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June 26, 2017

New Study Compiles Worst Flaws of Anti-Gun Research

And the winner of the most absurd anti-gun study goes to: “Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990–2015.”

This report starts with the ridiculous premise that the criminal misuse of firearms is a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue. As we have explained here before, firearms are not a disease. Americans enjoy a Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense. In addition, there are legal, healthy, legitimate ways to use a firearm that tens of millions of law-abiding Americans enjoy every day.

A firearm becomes a danger to society when misused by a criminal, not when legally sold by a federally regulated retailer or legally purchased by a citizen exercising their constitutional right. Firearm violence is a criminal justice problem, not a public health problem.

Based on this faulty premise, the authors apply a model to the problems of violence that is better suited to diseases, the “Host-Agent-Vector-Environment” model. In this model, the host is the victims of firearm violence, the agent is the gun and ammunition, the vector is the “firearm manufacturers, dealers, and the industry lobby”.

The Mirriam-Webster definition of agency is “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” By assigning agency to an inanimate object, the authors are arguing that the object itself is acting.

As if calling crime a disease and a gun a thing capable of independent action is not absurd enough, the report actually gets worse.

Essentially, it pulls manufacturing trends from ATF data to examine the types of firearms and calibers that are rising or declining in popularity. Then, it looks at tracing data and concludes “Trends in firearm manufacturing reveal a shift toward more-lethal weapons, and this trend is also observed in gun purchases and crime gun traces.”

What the study fails to note is the most important trend: more guns are being produced and sold, while violent crime rates are steadily declining. Instead, it looks at the share of certain types of firearms sold and remains silent on crime rates altogether.

It examines ATF’s tracing data. Putting aside for a moment the limitations on tracing data, the authors ignore the entire concept of Time to Crime. So the time periods for the purchase of the traced “crime guns” and the time periods for the market trends described are completely different time periods. The guns in the traces were purchased from a licensed retailer after a criminal background check on average 11 years before the trends studied here began. The authors are arguing that the current trends in manufacturing are driving criminals’ choices of firearms over a decade earlier. Forget about the lack of technology for functional smart guns or microstamping, the authors are implying our industry has access to time machines.

Perhaps time to crime is too advanced a concept for the researchers. Of course, they also demonstrate an embarrassing lack of understanding of the types and calibers of firearms, such as making blanket assumptions such as pistols are smaller and more easily concealed than revolvers. The authors spend some time making arguments about the lethality of various calibers, citing other shoddy research to support spurious claims that show the lack of knowledge of firearms.

Rather than drawing on gun control groups such as Everytown, which is cited for its help in reviewing the study, the authors may have been better off working with the industry to learn about these products and their features. They may have also learned more about the industry than the number of manufacturers. Naturally they argue that because this is not an industry with hundreds of thousands of major manufacturers, the companies should be “convinced” to use smart gun technology. Just a little research into the industry would have revealed the adoption of such technology is not a matter of convincing stubborn manufacturers – rather, it is not in use because, despite decades of research and development work, it does not exist in a way that could be reliably used on a firearm.

It’s interesting, none of these issues with the report made it into the study’s limitations section. There they cite other completely valid problems with the methodology and data used that we won’t dedicate more space to here. To read the whole absurdity and the winner of this year’s worst anti-gun research award, download the study here.

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