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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 Eisen

THE "FIX" IS IN FOR A FAILURE

by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen

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 deal.

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 Prevention Act".

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 show "loophole".

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", they noted:

"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 violence prevention.

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 abject failure?

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 gun-related violence."

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 "gun-violence".

After thoroughly corrupting the scientific method - and abandoning all personal integrity - Cook and Ludwig proudly declared:

"[We provide] the first attempt to directly measure the comprehensive costs that gun violence imposes on American society..."

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 more victims.

As Dr. 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...".

Added Lott,

"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 "buy-back" program.

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 fallen".

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, NY 10984-0354


Other Articles by Doctors Gallant and Eisen

Other Articles on the Topic of Anti-gun Deceptions

Evaluating the "43 Times" Fallacy
When Grabbers Murder Logic – VPC’s Newest Study Piles Fallacy Atop Fallacy
Bait and Switch -- A Lesson in Exaggerating Benefits and Hiding Costs
Violence Policy Gambit
Handgun Control, Inc. Discredits Itself
Republican, My Foot!
Deceptions and True Intentions of the so-called Million Mom March
Fraudulent Gun Control Politics At The Million Mom March by Jim March and Nadja Adolf

 

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