The anti-gun press couldn’t contain their excitement. A new study published in the UK’s prestigious The Lancet medical journal purported to show that certain gun control measures could lead to incredible reductions in the firearm mortality rate. CNN blared, “Study: 3 federal laws could reduce gun deaths by more than 90%,” the L.A. Times touted, “Aiming to drive down gun deaths? Put these three laws on the books, researchers say,” and the Christian Science Monitor proclaimed, “Federal gun control laws could reduce deaths up to 90 percent, study says.” What these outlets weren’t anticipating is that the study has proven so flawed that the most influential members of the anti-gun research community have been forced to denounce it; lest the public realize the larger problems attendant to the entire field of study.
The controversial study is titled, “Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study,” and was authored by a team led by epidemiologist Bindu Kalesan of Boston University’s Department of Medicine and School of Public Health. The researchers attempted to determine the effects that more than two dozen different types of gun control measures - ranging from fingerprinting requirements to child access laws - had on homicide mortality, suicide mortality, and overall firearm mortality rates. As has been the focus of the laudatory news items, the researchers concluded that implementation of a federal “universal” background check law, in concert with federal ammunition background checks and “firearm identification requirements,” could reduce overall firearm mortality by more than 90 percent.
Unsurprisingly, most media outlets have given less attention to the research team’s findings pertaining to a host of other gun controls. The team found many gun control measures have little, no, or even a detrimental effect on firearm mortality rates.
According to the study, gun dealer licensing, dealer state record reporting requirements, dealer police inspections, gun owner fingerprinting, closing of the “gun show loophole,” ammunition purchaser recordkeeping, child handgun restrictions, child access laws, juvenile handgun purchases, magazine bans, and may-issue carry permits, have little to no effect on firearm-related deaths. Further, their results show, semi-auto bans, firearms locks, “bulk purchase limitations,” and mandatory theft reporting, increase firearm-related deaths.
Likely fearing the flawed study will result in a massive backlash that could further expose the shortcomings of their own work, the anti-gun research community has turned on Kalesan, her team, and The Lancet.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Policy and Research, told the Washington Post, “Briefly, this is not a credible study and no cause and effect inferences should be made from it.” Webster is later quoted, stating, “What I find both puzzling and troubling is this very flawed piece of research is published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals around… Something went awry here, and it harms public trust.”
David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, said of the findings, “That’s too big -- I don’t believe that.” Pouring cold water on the schemes of politicians peddling gun controls as societal cure-alls, Hemenway went on to tell the Post, “These laws are not that strong. I would just be flabbergasted; I’d bet the house if you did [implement] these laws, if you had these three laws and enforced them really well and reduced gun deaths by 10 percent, you'd be ecstatic.” Offering a glimpse into the broader deficiencies of the field, Hemenway told U.S. News & World Report, “I could find serious problems with virtually any U.S. study about gun laws.”
This bout of public infighting and candid admissions as to the credibility of the entire field of gun violence research should give the public and policymakers pause when presented with studies supporting further gun restrictions. As Webster so eloquently alluded to, the peer-review process and stature of a journal offer little indication of the veracity of its contents when it comes to the politically-charged topic of gun control. Further, this episode provides important evidence as to why NRA works with federal lawmakers to ensure that this type of shoddy and politically motivated research is not federally funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is bad enough that such defective anti-gun research finds its way into distinguished publications, without forcing the taxpayer to foot the bill.