March 14, 2013

Gun laws and fewer deaths--Gun culture redux

Study Finds States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths But… | Here & Now.  I listened to this interview on the way home from work the other day.  To be very fair, I was pretty exhausted, but I found it enlightening.

The big takeaway, frankly, was the recognition that the gun lobby and gun culture have stymied research into gun deaths.  The numbers this doctor cited on suicides were enough to make one a little ill, but he kept noting that we don't have good data because the NRA and gun lobby won't let us.

I can't help but wonder if this comes from the conservative side that simply doesn't trust science.   Because investigating this should be a no-brainer.  I suspect that conservatives know that more guns doesn't make us more safe, and they fear that good studies might show that.  Otherwise, if more guns make us more safe, and if gun laws don't actually help, why not let the research money flow?  Why not get as much data as we can on child deaths or on suicide by gun, or accidental shootings in the home.  Likewise, why not gather as much data as we can on those incidents where gun ownership saves lives?


steves said...

I follow a lot of gun related research. There has been a fair amount of talk lately about how research is stymied by the gun lobby and Congress. While I am unable to speak with any great authority, as I am not doing the research, most researchers in that field have said that this "ban" is easily gotten around (even in the CDC and the NIH).

As much as we may not like it, Congress has the power to regulate how public funds are used in research. The original push behind restricting the CDC was based on the obvious bias that was being shown by the researchers. Studies that tended to support gun control were being funded. Studies that purported that "guns save lives" were not funded.

I haven't read anything on this study, so time will tell how it holds up. Even that researcher cautions against any kind of causal link. There is a metric shit ton of data that has been gathered. Most of it tends to show that increased gun laws do not lower crime or make people safe.

Streak said...

You are right that this researcher cautions against causality. But he would certainly disagree with you about the data. There is a lot of data that he didn't have access to.

As for bias, I would suggest that you have flipped it yourself. You rarely cite or take seriously any study that is critical of gun use, and only cite those that show that gun laws are not effective.

With all due respect, on this one, I am not sure I trust the gun people. Take that for what you want, but I do know that gun people have stymied research in many ways--all because they don't like the conclusions. That is, actually, the gun culture I so despise. We haven't allowed the tobacco lobby to control research into smoking (though I think they did for a long time).

The other takeaway from this interview was the role that guns play in suicides, and the fact that people who choose guns for suicides are far more successful than other forms. I am sure that gun people will just say, as they do with any charge about guns, that it isn't the gun, that people will commit suicide with a hammer or some damn thing. But that isn't what his research or others shows.

Streak said...

BTW, the proper response to bias is to suggest that we also fund studies on the other side. It isn't to stop the studies all together.

What is most frustrating about this defense, Steve, is that no whwere in there does the "bias" suggest that those studies would be flawed or wrong. Just that they were on the wrong side for gun people so shouldn't even get funding. That is a bullshit argument, frankly. And an anti-science argument.

The other part of this that makes me distrust gun people is that I don't believe that there is a good faith belief that we should study either the effectiveness of gun laws or the danger guns pose to individuals. If the 2nd Amendment is nearly sacrosanct, then what does it matter? Do gun people care if reasonable gun laws actually work? Do they care if gun laws might reduce suicide?

I am not accusing you of not caring about those lives (as you suggested about gun rights people). I am actually suggesting or asking if the devotion to the right to own guns means that all of those other questions are moot.

steves said...

I agree, but the CDC was refusing to fund other studies. As I said, they still fund studies and there are just as many studies coming up as there were in the past, so the complaint that it is being stymied is not entirely true.

Guns are used in suicides. That doesn't mean that people are killing themselves because a gun somehow caused them to. Japan has a higher suicide rate than the US and almost zero gun suicides.

While I will certainly agree that research sponsored by the NRA will certainly be biased, it is silly to imply that any other research is from disinterested third parties that are not biased. As I pointed out, the CDC had a policy of only funding research that was anti-gun. There were researchers, such as Dr. John Lott, that wanted to do "pro-gun" studies, but were denied any funding.

This is not some niche area that is little studied. There has been a great deal of money pumped into this, both private and public, and there are dozens of scientific journals that dedicate entire issues to this topic. The CDC even admitted that a comprehensive review of the research fails to show that gun laws are effective in reducing crime (see First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws, CDC, Task Force on Community Preventive Services, Oct 3, 2003 – a systematic review of 51 studies that evaluated the effects of selected firearms laws on violence).

Streak said...

Well, part of his point in this interview was that there were many areas in gun deaths where data was not available. You may not accept that, but this particular researcher certainly argued that.

As for Japan, I agree. That doesn't actually mean that guns are not relevant in our culture nor are not contributing to suicides. As I said, from this interview, he suggested that those who use guns in suicide (here) are far more successful than those who try other methods. In addition, I am sure you know that Japan has a different history and cultural response to suicide. Comparing the two is not necessarily useful, and Japan's experience is absolutely not proof that guns are not a factor in suicide.

Streak said...

The other thing that bugs me here is that there is no suggestion or even willingness to accept that gun laws might work. You cite studies that say they are effective and so conclude they are useless. How about working on new approaches?

Hell, how about recognizing that gun use has changed over the years--partly because of the gun culture that encourages my idiot neighbor to have a gun but somehow doesn't communicate that he shouldn't invite strangers to his house to purchase a microphone. How about all of that?

steves said...

I accept that some laws may work. I would be content with lawmakers approaching it the same way they approach laws related to other constitutional rights...carefully. History shows that they seem more willing to just try for the sake of trying and don't care whether they work.

Where do we start?

Streak said...

I have to say that I no longer have faith that lawmakers nor the gun rights people will act in any way other than to encourage the gun culture. those of us who fear gun violence or who fear the connection between guns and suicide will continue to be marginalized. As several people here have said, those fears are not constitutional, so they really don't count. The need to have gigantic magazines, however, is constitutional, no matter how fucking destructive and irrational that is.

So I say fuck it. Until responsible people like you disown and discredit the NRA, we are fucked. So let's just have more guns. that is what the conservatives want. I give.