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Numerically Challenged Journalist Wages Weak Attack on NRA, Kleck

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nearly a century ago, the great jazz drummer Warren "Baby" Dodds was asked for his opinion of other drummers of his day. Dodds, a perfectionist, but also a gentleman, simply said, "All who are drumming aren't drummers."

That brings us to the journalist Michael Allen, who, on Monday, took advantage of the fact that anyone with a computer and an internet connection can write just about anything for the entire online world to see.

In this instance, Allen's "reporting" was aimed at the NRA and award-winning Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck.

"The NRA has been pushing the claim that guns in America are more likely to be used for self-defense than to commit a crime," Allen wrote. Citing a widely discredited, anti-gun website, Allen added, "According to MediaMatters.org, the NRA likely uses discredited research to advance their claim that 'firearms are used more than two million times a year for personal protection.'"

The research in question is, of course, the landmark survey by Kleck and Marc Gertz, which found that Americans had used guns for defensive purposes more than two million times in 1993, a number roughly four times the number of violent crimes committed with guns that year. 

The Kleck-Gertz study is hardly "discredited." To the contrary, it was reviewed by the leading anti-gun criminologist at the time, the late Marvin Wolfgang, and Wolfgang's words speak for themselves:

"I am as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country.  If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police.  I hate guns--ugly, nasty instruments designed to kill people. . . .

"What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator. . . .

"I have to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this article and this research. . . . (T)he methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear.  I cannot further debate it."

Allen, about as good at math and criminology as he is at journalism, wondered, "How could 2.5 million self-defense incidents happen each year, which would be more than 20 times the number of people being shot?"

The answer, as Allen would have known if he had read the Kleck-Gertz study like Professor Wolfgang did, is that in most self-defense uses of firearms, no shots are fired.  As Wolfgang explained, "Defensive gun usage, as reported in the current study by Kleck and Gertz, includes mostly robbery and burglary, in which offenses there is little 'mutual combat' compared to homicides."

Gun control supporters like Allen try to understate the defensive uses of guns, because they know that their desired nationwide ban on the private possession of handguns, semi-automatic rifles and the ammunition magazines both types of firearms use will be more challenging so long as most Americans not only support the right to have firearms for defensive purposes, but realize that they are often used for precisely that purpose.

To gun control supporters' dismay, the math, the criminological evidence, and unbiased journalism, not to mention the Constitution, are not on their side.

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