I Also Do Requests, Part III – More Deliberate Mendacity

Continuing with the dissection of the Brady Campaign’s CCW FAQ page, we come to the next question:

Q: Has any peer-reviewed academic research been done on the effects of weakening CCW laws in Florida?

Pretty simple question, no? And here’s their pretty simple answer:

A: Yes. In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide. The researchers noted that by weakening limits on concealed weapons, states may be giving up a simple and effective method of preventing firearms deaths.

This is the internet, ladies and gentlemen. ONE peer reviewed study? No link to said study or a third-party synopsis of it? No, we’re just supposed to take the Brady Center’s unimpeachable word that agendaless researchers at the unbiased University of Maryland did a detached scientific study of CCW and found that gun homicides increased after CCW laws – in three states – went up (by the scary number of 26%!) while other homicides “did not increase.”

That study, I am forced to assume, is one by the title “Easing Concealed Firearm Laws: Effects on Homicide in Three States” produced by David McDowall, Colin Loftin, and Brian Wiersema of the University of Maryland’s Violence Research Group. Problem is, the researchers didn’t study three STATES, they studied five metropolitan areas in three states, and they did so over a period in which national homicide rates were trending UP (see the Bureau of Justice Statistics graphs from Part 1 of this series.) Here’s what the paper says they studied:

We studied patterns in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon. In addition, we analyzed monthly homicide counts and examined only large urban areas within the three states. To find if the laws influenced gun deaths differently, firearm homicides were separated from homicides by other means.

We conducted analyses for Dade (Miami), Duval (Jacksonville), and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties in Florida, and for Hinds (Jackson) county in Mississippi. Because there were relatively few homicides in Multnomah county (Portland), we combined Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon. For each area, we used death certificate data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to count monthly homicides through December 1990. Health departments in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon provided additional cases from January 1991, to December 1992.

For all areas except Miami, we studied the period between January 1973 and December 1992 (240 months). We confined our Miami analysis to January 1983 through December 1992 (120 months) because of an unusually sharp increase in homicide rates in May 1980 after an influx of Cuban refugees. In late 1982 the rates appeared to stabilize.

Well, gee, national firearms violence trends were UP during this period, and CCW laws were in effect in these three areas at the same time. OBVIOUSLY CCW made the homicide rates go up, right?

Right?

I’m not a statistician, but to me the answer appears to be “Not quite.”

Look at table 1 of the research paper. It’s a doozy all right:

Notice anything interesting? Notice the wide variations within the three cities studied. Miami – with a very high homicide rate, very little change (+3%), yet Jacksonville’s rate went up 75% (another scary number!) But Florida’s homicide rate overall after passage of their CCW law did what? That’s right – it went DOWN, except for that first year after passage while the permitting process was under way. Remember, the law went into effect OCTOBER 1 of 1987. By the end of 1988 the initial rush of everyone who wanted a CCW permit had been taken care of, and from 1988 onward, Florida’s homicide rates overall went DOWN. But by cherry-picking urban areas, our intrepid researchers made it appear that Florida’s homicide rates went up, did they not? Is that not what the Brady Center just said?

In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide.

(Note the use of the weasle-word “could.”) This is known as deliberate mendacity. Because the report clearly states:

Despite this evidence, we do not firmly conclude that shall issue licensing leads to more firearms murders. This is so because the effects varied over the study areas. Firearms homicides significantly increased in only three areas, and one area witnessed an insignificant decrease. In combination, the increase in gun homicides was large and statistically significant. Yet we have only five replications, and two of these do not clearly fit the pattern.

The statistical significance of the combined results aside, the analysis implies that shall issue policies do not always raise levels of gun murder. Sometimes, at least, local conditions operate to blunt any effects. The areas without significant increases, Portland and Miami, may be unusual, but we lack the data to examine whether this is true.

Stated in another way, we cannot completely dismiss historical events as an explanation of the increases in firearms murders. One would need a complex theory to explain how history could mask a decrease in homicides after the laws. Historical accounts of the apparent increase might be much simpler. One would then be left with the hypothesis that the effects of the laws are nil.

In other words, “shall-issue” CCW laws don’t seem to affect homicide rates in any provable way.

Which means the Brady Center CCW FAQ page is lying. Boldly, blatantly, and with deliberate intent to mislead. They tell their readers that a research paper they didn’t name and gave no link to proved that “liberalized concealed carry” increases homicides, while the actual paper makes no such claim.

But “shall issue” CCW protects many people who jump through the hoops and actually carry. People like Barbara Holland. Ask her if CCW is a good idea.

How do you like being lied to? It’s a standard tactic in the gun control debate – both sides do it. They lie with statistics and expect you to just accept that their researchers are the unbiased ones. But if you bother to actually look it’s blindingly obvious which side is more deliberate, blatant, and outrageous at it. The gun-rights side tells you that CCW reduces crimes by some small but significant number, the gun-ban side tells you that CCW makes crime go UP by some scary number. But the facts show that CCW doesn’t seem to have much effect on crime rates overall. However, as each new state has considered and then passed “liberalized” concealed carry, the gun control groups have always predicted increases in firearm crime, “blood in the streets,” “Dodge City shootouts,” and so on. And they never happen.

But that’s how it works in this conflict. Supposedly neutral researchers do some “research” and come to some conclusion, generally vague and tentative, and above all deniable. Then advocates take those vague and tentative conclusions and blow them out of proportion – often without attribution – and the two sides start throwing bogus “facts” at each other, pissing off the vast middle ground who decide (and often rightly so) that both sides are lying again, and tune them out.

Now some questions: As a control, why didn’t our intrepid researchers look into homicides over the same period in urban areas in which CCW was prohibited or still highly restricted? Why did they not study the entire state rather than just the urban areas. Why was there no data on the number of CCW permits issued over the study period? Some estimate of how many, and where such permit holders lived? Were they mostly urban? Rural? Did it not matter, and if not, why? What was suggested to the reader when the report showed a 75% increase in firearm homicides in Jacksonville after CCW passage? Was there any effort to find evidence of CCW permit holders being involved in homicide?

This is the kind of thing that made me an advocate. I studied both sides. I concluded that one side was lying in order to deny me a Constitutionally protected fundamental right, and one side was lying to me in order to protect that right. Lying isn’t justified by the intent, in my opinion, but when it comes to my rights I’ll cut them a bit of slack. (John Lott excepted.) I will not forgive the other side.

And I don’t think Barbara Holland would either.

UPDATE: If you want a beautiful example of unattributed assertions of statistical “fact” that are complete and utter horseshit – by, of course, the Brady Bunch – please go read Phelps’s fisking of this op-ed.

Remember, it’s for the children!

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