’ doesn’t necessarily ‘comport’ with science; but why the hell should we not just note that correlation is not causation, and the claimed cause-effect relationship is as yet unproven?

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