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Carl Bogus Responds:

Prof. Carl Bogus passed along this response to Jim's earlier post criticizing Prof. Bogus, and updated it in light of Jim's further post this morning:

On June 26, 2008, James Lindgren attacked me personally on this website. His attack had two prongs.

First, he said I revealed myself to be "at best uniformed" because I cited a peer-reviewed study, namely, Colin Loftin, Ph.D., et al., "Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns of Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia," 325 New Eng. J. Med. 1615 (1991). Lindgren said that study "should not be taken seriously." He wrote: "A simple Google search would have revealed why. According to Dean Payne's re-analysis, if you use Loftin's homicide and suicide data, adjust for population changes (as you must), and use per capita rates (as you must), the DC ban is associated with more deaths after the ban, not fewer." Lindgren provided a link to this critique, which did not identify Dean Payne or even make clear whether "Dean" is a first name or title. As far as I know, Payne's critique was never published by anyone other than himself. Lindgren added: "That the New England Journal of Medicine would publish a time-series article that did not account for population changes over roughly a two-decade period is embarrassing, but then peer review seems to suffer when gun control articles are involved."

In fact, Loftin and this team did two analyses, one using per capita rates. The original study states: "As a check against possible effects of changes in the population, we conducted a similar analysis using annual mortality rates. …[T]here was an abrupt decline in both suicides and homicides by firearms that coincided with the implementation of the restrictive licensing law. The reductions were specific to fatalities involving guns in the District of Columbia. No similar reduction was observed in homicides and suicides committed without guns, nor were there reductions in the adjacent areas of Maryland and Virginia, where the provisions of the law were not in effect.... [T]he analysis of mortality rates indicates that the declines in homicides and suicides by firearms were not due to changes in characteristics of the resident population. The population estimates are, of course, subject to error, and complex changes in high-risk groups are also possible. Nevertheless, the population at risk was the same for both gun-related and non-gun related mortality. Therefore, the differences between the rate of mortality by firearms and that of mortality due to other causes cannot be attributed to a failure to study the appropriate population." Id. at 1616, 1618, and 1619.

Some researchers have raised other questions about whether the Loftin study should have been designed differently, and Loftin and his team have defended their methodological choices. The bottom-line is that many knowledgeable researches consider the Loftin study valuable and continue to cite it.

Here is the second prong of Lindgren's attack: "I must confess that, unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Carl Bogus has had trouble with inconvenient evidence. I remember during the dispute over Arming America that Bogus was writing a review and sought my permission to cite one of my unpublished drafts. Before I called him, I confirmed that his own university library's special collection had a copy of the published Providence Probate records that Michael Bellesiles had used -- and grossly misrepresented in Arming America. I called Bogus, gave him the name and number of the reference librarian I spoke with, and tried to get Bogus to spend an hour in his own university's library confirming that there were major problems with Bellesiles's account before Bogus finalized his review. Bogus refused even to look at the contrary evidence I urged him to examine, a decision that in part led him to seriously misjudge the work he was reviewing." The book review I wrote stated: "A potentially damaging attack on Bellesiles probate data has been launched by James Lindgren and Justin Lee Heather. Lindgen and Heather argue, first, that probate records may not be a reliable reflection of how many people owned guns, and second, that Bellesiles has underrepresented the number of guns in the probate records. As of this writing, the Lindgren-Heather paper has not been published and Bellesiles has not responded in writing." I provided a web address where Lindgren and Heather's study could be obtained, and added: "Though they restrict their analysis to probate data, their criticisms about Bellesiles's methodology are sufficiently serious to have potentially broader implications. A rush to judgment at this stage, however, would be unwise and unfair." Carl T. Bogus, "Shootout," 79 Texas L. Rev. 1641, 1652 (2001).

My apologies for the delay posting the original version of Prof. Bogus's message, which he sent July 3; there was a bit of a miscommunication here on our end.

Jim at FSU (mail):
Ah, yes, the final refuge of the anti-gunner: focus on rates of gun crime and pretend that substitution doesn't occur. Bogus, indeed.
7.9.2008 2:33pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
Uniformed! Interesting concept, make lawyers like the U.S. Public Health Service, then there will be eight uniformed services!
7.9.2008 2:33pm
frankcross (mail):
Jim, except that a common argument of the pro-gunner is that criminals will retain their guns, while the law abiding would lose them, ruining deterrence, so no substitution would be necessary on homicides, and under this argument, you should see an increase in gun homicides with gun control.

As usual, these arguments are too often ends-oriented rather than issue-oriented. If this research is right (I have no idea if it is), then it would rule out one theory and we would turn to examining substitution.
7.9.2008 2:52pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Two points:
1) I honestly think it varies from place to place since guns are only one deadly weapon out of many and criminal compliance with such laws will vary enormously from one jurisdiction to another.

The one thing that I think is beyond doubt is that if someone on the street has an inclination to inflict harm on others for profit or enjoyment, the solution is to get them off the street, not pass laws that they may or may not obey. The problem is one of insufficient enforcement, not one of insufficient legislation. Murder, robbery, etc are all illegal already. Legislators need to recognize where their job ends and the job of the cop begins.

2) It isn't just the criminals that don't comply with gun control laws. There is also substitution in the form of self-defense shootings that go unreported. When I was growing up in NYC in the 80s, there were a LOT of subway shootings. These were all classified as murders and the self defense shooter was classified as a wanted fugitive. If you find a dead body and no one comes forward to take credit, the natural assumption is that it was a murder, even if the victim is a known violent criminal.

However, in jurisdictions where people don't face weapon possession prosecution as a punishment for being involved in a self defense shooting, the shooters come forward and cooperate with the police far more readily. As a result, such shootings are more often counted as justifiable homicide instead of being added to the tally of murders.
7.9.2008 3:07pm
JK:
So the pro-gun-control researcher found that the ban lowered deaths, while the anti-gun-control researcher found that the ban incresed deaths. I'm shocked.
7.9.2008 3:15pm
Specast:
The prior posters have missed the point of Bogus' response: he seems to have effectively rebutted Lindgren's criticisms. Those criticisms (especially the second one, in which Lindgren attacked his integrity) were unnecessarily harsh and would have offended anyone on the receiving end. The second criticism is arguably not false, but it gave the direct and intentional misimpression that Bogus just ignored "inconvenient evidence."

I'd love to see Lindgren's response; maybe he has justifications. But if Bogus' response is accurate, Lindgren owes Bogus a public apology. At this point, at least in the academic/VC blogging worlds, these issues weigh on Lindgren's credibility.
7.9.2008 3:27pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Some researchers have raised other questions about whether the Loftin study should have been designed differently, and Loftin and his team have defended their methodological choices.


If you regard this as an effective rebuttal, then perhaps you need to raise your standards.
7.9.2008 3:29pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Argh, appeal to authority. Along with, apparently the contrapositive (SOURCE states CLAIM, SOURCE is not an authoity, so CLAIM is not valid).

The third paragraph, pointing to the mortality rates used, is much better. Though he could have been clearer about explaining the problem with Payne's numbers (he doesn't adjust for age). And the response regarding Arming America, if true, is troubling.

I just wish the 2nd paragraph is not there.
7.9.2008 3:44pm
taney71:
Can't government just leave me alone? I am a grown adult with no criminal history. If I want to buy a gun to feel safe in my own home what is the problem?
7.9.2008 3:45pm
Brett:
but it gave the direct and intentional misimpression that Bogus just ignored "inconvenient evidence."


Why is that a misimpression? Bogus was apprised of information that utterly demolished the Bellisiles thesis, and yet aside from some perfunctory throat-clearing about how it was "sufficiently serious to have broader implications", continued to maintain that Bellisiles should be given the benefit of the doubt.

If that's not ignoring inconvenient evidence in the course of a book review, I don't know what is.
7.9.2008 3:48pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
1. I read of a study of the DC ban -- no guarantee this is the one -- that used the wrong start date. It began with the ordinance's official effective date. The problem with this is that opponents of the ban secured a temporary restraining order that delayed its implementation for quite a few months.

2. I wonder how anyone could have expected to see an effect. I don't have the numbers, but let's suppose there were 10,000 registered handguns in DC in 1977.
In 1978? 1979? We might guess that a dozen or so had broken and not been worth repair (that if anything is high) and some owners had moved away, You'd probably still have 9,900 registered handguns.
Even if the underlying theory was valid (people used registered guns in homicides and suicides, and deprived of them would never substitute) the effect of stopping new registrations would be immeasurably small over less than, say, ten years, and masked by other factors (crack wars, etc.) by the time it became discernable.
7.9.2008 3:51pm
autolykos:
Leaving aside the gratuitous rambling about whether Dean is a name or a title (it's pretty clearly a first name, since that's how he signs the correspondence on the website referenced - by the way, how do otherwise make it clear it's a first name?), I don't think the study says what Bogus thinks it does. It certainly compares gun and non-gun-related mortality numbers and tries to use that to extrapolate rates, but that's a significant logical leap and ignores a host of variables. Regardless, just because Loftin purports to have done this analysis doesn't make him any less wrong about the statistical significance of the effect of the ban. Purporting to do a per capita analysis doesn't later excuse you from analyzing the per capita effects.


The bottom-line is that many knowledgeable researches consider the Loftin study valuable and continue to cite it.


That's not much of a bottom line if the "knowledgeable researches" (sic) are themselves motivated by bias.

and I agree with Tracy. I think we're all at our best when uniformed. Isn't the army's slogan "Be All You Can Be" or is that considerably outdated?
7.9.2008 3:53pm
autolykos:

If you regard this as an effective rebuttal, then perhaps you need to raise your standards.


LOL
7.9.2008 3:55pm
Dreadnaught (www):
Just reading "peer-reviewed study" causes me to retch.
7.9.2008 4:03pm
stunned:
@Dreadnaught: jesus reviews my studies.
7.9.2008 4:17pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
As someone who doesn't have the inclination to wade deep into the (important) minutiae of which effects should be considered and which should not, both sides seem like unreliable partisans not worth listening to.

I never get any sense of consensus or a long term trend, just a partisan back-and-forth.
7.9.2008 4:44pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

As someone who doesn't have the inclination to wade deep into the (important) minutiae of which effects should be considered and which should not, both sides seem like unreliable partisans not worth listening to.


Well, that's the advantage of a "big lie" technique. When you state your lies boldly and claim to back them up while doing nothing of the sort, then people who don't have the time or inclination to make any sort of judgement, but feel the need to do so anyway, just call both positions equally correct or equally wrong out of laziness.

So you get at least 3/4 of the listeners to be neutral without even needing to be right.
7.9.2008 5:06pm
Kazinski:
The question to me is if Bogus was using the Loftin study as buttressing his academic work in a professional capacity, he should rightly be criticized for relying on shoddy work to support his own scholarship.

But of course he wasn't, Bogus was using the Loftin study to argue for his own personal policy positions that had nothing to do with whether his own work was valid or not. So Bogus shouldn't get any more criticism or his views get anymore weight than any other hack arguing outside their area of expertise, and using any old half assed study they can find to support it.

I'm on your side Carl.
7.9.2008 5:19pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I don't think the "big lie" technique works nearly as well on other issues, mostly because you can see a serious consensus developing over tie. You learn to look for other things. Is a highly partisan group funding all the research that comes out one way, for example?

With this issue, it seems like a handful of academic studies come out each year - each endlessly contradicting the one before it.
7.9.2008 5:20pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
taney71

Cause guns are evil, and people who own guns are evil, and laws that allow people to own guns are evil, and those who support such laws are evil (Damn. That's a lotta evil.).

Why, a recent study found that when people who owned guns failed to unload them and lock them up in the evening, the guns would, of their own volition, leave the house, seek out innocent people and shoot them down in cold blood on the street. Women over 70 and children are especially at risk. This study was conducted by Dr. *8yq67@!, so there can be no doubt of its veracity.
7.9.2008 5:35pm
GregQ (mail) (www):
frankcross,

Pro-gunners claim two things:
1: Making it illegal to own guns affects law abiding citizens much more than it affects criminals.

2: Banning guns aids the strong against the weak.

I am a strong, relatively coordinated, male. I can beat you up or kill you with a gun, a knife, a baseball bat, or even by kicking you to death. Does it matter how I've killed you, or merely that I have?

The typical mugger or rapist is also a strong male. When you disarm the law abiding, you make things easier for those criminals.

Further, repeated studies have found that gun bans can change the method of suicide, but have essentially no effect on the suicide rate. Thus focusing on "suicides w/ guns" rather than "suicides" is entirely dishonest, and the kind of sleazy trick you'll only see from a totally dishonest anti-gun partisan.
7.9.2008 5:48pm
GregQ (mail) (www):
BTW, I find it interesting that in his "response" Professor Bogus skipped Jim Lundgren's most telling point: the years chosen for the "study" clearly skewed the results, and had no real justification 9other than that including more years would have destroyed the claims of the authors).

That he did not even attempt to address this claim shows, I think, Professor Bogus' fundamental dishonesty. The "study" was crap. He knows it's crap. But he has an agenda, and that's all that actually matters to him.
7.9.2008 5:52pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
GregQ:

I agree with your pro-gun points, but I can think of of a few reasons tighter gun control might decrease crime. I really am ambivalent about this issue, these are just thoughts. I have no idea if they are true, they probably aren't, but they make the issue cloudy.

- Disagreements that cause fights are less likely to result in death when participants aren't armed. You used big physical males in your example, but two guys that get into a fist fight will cause broken bones. Two guys that get into a gun fight are going to cause fatalities.

- Guns, unlike knives or fists, result in the death of innocent bystanders more frequently. I'm not sure that deaths would go down if we banned guns, but it would be nice to see fewer two years olds with bullets lodged in their heads.

Take this recent story about a dad that shot his daughter on accident. You read stories like this all the time, but I rarely read about accidental knifings.
7.9.2008 6:16pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
but it would be nice to see fewer two years olds with bullets lodged in their heads.


The "Its for the children" argument should be treated like an adjunct to Godwin's law.
7.9.2008 6:20pm
glangston (mail):
Yes, this deal with Loftin sounds clearly like the Bogus/Bellesiles arrangement.
Brett:
but it gave the direct and intentional misimpression that Bogus just ignored "inconvenient evidence."


Why is that a misimpression? Bogus was apprised of information that utterly demolished the Bellisiles thesis, and yet aside from some perfunctory throat-clearing about how it was "sufficiently serious to have broader implications", continued to maintain that Bellisiles should be given the benefit of the doubt.

If that's not ignoring inconvenient evidence in the course of a book review, I don't know what is.

7.9.2008 6:36pm
GregQ (mail) (www):
Also cross-posted to my blog here)
On Partisanship:

Note: I am a strongly partisan in favor of gun rights. I see nothing wrong with that. Other than the fact that I think they're horribly wrong, I see nothing wrong "wrong" with being strongly partisan against gun rights.

But I do see something very wrong with being a dishonest partisan. And that's why I have a problem with Professor Bogus. For example, when Professor Levinson posted his critique of Scalia's opinion in Heller, criticizing him for ignoring "Saul Cornell's fine book A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control," I looked up the book (yeah Dogpile), and quickly found this article on Volokh that pointed me to "St. George Tucker's Second Amendment: Deconstructing 'The True Palladium of Liberty'," by Stephen P. Halbrook, and article that appeared to pretty conclusively prove that Saul Cornell's book was anything but "fine". So I read the article, and wrote up a post criticizing Professor Levinson for supporting such a pathetic book, here.

However, before I published my post, I did another web search, looking for commentary on Stephen P. Halbrook's article. I found several posts quoting it favorably, and nothing on the web saying that he had misused his sources. So I posted my comments.

Now, if I had found anything potentially credible that had trashed Halbrook's article, I would have either read it, and judged for myself, or I would have refrained from commenting. Because my credibility matters, far more than any one cheap shot I might be able to take at those who disagree with me.

I find it sad that Professor Bogus has so little concern for his own credibility.
7.9.2008 6:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

If this research is right (I have no idea if it is), then it would rule out one theory and we would turn to examining substitution.
It turns out that Loftin et al. claimed to have examined raw death rates to make sure that there wasn't a population change from the before and after periods. But they didn't bother to check the population estimates for D.C.--which would have shown them that the population of D.C. in the "after" period was 15.0% lower than the population in the "before" period.

Loftin's dishonest study (because they knew that population might have changed, but chose not to look for the data) claimed (based on raw homicide and suicide counts per month) that the study was coincident with a 34.0% decline in DC gun homicides (statistically significant), and a 4.3% decline in DC non-gun homicides (not significant), with somewhat similar declines in suicide (30.0% for gun suicides, and 10.0% for non-gun suicides).

But when you adjust for the population change (as any serious social scientist would do): gun homicides fell 16.6%--but non-gun homicides rose 9.3%. Gun suicides fell 13.1%--but non-gun suicides rose 4.3%. Net decline in homicides (which includes some legal homicides, such as self-defense): 5.7% (not significant). Net decline in suicides: 1.5% (not significant).

What we have here is prime facie evidence of weapons substitution for the two categories that make up 95% of all gun deaths. It is possible that there was actually some real decline in homicides and suicides over the study period because of the law--but statistically insignificant declines aren't persuasive evidence.

And then, after the carefully chosen study period ends--the murder rate in D.C. almost triples.

The Loftin study is so transparently manipulated, I'm not surprised Bogus cited it.
7.9.2008 6:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Take this recent story about a dad that shot his daughter on accident. You read stories like this all the time, but I rarely read about accidental knifings.
That's because few reporters are members of Knife Control, Inc.

Seriously: knives are a pretty big chunk of the murders and armed robberies in the U.S. They are FAR more commonly used than "assault weapons." And yet there's almost no media focus on banning "assault knives."
7.9.2008 6:50pm
GregQ (mail) (www):
Chris,

I rarely read about accidental knifings.

That's because the press does not chose to cover them. They happen all the time.

Disagreements that cause fights are less likely to result in death when participants aren't armed.

Well, so far as I know, there hasn't been a single case of someone with a concealed carry license actually using a gun in the situation you describe.

Do people with guns end up shooting each other because of fights? Yes, absolutely. But the kind of people who do that are not the kind of people you're going to disarm with anti-gun laws.

Roughly 40 states either have "shall issue" laws for concealed carry, or don't require a permit at all. If putting all those guns in circulation led to actual violence, then anti-gunners wouldn't need to rely on dishonest "studies" like the one Prof Bogus used, because they'd have real studies to show off.

Instead of coming up with hypotheticals, look at reality. Are there accidental shootings? Yes. There are also accidental knifings, auto accidents, libels, and criminals released because their Miranda Rights were violated. Nothing human is perfect.

but, to get back to the topic of the post: Has Prof Bogus rationally defended the study he used? No, he hasn't. And his unwillingness to abandon such a flowed study tells us a lot about both him, and the poor state of anti-gun "research", because if better studies were available, presumably they'd use them.
7.9.2008 6:51pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So the pro-gun-control researcher found that the ban lowered deaths, while the anti-gun-control researcher found that the ban incresed deaths. I'm shocked.
See here .

I do not claim that the D.C. law made things get worse. The evidence from Loftin's data (once you adjust for population change, as any honest researcher would do) suggests that it didn't do a darn thing--except change the type of weapon used for homicide and suicide. There might be an argument from what happened in the 1980s and 1990s that the D.C. gun control law made things worse, but realistically, D.C. government was such a flaming argument against liberalism throughout the period that to blame their gun control law when they were hiring convicted murderers and drug dealers as police officers and abandoned final exams at the police academy so that they could hire a police force that "looked like D.C." is just foolish.

Gun control, except at the very margins (complete laissez faire or police state door to door searches) is probably only a small factor in overall crime rates. Does it make a difference? Sure, but D.C.'s murder rate history from 1960 to 2004 is a reminder that gun control, if it has any positive effects at all (and I doubt that it does), must be about the most trivial of factors compared to whatever caused D.C.'s murder rate to almost triple between 1976 and 1991.
7.9.2008 6:59pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

- Disagreements that cause fights are less likely to result in death when participants aren't armed. You used big physical males in your example, but two guys that get into a fist fight will cause broken bones. Two guys that get into a gun fight are going to cause fatalities.
Just out of curiosity: how often do you think situations like this happen where two people are armed, and don't have a long criminal history? It turns out that people that are arrested for murder are very atypical of the population. They are disproportionately career criminals, minors (who can't legally buy guns), or psychotic. That's where the focus of gun control laws should be, because a few percent of the population with identifiable characteristics (previous felony conviction, history of mental illness hospitalization, under age) are about 90% of all murderers. There are ordinary, previously law-abiding adults who pick up a gun and commit murder, but they are about 85% of the population--and commit less than 10% of the murders.


- Guns, unlike knives or fists, result in the death of innocent bystanders more frequently. I'm not sure that deaths would go down if we banned guns, but it would be nice to see fewer two years olds with bullets lodged in their heads.
How many two year olds do think get killed by guns each year? You will be surprised at how rare it is. Every instance is a disaster, but again, the problem is that there a small number of serious sociopaths and psychotics out there who are easy to identify, but that we as a society refuse to incarcerate or hospitalize until they have made several passes through the system as a result of hurting others.
7.9.2008 7:06pm
GregQ (mail) (www):
Oh, and speaking of knifings:

A Houston man was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Tuesday after prosecutors said he fatally stabbed his roommate during an argument about foot odor.
7.9.2008 7:28pm
frankcross (mail):
Good for you, Clayton. I'm tired of people claiming to have proved that gun control saves lives or causes more deaths. I haven't dug deeply into the data, but a review of the studies makes it clear that none of the findings for either side are robust. Any marginal effect is swamped by third factors that are far more substantial. And even when statistical significance is found, it is often with a large n and a very small coefficient.
7.9.2008 7:58pm
John Doe (mail) (www):
The careful reader will note that Bogus doesn't even purport to respond to the second of Lindgren's claim, namely, that Bogus had flatly refused to "pend an hour in his own university's library confirming that there were major problems with Bellesiles's account before Bogus finalized his review."
7.9.2008 9:47pm
David Schwartz (mail):
I think common sense will say that gun control laws will reduce the number of accidental deaths. Accidentally killing your daughter because you thought she was an intruder is just much less likely to happen if you aren't armed with a gun.

Idiots will legally get guns, and an idiot with a gun is more likely to take a life than an idiot with most other weapons.

The problem for advocates of gun control is that the number of such deaths that a law would eliminate is very unbelievably small. There are something like 800 accidental gun deaths a year in the United States.

Not only is this number very small, but it is readily counter-balanced by the number of deaths with other weapons that are prevented by armed potential victims. It's hard to know how many deaths are avoided by defensive gun uses, but it's likely in the tens of thousands.

So the advocates of gun control have to wade into much more statistically questionable territory.
7.9.2008 10:00pm
Jagermeister:
Disagreements that cause fights are less likely to result in death when participants aren't armed. You used big physical males in your example, but two guys that get into a fist fight will cause broken bones. Two guys that get into a gun fight are going to cause fatalities.
I have a mid-thirties acquaintance who among his more noticeable problems, uses a walker, slurs his speech, is incontinent, and has trouble remembering things. Needless to say, he is permanently disabled, and needs constant care. He got this way in a bar fight, where, as far as I know, no weapons were involved (other than furniture).

The point is that non-gun violence can be just as devastating, and those who make a fetish of gun crime trivialize non-gun crime by extension. If people are really interested in saving or improving lives, they should work to limit violence itself, and stop fixating on the means.
7.9.2008 11:20pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Frank Cross:

EXACTLY. The best analyses so far suggest either no effect for gun control laws either way OR a slight decline in the rate of violence (eg, Ayres &Donohue).
7.10.2008 1:32am
Kirk:
Chris Bell,
Disagreements that cause fights are less likely to result in death when participants aren't armed. You used big physical males in your example, but two guys that get into a fist fight will cause broken bones. Two guys that get into a gun fight are going to cause fatalities.
The majority of handgun-shooting victims in the US do survive, and plenty of people are killed with bare hands, bats, and the like, so the difference would probably be far less than you think.

Take this recent story about a dad that shot his daughter on accident.
Dude, it was already illegal for 19-year-old shooter to have this particular firearm.

David Schwartz,

The problem with asserting "common sense" is that the statistics don't bear it out. It's not just that the harm (accidents) is balanced by benefits. Rather, at the same time that there's been a large increase in the supply of firearms, and a large increase in the number of people carrying handguns due to liberalized (shall-issue) carry laws, there's been a fairly continuous decline in the number of accidental shootings. I find it very hard to credit the notion that our supply of idiots is declining, but clearly someone is doing something right in regard to firearm safety...
7.10.2008 2:03am
Bill Twist:


Isn't the army's slogan "Be All You Can Be" or is that considerably outdated?



It's considerably outdated, having been the slogan back in the 1980's. I'd also like to point out that we (I was a soldier back then) used take two of those ubiquitous green bumper stickers and cut them up and stick them back together to read "Army: Ball all you can". I once got told in no uncertain terms to remove that from my barracks door.

I imagine the current crop of wise-acre soldiers has had fun with more current slogans like "An Army Of One" and "Army Strong".
7.10.2008 7:56am
David Schwartz (mail):
Kirk: I don't see how what you're saying disagrees with what I'm saying. I wasn't talking about the change in accidental firearm deaths over time.

Oddly, accidental firearm deaths seems to track murder and suicide rates pretty well. All of those rates seem to have peaked in the 90s and have been dropping since then. Perhaps there's some kind of "overall violence level" that drives all of these things.

Again though, my larger point is that accidental firearms deaths are lost in the statistical noise. The value of defensive gun use outweighs the harm of accidental gun deaths by orders of magnitude.

Personally, however, I believe that there is no point in engaging in such pragmatic arguments over issues of United State policy. We are smart enough to know not to do that with first amendment rights and we should be smart enough to know not to do it with the second.
7.10.2008 8:51am
Tony Tutins (mail):
The elimination of firearms ownership (except for single and double barrel shotguns) in the UK has naturally made thugs turn to edged weapons. I haven't kept up, but in 2005, the rates of "knife violence" had attracted the attention of the Scottish Parliament. Proposals they were studying included:

# Licensing the sale of non-domestic knives

In this consultation a non-domestic knife means a knife which has a blade or sharp point, and which is not designed only for domestic use, or only for use in the processing, preparation or consumption of food.

# Banning the purchase of non-domestic knives except from licensed sellers

# Licensing the sale of swords, with an additional condition that retailers could only sell swords to members of approved organisations

This proposal would not adversely impact on the sale of swords to those who could show they had a legitimate ceremonial, religious, sporting or cultural purpose.

# Banning the sale of swords

# Banning the sale of samurai swords

# Licensing the purchase of swords on an individual basis
7.10.2008 11:08am
Tony Tutins (mail):

The prior posters have missed the point of Bogus' response: he seems to have effectively rebutted Lindgren's criticisms.

Lawyers are trained to rebut each and every allegation made by an adversary, whether answering a complaint or traversing a Patent Office rejection. Surprisingly, Bogus has only addressed certain of Lindgren's criticisms here. Perhaps this is because he's a professor and not a practitioner.
7.10.2008 11:16am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The careful reader will note that Bogus doesn't even purport to respond to the second of Lindgren's claim, namely, that Bogus had flatly refused to "pend an hour in his own university's library confirming that there were major problems with Bellesiles's account before Bogus finalized his review."
By this point, there was enough specific claims of falsification of sources by Bellesiles that in an hour, Bogus would have been able to see that Bellesiles was a fraudster. That so many of Bellesiles's defenders were still defending him after I started putting up scans of the documents tells me that this about keeping the fraud alive as long as possible.
7.10.2008 11:43am
Kazinski:
Lindgren responds, not so much to Bogus, but Lambert here:


CONCLUSION

In short, I was too easy on the Loftin et al. study when I blogged about it in June.

The reported results are merely artifacts of serious failures in its research design. The failure to control for race and the choice of time periods to study entirely drive the direction and the strength of the reported effects. Unfortunately, however, the data are ultimately not well enough "behaved" to justify a full, careful time series analysis that might persuade a cautious researcher of the probable real effect of the DC gun ban -- whatever that might have been.


Take whatever side you will about Bogus and Lindgren, you have to admit Lindgren is expansive and precise about the flaws in the study, in a manner that would be easy to refute, if there are facts to support the refutation. Bogus isn't so much imprecise as evasive, about what makes the study reliable, and makes no attempt to answer Lindgren's specific points. One suspects Bogus just lacks the technical skills to evaluate the statistical basis of the study.
7.10.2008 11:45am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Good for you, Clayton. I'm tired of people claiming to have proved that gun control saves lives or causes more deaths. I haven't dug deeply into the data, but a review of the studies makes it clear that none of the findings for either side are robust. Any marginal effect is swamped by third factors that are far more substantial.
And oddly enough, no one in the "violence prevention" groups has much interest in pursuing those larger factors--because most of these "violence prevention" groups really don't care about violence, or murder, or unnatural death. They hate guns.

I can give you a list of items that are likely FAR bigger factors in determining the violence rates, and especially the disproportionate levels of violence in black America:

1. Intoxicants. Alcohol is a factor in about 40% of U.S. murders. When all intoxicants (including the unlawful ones) are included, it rises quite dramatically.

2. Absence of stable family structures. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to be born out of wedlock, and much of this isn't because Mom and Dad are together but choose not to get married. The absence of fathers means that a lot of teenaged boys have poor role models for masculinity--and an older gang member often provides the substitute father figure.

3. Child abuse. I've seen a few isolated studies that suggest that while sexual abuse of children isn't limited to the poor (as was conventional wisdom into the early 1970s), it is apparently more common there. One survey done in the late 1960s in South Central Los Angeles found that 50% of the women reported being sexually molested. The absence of biological fathers doubtless contributes to this problem.

4. The glorification of a destructive subculture. I rather doubt that very many blacks growing up in stable homes are going to be attracted into gang life by listening to the posturing of what are often middle class blacks pretending to be "homeys" but the risk involves those from unstable homes who may find the bling and excitement that is promoted to be attractive.
7.10.2008 11:55am
Kazinski:
Clayton,
Your points 3 and 4 don't make much sense. Women in poor disrupted families may indeed suffer much higher rates of sexual abuse, but the rates of women committing homicide are pretty insignificant. And the "glorification of a destructive subculture" has coincided with a reduction in murder and crime rates across the US. I'm sure its a casual relationship, but it seems to contradict your point.
7.10.2008 12:20pm
Kirk:
David,

Sorry if my tone gave the wrong impression; I was really intending to supplement/extend what you were saying, not to disagree.
7.10.2008 12:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton,
Your points 3 and 4 don't make much sense. Women in poor disrupted families may indeed suffer much higher rates of sexual abuse, but the rates of women committing homicide are pretty insignificant. And the "glorification of a destructive subculture" has coincided with a reduction in murder and crime rates across the US. I'm sure its a casual relationship, but it seems to contradict your point.
The girls aren't the problem; they are a marker for high rates of sexual abuse of boys--where there is a connection to later violence.
7.10.2008 1:24pm
Suzy (mail):
The point is not whether you agree or disagree with any of the studies in question; the point is whether it was fair to personally attack Prof. Bogus and impugn his integrity.

Sure, he cites the Loftin study despite its problems. However, he gives a reasonable explanation of why he did that and thought the problems were accounted for. We may disagree, but it's not a mark of his lack of academic integrity that he would make the citation. Sure, he didn't immediately accept or try to confirm everything that Lindgren said about Bellesiles, but he did acknowledge the criticism and it is reasonable him to reserve judgment until both the critics and the author can make their respective cases in print.

It seems that Lindgren took this attack to a personal level that wasn't warranted. Reminds me of when he recently attacked Justice Ginsburg for supposedly sleeping on the job (and Souter and Breyer, to a lesser extent) despite having no reliable evidence whatsoever that she wasn't paying attention or was failing to do her job properly. Maybe it's time to tone down the personally-directed rhetoric and stick to attacking bad arguments?
7.10.2008 4:07pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Well, I guess if you can't debate the facts you pretty much HAVE to attack the tone.

Suzy, I guess you haven't noticed that the entire thrust of your post was to criticize Lindgren... and not on the merits of the arguments, either.

I also guess the irony will be totally lost on you.
7.10.2008 5:54pm
Brett:
Sure, he didn't immediately accept or try to confirm everything that Lindgren said about Bellesiles, but he did acknowledge the criticism and it is reasonable him to reserve judgment until both the critics and the author can make their respective cases in print.

Bogus was writing a review of a book that made the facially preposterous claim that firearms were uncommon in pre-Industrial America. Lindgren, Clayton Cramer, and several others uncovered evidence that the book's author had misrepresented some of his sources and fabricated others, and made this evidence available to Bogus.

An ethical, intellectually honest book reviewer, confronted by ironclad evidence that the book he's reviewing is a tissue of lies, doesn't merely say, "The author's thesis has attracted some critics, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt until his critics have a paper up on SSRN and he has a chance to respond." This is particularly the case when the author's thesis is outlandish: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

It is entirely fair to say that Bogus ignored evidence that was inconvenient to the Arming America thesis. His one-sentence acknowledgement of the mere existence of criticism, couched in, "But it would be unwise and unfair to rush to judgment," terms, cannot reasonably be said to amount to even a modestly serious treatment of that inconvenient evidence.
7.10.2008 6:25pm
Suzy (mail):
Ryan, that's not irony. It would be hypocritical of me to make these observations if they were incorrect. Brett, if Bogus were so intellectually dishonest, why did he bother to ask Lindgren's permission to cite an unpublished source? Basically, because Lindgren was unable to talk him into changing his assessment of the book, he's now an unethical reviewer? It's impossible to have a reasonable disagreement on the merits here? Also, it was at least a six-sentence acknowledgement of the criticism, including a restatement of the main point. I agree with you that the book is a bad one, but I don't see why it's necessary to attack someone's honesty just because he wasn't convinced of that position.
7.10.2008 8:42pm
Brett:
Basically, because Lindgren was unable to talk him into changing his assessment of the book, he's now an unethical reviewer?

No. He's an unethical reviewer because he soft-pedalled conclusive proof, provided by Lindgren and others, that Bellisiles had manufactured and/or misrepresented sources that were key to his entire thesis.

Whether Bellisiles' sources exist, and say what he claims they say, is a question of objective fact that is not susceptible to reasonable disagreement. Either they do or they don't.

They don't. Bogus was apprised of that fact. Instead of forthrightly admitting as much, he hemmed and hawed. If you think that's ethical, you have interesting standards.
7.10.2008 9:43pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Basically, because Lindgren was unable to talk him into changing his assessment of the book, he's now an unethical reviewer? It's impossible to have a reasonable disagreement on the merits here?

Basically, Bellesiles' book described the Earth as flat, and Lindgren asked that Bogus look at a globe before writing a positive review. Instead, Bogus tacked on a few lines saying that "some savants believe if one keeps sailing off the edge of the earth, the ship somehow appears on the other side."
7.10.2008 9:53pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Kirk: I see it now. Sorry I misread what you were trying to say.
7.11.2008 2:26am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

It would be hypocritical of me to make these observations if they were incorrect.


And now you switch back to the question of correctness, the very question you sought to evade with your initial post by changing the subject from correctness to tone.

Given your change of heart, might I suggest that it would be hypocritical for you to criticize Lindgren's observations to the extent that they are correct? Or does that standard work in only one direction?
7.11.2008 8:58am
ginsocal (mail):
Just a side note, re: gun accidents-medical mistakes kill over 100,000 people every year. Yes, that's one hundred thousand.
7.11.2008 1:51pm