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The "Junkiest" Junk Science That Taxpayers' Money Can Buy

Friday, October 9, 2009

Now, more than at any other time in anyone's memory, the federal government is in no position to waste taxpayer dollars on gun control advocacy "research."  Nevertheless, the National Institutes of Health recently gave anti-gun researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine $639,586 to conduct a survey intended to prove that possessing a gun doesn't benefit assault victims. 

Criminologist Gary Kleck calls the resulting survey "the very epitome of junk science in the guns-and-violence field—poor quality research designed to arrive at an ideologically predetermined conclusion." 

Here's how it was done.  The Pennsylvania researchers surveyed only those assault victims who were shot, limited in the last six months of the survey to victims who were fatally shot.  It did not consider the far more numerous gun owners who used guns for self-defense successfully without being shot, nor crimes that were not even attempted because the criminals feared that prospective victims might be armed. 

The survey was further limited to residents of urban Philadelphia who, according to the research, "were significantly more often Hispanic, more frequently working in high-risk occupations, less educated, and had a greater frequency of prior arrest," compared to the rest of the population.  Victims who were shot in Philly, but who were not from Philly, were excluded too.  The survey considered a victim to be "armed" even if his gun was "in a nearby vehicle, or in another place." 

As Kleck says, "none of the evidence presented by the authors actually has any relevance to the issue of the effectiveness of defensive gun use, for the simple reason that at no point do they ever compare crime victims who used guns defensively with victims who did not."  Kleck notes that other published research "reached precisely the opposite conclusions" reached by the NIH-funded survey. 

What Kleck had in mind were the results of the federal government's annual National Crime Victimization Survey, covering tens of thousands of assaults.  Kleck and others have reviewed those surveys and found that people who use guns to defend against assaults are less likely to be injured than people who use other means, or no means, of protection.
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