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.
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