This article provides an illustration of how
researchers at the height of their professional careers are willing to subvert
science and abandon all professional and personal integrity for the advancement
of a political agenda. And, unlike some pseudoscientific "studies" in
which the statistical tricks used to arrive at the usual junk-science
conclusions are well-camouflaged and difficult to ferret out, in the case of the
Cook/Ludwig book ("Gun Violence: The Real Costs"), it doesn't take a
rocket scientist to do so.
--Paul Gallant & Joanne
THE "FIX" IS IN FOR
by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr.
Reprinted with permission
from Guns & Ammo Magazine,
April, 2001. (C)opyrighted 2001 by EMAP-USA, Inc.; All rights reserved.
"Our analyses provide no evidence that
implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide
rates." - Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook, Journal of the American Medical
Association, August 2, 2000
"Pass the Brady Bill now, before more
blood is spilled and more lives are shattered by random gun fire" urged
Sarah Brady 3 months before the Brady Act was passed by Congress. It was a done
But the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
with its waiting period and background check was never about
"gun-violence". And in a Luntz Weber public opinion survey carried out
just before its passage, half of all respondents believed that even if Brady
were passed, it would not reduce violent crime.
Now, several years later, those beliefs have
been fully validated by Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook in a study published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) entitled "Homicide
and Suicide Rates Associated with Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence
Ludwig and Cook - a pair of anti-gun
researchers - desperately searched for some shred of evidence that Brady played
a role in reducing homicide and suicide. But no matter how they analyzed the
data, the results always came out the same: Brady failed to deliver as promised.
Now we're told we need to revive the waiting
period which ended with Brady's sunset clause. As well, we're told we need to
expand Brady's Instant Check provisions to close the gun
To salvage what they could, Ludwig and Cook
seized upon a glitch in the suicide
statistics. That provided them the pretext to call for reinstatement of the
Brady waiting period which was replaced on November 30, 1998 by the National
Instant Check System.
Despite the authors' admission that "we
did not detect an association of the Brady Act with overall suicide rates",
"Our analysis finds that the association
with firearm suicides among persons aged 55 years or older was limited to
those states that changed both their background-check and waiting period
requirements. These findings suggest that the shift away from waiting periods
could increase the firearm suicide rate (and potentially the overall suicide
rate) among older citizens".
However, as all legitimate scientific evidence
shows, while "gun suicides" might drop, the total number of suicides
remains the same.
Said criminologist Dr. Gary Kleck:
"...of all age groups, the one least
likely to be affected by a law blocking new gun acquisitions is the elderly,
since virtually no one acquires their first gun after age 55...[However]
dredge for effects in enough subsets of the population (defined by age, sex,
and/or race) for two different forms of violence, and you are likely to come
up with a statistically 'significant' association by chance alone."
OK, WILL YOU BUY THIS REASON INSTEAD?
The conclusions of Ludwig and Cook are all the
more remarkable because both are politically motivated researchers with a
well-established track record of anti-gun bias. They would dearly have loved to
be able to show that Brady fulfilled its promise. Ludwig and Cook nevertheless
blamed the failings of Brady on the "enormous loophole" created by the
"almost completely unregulated" secondary market in guns.
Secondary market gun sales are all those which
don't involve a licensed dealer, as opposed to primary market sales which do. As
Brady now stands, primary market gun sales are subject to the National Instant
Check System. With secondary market sales accounting for an estimated 40 percent
of all yearly gun transfers, it's no wonder the firearm-prohibitionists want
desperately to close the "gun show loophole". If a large chunk of that
40% could be "regulated", the resulting Brady paper trail would add a
great many more names to the burgeoning list the FBI has been illegally
compiling of American gun-owners. The more complete the list, the easier it will
be for our government to eventually disarm us.
Within days of the release of their study, an
editorial in the Chicago Tribune urged "Don't Abandon the Brady Law, Just
Make Improvements". In the face of Brady's documented failure, that's like
watching gasoline being used to put out a fire - and after it fails to do so -
suggesting that more gasoline might do the trick.
Unless, of course, Brady is not really about
A COOK BOOK TO THE RESCUE
So what's a pair of anti-gun researchers to do
when they've proven that our nation's most touted restrictive firearm law is an
Why, write a book designed to provide
propaganda to other anti-gun activists justifying the "need" for
additional restrictive firearm laws. No matter that the authors are as logical
and factual as Alice in Wonderland, or that the book is designed to evoke fear
in those readers who are uninformed about the facts of the firearm debate.
The name of that Cook/Ludwig book is "Gun
Violence: The Real Costs" and it was released in October 2000. Inside
the book jacket is the following claim:
"100 billion dollars. That is the annual
cost of gun violence in America, according to the authors of this landmark
study, a book destined to change the way Americans view the problem of
That price tag holds only if one pads the bill.
While admitting that "...the direct costs of gun violence in America from
increased medical expenditures and lost productivity is less than $1 billion per
year", Cook and Ludwig state that "the real costs of gun
violence...come from the devastating emotional costs experienced by relatives
and friends of gunshot victims, and the fear and general reduction in quality of
life that the threat of gun violence imposes on everyone in America, including
people who are not victimized."
From which "landmark study" did this
"$100 billion" figure derive? A telephone survey asked of 1200 people.
The type of question posed by Cook and Ludwig
has a scientific sounding name: "contingent-valuation", which
translates simply into "willingness-to-pay". But the promises given in
their question are all empty ones.
Cook and Ludwig asked:
"Suppose that you were asked to vote for
or against a new program in your state to reduce gun thefts and illegal gun
dealers. This program would make it more difficult for criminals and
delinquents to obtain guns. It would reduce gun injuries by about 30 percent
but taxes would have to be increased to pay for it. If it would cost you an
extra (dollar amount choices given respondents: $0, $25, $50, $100, $200, or
$400) in annual taxes would you vote for or against this new program?"
In short, Cook and Ludwig asked how much
respondents were willing to pay to reduce "gun-violence" by 30
percent. The average amount from all respondents was $239. Ludwig and Cook then
multiplied that figure by the number of households in the U.S. (approximately 96
million), and came up with a figure of $24 billion. This figure, according to
Cook and Ludwig, represents what Americans would be willing to pay to reduce the
annual cost of "gun-violence" by 30 percent. If we would be willing to
spend $24 billion for a 30 percent reduction, then the valuation to reduce the
cost of "gun-violence" all the way down to zero would be 3.33 times
this amount, or approximately $80 billion.
With the constraints of logic and credulity
removed from the "gun-violence" equation, Cook and Ludwig had no
problem scrounging up the final missing $20 billion to arrive at their whopping
$100 billion total. They explained that sleight-of-hand thusly:
"Using data from workplace studies and
jury awards for the value per statistical life and nonfatal injury, we
estimate that the elimination of unintentional shootings and gun suicides in
1997 would be worth as much as $20 billion."
Now for the big switcheroo: the imaginary
amount Americans are willing to pay to reduce "gun-violence" becomes
magically transformed into the "real" dollars-and-cents cost of
After thoroughly corrupting the scientific
method - and abandoning all personal integrity - Cook and Ludwig proudly
"[We provide] the first attempt to
directly measure the comprehensive costs that gun violence imposes on American
THE REAL MOTIVE
The authors' real motives are exposed when Cook
and Ludwig discuss their "Remedies":
"Our topic [in this chapter] is those
strategies for reducing gun use in crime that are intended to work not by
reducing crime, but by reducing gun use in crime...The heart of the policy
response to gun violence focuses on efforts to reduce gun use in crime by
restricting supply and thus making it more difficult, time consuming, or
costly for a violent individual to obtain a gun."
The fact is that there has never been a
restrictive gun law which has been documented to prevent the criminal
acquisition of firearms. Even Cook and Ludwig admit,
"whether violent people can be disarmed
through restricting the supply of guns remains a topic of debate."
What restrictive gun laws have done is fuel the
black market, and render
firearm availability less accessible to law-abiding citizens, thereby creating
John Lott pointed out:
"This book would have been much more
credible if the authors had tried to...demonstrate that restricting gun
ownership reduces violent crime [Lott's own extensive research shows just the
opposite to be the case]. The topic is conspicuously absent, and for a very
obvious reason: not even their own past work on concealed handgun laws or the
Brady Act identifies such an effect...".
"Unfortunately, few people who hear the
$100 billion claim will understand that this number was merely derived from
one poll with a slanted question. Nor will they be able to penetrate the
book's academic jargon."
But we can count on the mainstream media and
anti-gun politicians to exploit this ignorance, and cite the "$100
billion" figure in their justification of the need for more gun laws.
THE MEASURE OF SUCCESS
When it comes to revealing their ultimate goal,
Australia's firearm-prohibitionists have been far more honest than their
American counterparts. Unencumbered by any Constitutional guarantees about some
silly right to keep and bear arms, to them, whether gun laws work as promised to
reduce violent crime is simply irrelevant, and they're not the least bit
squeamish about saying so.
In response to the April 28, 1996 shooting
rampage by lone gunman Martin Bryant at Port Arthur, Tasmania, harsh new firearm
laws were implemented throughout Australia, and more than a half million of
privately owned firearms were confiscated in what was termed a national gun
According to an August 24, 1998 newspaper
report headlined "Critics Blast Gun Logic in Wake of Shootings",
reporters Michael Geary and Nick Miller revealed:
"The [Australian] Federal government has
admitted it is not measuring the results of its $342 million gun buy-back
scheme. Kevin Donnellan, spokesman for Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone, said
the success of the scheme was measured by the number of guns handed in - about
640,000 across Australia - and not whether gun-related deaths have
So there we have it in their own words, the
real measure of "success" to the anti-self-defense lobby has
absolutely nothing to do with the promise of a safer country - the promise made
to Americans by those who gave us Brady - but everything to do with disarming
the good people in society.
About the authors: Dr. Paul Gallant
practices optometry in Wesley Hills, NY. Dr. Joanne Eisen practices dentistry in
Old Bethpage, NY. They may be reached at: G.O.S.S., Dept. GA, Box 354, Thiells,
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