Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flawed Firearms Research is Agenda-Driven

Response to NCVP  research on gun violence- John Sterling
Conclusion:  Poor “analysis” of facts establish clear policy agenda.
POLICY POSITION of National Center for Violence Policy
Their report is available at
(My responses in Parenthesis)
Fact: The VPC asserts that “When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns (Their source estimates 310 million), how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.”
(In 2012, 8,342 criminal gun homicides were recorded by the FBI.  8,342 divided by 310 million = 0.0000269097.  What “strikes” me is that this is a number so low as to be statistically irrelevant).

The NCVP researchers ask this: “While it is clear that guns are rarely used to justifiably kill criminals, an obvious question remains: How often are guns used in self-defense whether or not a criminal is killed”
“…for the five-year period 2007 through 2011, the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics) estimates that there were 29,618,300 victims of attempted or completed violent crime. During this same five-year period, only 235,700 of the self-protective behaviors involved a firearm.
(29,618 divided by 235,700 = 7.957% over five years. Eight % is approximately 103,000 people who DID NOT become victims during the reporting period because of having a firearm available. Apparently this 8% of intended victims of violence do not matter to the Violence Policy Center. Instead they are agitated over the claim by pro-gun advocates that the number is higher.)

In “… the five-year period 2007 through 2011, the NCVS estimates that there were 84,495,500 victims of attempted or completed property crime.
During this same five-year period, only 103,000 of the self-protective behaviors involved a firearm. Of this number, it is not known what type of firearm was used, whether it was fired or not, or whether the use of a gun would even be a legal response to the property crime. And as before, the number may also include off-duty law enforcement officers. In comparison, data from the Department of Justice shows that an average of 232,400 guns were stolen each year from U.S. households from 2005 to 2010.
(84.5 million property crimes were either attempted or completed in this five year period – an average of 169,000/year.  Note that this “analysis” contains a fair bit of speculation on the part of the NCVP. They do not know how many crimes were “completed” so they cannot know how many “attempted” crimes were thwarted by armed property owners. Since property crimes can happen inside of, or outside of, the home, the legality of using deadly force or the threat of deadly force is unknown. Therefore this piece of information is useless to any “analysis”.)
(It is completely valid to be concerned with 232,400 guns being stolen each year [0.00075% of all estimated firearms], but that is different problem, requiring a different solution. Furthermore, there does not appear any research was done as to how many of those 232,400 guns are subsequently used in violent crimes, which WOULD be an important piece of information, particularly for an organization whose interest is in violence prevention. )

CONCLUSION of the NCVP:  “The reality of self-defense gun use bears no resemblance to the exaggerated claims of the gun lobby and gun industry.”   (OK. And this important, why?)    Further, “…in 35.5 percent of the justifiable homicides that occurred in 2012 the persons shot were known to the shooter.”   (Not sure why this is relevant to the discussion. A threat is a threat regardless of whether the victim knows the perpetrator, or in what context.)
  The devastation guns inflict on our nation each and every year is clear: more than 33,000 dead, more than 81,000 wounded, and an untold number of lives traumatized…”  (It is interesting to me that these figures are NOT footnoted.  There is no citation provided to check these numbers.  But assuming they are accurate, they do not constitute evidence to prove their assertion.    They are just “out there” and the reader is left to form his/her own conclusions. Logically, the number of all people killed by firearms in the United Stated per year would be people who were (1) unarmed victims of crime, (1) armed perpetrators of crime, or (3) suicides.  Intuitively, the vast majority of those killed by firearms are people who were using firearms illegally. (i.e. criminals killing other criminals as in gangland shootings, shootouts with police, etc.. Hardly useful information if the purpose to hinder lawful gun ownership. Further, the VPC clearly is more compassionate towards criminals than towards the citizens who use firearms to protect themselves.)
“When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.” (Besides being irrelevant if offered in support of gun control, this fact, actually tends to support the conclusion that private ownership of firearms is more safe than a whole range of other lawful, but more deadly, liberties. It is possible-even logical- to conclude therefore that if MORE people had firearms in their possession at the time of the attempted crime, more lives would be saved and crime would be REDUCED!  Instead, this organization is focused on the claims that MORE incidents of crime were prevented by firearms than may actually be the case. Again, I’m not quite sure why THAT is their focus when their organizations stated purpose is the prevention of unnecessary violence and death.
For example, in 2012, the same year from which NCVP draws their statistics, there were 254 million automobiles registered in the U.S. In that same year there were 33,561  automobile fatalities.  I’ll not even discuss the “…untold number of lives traumatized…” by being injured in an auto accident, nor shall I speculate on the numbers of unregistered cars on the road which may, or may not, have been involved in accidents.   Statistically speaking, the number of fatalities compared to the number of vehicles registered is about 0.00013213 %, or roughly TEN TIMES the numbers of fatalities compared to guns and gun-related violence in the U.S.. Further, there are apparently no statistics available for how many automobiles were used for self-defense so there is no way to compare the number of lives saved to the number of lives lost for that particular “dangerous” activity. Since that number is likely very low, the “self-defense value” of a firearm exceeds that of the much more dangerous automobile a hundred-fold or more.)

MY conclusion:  The NCVP seems unjustifiably antagonistic towards the private ownership of firearms and the use thereof to protect lives and property, and the overall reduction of crime. Their research is incomplete, and their analysis is flawed.   It seems clear that they are agenda-driven rather than research driven. Methinks they should change their name to one that more accurately expresses their agenda.
John Sterling, MA, JD
Copyright 2015

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