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Those Poor Anti-Gun Researchers

Friday, October 16, 2015

Those Poor Anti-Gun Researchers

In just the last 10 years alone, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation has donated about $40 million to anti-gun organizations, to conduct research, generate propaganda and develop strategies promoting gun control. That alone ought to be reason enough to toss Mike Stobbe's recent article lamenting the supposed lack of funds available to researchers who produce "studies" promoting gun control.

However, there's also the fact that the (Michael) Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, which is responsible for a large percentage of gun control-promoting research, states on its website, "Past and present funders [of the Bloomberg School] include: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The David Bohnett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Funders' Collaborative for Gun Violence Prevention, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The Overbrook Foundation, The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Harold Simmons Foundation."

The California Wellness Foundation funds the anti-gun Law Center Against Violence and the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The VPC also receives funds from the Joyce Foundation and, according to one report, from the (George) Soros Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which described itself as “a catalyst for change,” long before presidential candidate Barack Obama appropriated the “change” label for his own purposes. And, as Stobbe notes, this year “Everytown for Gun Safety . . . made grants of more than $500,000 to independent scientists.”

Despite the fact that anti-gun researchers are rolling in the dough, Stobbe says they are “becoming an endangered species,” because in 1996, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using taxpayer dollars to fund research advocating gun control. Ignoring the vast sums lavished on anti-gun researchers by the foundations, Stobbe bemoans “limitations on government research and funding” and, astonishingly, claims “private sources have not filled the breach” and “funding for basic gun violence research and data collection remains minuscule.”

Stobbe’s favorable view toward anti-gun research is evident not only in his characterization of the anti-gun research industry as withering on the vine, but also in the factoids he presents to justify providing it gobs of the taxpayers’ money.

For example, Stobbe says, “30 years ago . . . firearm homicide rates were climbing to what were described as epidemic proportions.” In reality, however, the firearm murder rate has declined 42 percent since the 1980s. It was an absurd exaggeration when gun control supporters characterized firearm murders as an “epidemic” in the 1980s, and it’s an even more absurd exaggeration when they do so today.

Manipulating statistics like the anti-gun researchers whose supposed virtues he extols, Stobbe says “gun-inflicted injuries rank among the top five killers of people ages 1 to 64.” But Stobbe’s “ages 1 to 64” excludes infants and seniors, who account for most deaths due to disease. Even so, the combined total of firearm-related suicides, fatal accidents, and criminal, self-defense, and law enforcement–related homicides account for four percent of all deaths among persons in America ages 1-64, and the figure drops to one percent if persons of all ages are considered.

Stobbe adds, "[i]n an average year, [firearm-related deaths] account for far more deaths than traditional public health targets like influenza and food poisoning." However, comparing guns to diseases is apples-to-oranges because virtually 100 percent of deaths due to disease are unintentional, whereas only 1.5 percent of firearm-related deaths are. Moreover, food poisoning and the flu account for a fraction of disease-related deaths. Comparing guns to diseases is inappropriate, but in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, diseases accounted for 71 times as many deaths as did firearms.

Stobbe says, “Studies found that having a gun in the home tripled the risk that someone there would be murdered, and dramatically increased the chance of a suicide occurring as well.” However, the 1993 homicide study to which Stobbe alludes used a sample demographically not representative of the community in which the study was conducted, and it found that security devices such as deadbolt locks, window bars, and dogs did not increase home security and that controlled access to homes was a risk factor for homicide. As criminologist Gary Kleck put it, a similarly distorted study would have concluded that having medicine increases one’s risk of disease, rather than offering protection against it.

In the 1992 suicide study to which Stobbe alluded, the only suicides counted were those that took place in people’s homes, because, the study’s author cavalierly admitted, “Most suicides committed with guns occur [in the home].” Despite the focus on firearms, the study nevertheless found that suicide factors with greater risks included illicit drug use, a history of domestic violence, living alone, alcohol abuse, and taking prescription psychotropic medication.

Stobbe says that anti-gun researchers “ideally would like to know the exact number, type, and distribution of guns, as well as who owns them and where people got them. They’d like to know how and where they’re stored.” No doubt they would. And President Obama has called upon Congress to provide the researchers with $10 million to do so. “We’re ready,” Stobbe quotes a CDC official as saying.

To get their way, however, they will need a Congress dominated by people who share their anti-gun goals. If we do our part before and on Election Day, we can ensure that anti-gun junk science does indeed become an “endangered species” and tax-payer dollars are spent on legitimate scientific inquiry designed to promote the public’s health, not to promote a political agenda.

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