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January 13, 2007

A LOOK AT HARVARD AND GUN CONTROL. I'm pretty sure that these guys would call anyone who accepted grants from the NRA bought-and-paid-for. But the Joyce Foundation is every bit as biased as the NRA, and has a history of paying for scholarship that would be treated as a scandal if it were engaged in by pro-gun folks.

I find much of the public health literature on guns to be highly biased and deeply untrustworthy. It starts with an agenda, rather obviously, and then constructs "research" to confirm it. In this it resembles far too much of the politicized social science we see today, which explains in part why people are far less persuaded by social science claims than they used to be.

Meanwhile, note this piece by Jacob Sullum on gun control's shaky empirical foundation. Excerpt:

The panelists considered 51 published studies examining seven different kinds of laws, including bans on specific firearms, restrictions on who may own a firearm, and waiting periods for gun purchases. They "found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws."

In other words, after more than half a century of local, state, and federal gun control legislation, we still don't know whether these laws do what they're supposed to do. The report's most consistent finding was inconsistent findings: Sometimes gun control is associated with reduced violence, and sometimes it's associated with increased violence.

The world is messy, and it can be difficult to control for all the relevant variables when you're trying to determine the impact of a particular law. Not surprisingly, the CDC panel calls for more and better research, and it cautions that "insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness."

But it's scandalous that politicians have been legislating in the dark all these years, promising that the gun control solution du jour would save lives when there was no evidence to back up such claims. If gun control laws have any positive effect at all, it must be pretty modest to have escaped documentation so far.

If a drug company were as cavalier about science as these people are, its executives would all be in jail.