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Boston University Continues to Tout Flawed Gun Research

Friday, January 6, 2017

Boston University Continues to Tout Flawed Gun Research

At times the obstinance of some gun control supporters marvels even their most seasoned observers. Such is the case with Boston University School of Public Health Dean Sandro Galea, whose continued promotion of his own deeply flawed research in the face of criticism from gun rights supporters and condemnation from more established anti-gun researchers brings to mind the enduring work of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, or the behavior of a mule.

Back in March, the Grassroots Alert informed readers of a widely-publicized study published in the UK’s The Lancet medical journal, titled, “Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study.” The research purported to show that by implementing a handful of firearms restrictions, including “firearm identification requirements,” a federal “universal” background check law, and federal ammunition background checks, the U.S. could reduce firearm mortality by more than 90 percent. Conversely, the study also found that mandatory firearm theft reporting, “bulk purchase limitations,” firearm locks, and semi-auto bans, increase firearm related deaths. The research team responsible for the study included Galea, and was led by BU Center for Clinical Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research Director Bindu Kalesan.

The response from prominent members of the anti-gun research community was swift. In speaking with the Washington Post, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center said of the researchers’ findings, “That’s too big -- I don’t believe that.” Hemenway added, “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.”

Michael Bloomberg’s pet gun control researcher was even more critical. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Policy and Research, told the Post, “Briefly, this is not a credible study and no cause and effect inferences should be made from it.” Seemingly concerned that such frivolous research could undermine broader efforts for gun control, Webster added, “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.”

One might have assumed that after such a rebuke Galea would avoid further discussion of the flawed study, secure in the knowledge that tenure would insulate him from the repercussions normally attendant such public failure. However, it appears Galea’s vanity does not permit such introspection.

In December, a friend of NRA was kind enough to provide NRA-ILA with a copy of the BU School of Public Health’s 2016 retrospective, “SPH This Year.” The document offers a brief summary of the research conducted by the BU School of Public Health throughout the year. Emphasizing the school’s work in anti-gun research, the provocative cover of the publication features an AR-15, and the title, “When rights go wrong and other dispatches from the edge.”

The lead article, titled, “Gun Violence: A Preventable Epidemic,” touts Galea and Kalesan’s work on the discredited Lancet study. Repeating the chief finding of the study, the article notes, “that three laws implemented in some states could reduce gun deaths: requiring firearm identification through ballistic imprinting or microstamping, requiring ammunition background checks, and requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases.”

In another article, authored by Galea, titled, “Hate Speaks in a Loud Rapid-Fire Voice,” the School of Public Health dean decries the availability of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. In the hyperbolic language typical of gun control supporters, Galea contends Americans “prioritize the proliferation of weapons of war over the safety of our communities.”

Although Galea’s continued promotion of the Lancet study is odd, even more incoherent is his publication’s attempts to demonize popular semi-automatic firearms. The Lancet study Galea appears to be so proud of found that “assault weapon” bans increase firearm-related deaths. Here, Galea and BU appear to accept or reject their own findings based on how well they comport to prevailing anti-gun orthodoxy.

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.