What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 1, 2013

The Brainstrust Dazzles Us With Its Command Of The Facts. Again.

We'll start with what they published today:
Speaking of guns, a new Harvard study concludes that more gun control does not necessarily lead to lower death rates (homicide and suicide) or violent crime. “(T)hose correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared around the world,” the study says. Translation: That dog won't hunt. [Bolding in original.]
Do you see the fifth word in that? It's the word "new" and its meaning should be obvious to everyone even remotely conversant in English.

Now let's go to the "study" they call "new"  Here it is.  It's volume 30 of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and according to the HJLPP's website, this article was published in the Spring of 2007.

How, exactly, is that "new"?

And is this really a Harvard study (new or otherwise)?  Depends on how you define "Harvard study" I guess.  As stated above, it's from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (www.harvard-jlpp.com) - but what is that, exactly?

First, you'll note that the URL ends with a ".com" rather than a ".edu" like say where the Harvard School of Public Health publishes its Firearms data (www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/). See the .edu?  That means it's from Harvard University.

On the other hand, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy describes itself as:
[A]n organization of Harvard Law School students. The Journal is one of the most widely circulated student-edited law reviews and the nation’s leading forum for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship.
So we're not exactly talking peer-reviewed social science here, are we?  From there you can decide for yourself whether that constitutes or subverts the notion of this paper being a study from Harvard.

And so are there any actual studies published in the peer-reviewed Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy that look at whatever connection that may exist between the number of firearms and homicide?

I am so glad you asked.  Take a look at what's available on this page:
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Hepburn, Lisa; Hemenway, David. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. 2004; 9:417-40. [Bolding and italics in original.]
But let's look at some of the facts presented by the paper being touted by Scaife's braintrust.

On page 652, there's a table titled:
Table 1: European Gun Ownership and Murder Rates
And this table tells us that the tiny country of Luxembourg had, in 2002, a murder rate of about 9 per 100,000 people. That means that given a population of about 500,000 there were would have been about 45 homicides in 2002, right?  It's such a prominent "fact" that it's presented prominently in the text:
These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.
This must've come as a surprise to the researchers who compiled the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  Their Eighth Survey covered the years 2001-2002 and their data shows that Luxembourg had a total number of 4 homicides in 2002 or a rate of .9 per 100,000 inhabitants.

4 not 45.  0.9 not 9.01.  (It's on page 185 of this document if you want to check my work.)

Shabby work.  Old(ish) shabby work, too!

Now go back and look at what Scaife's braintrust wrote.  How valid do YOU think it is?

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