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Junk Science: RAND Finds only 123 of 27,900 Gun Control Studies Meet Rigorous Scientific Standards


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We’ve all heard stories — on a monthly basis, if not more often — about alleged “studies” that allegedly show that if we just pass a few more gun control measures, we can finally turn the tide on the criminal misuse of firearms. Various big gun control groups love to tout these studies to support their baseless claims that more commonsense restrictions on law-abiding citizens’ rights will make the difference where thousands of other gun control laws have failed.

Take, for instance, this one from the highly respected, straight-shooting (cough) news network, CNN . . .

Study: 3 federal laws could reduce gun deaths by more than 90%

Passing federal laws that require universal background checks for firearm purchases, background checks on ammunition purchases and firearm identification could reduce the rate of U.S. gun deaths by more than 90%, according to a new study.

“We wanted to see which restrictive gun laws really work, as opposed to saying ‘restrictive laws work,’ and figure out if we are pushing for a law which might not work,” said Bindu Kalesan, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University and lead author of the study, which was published on Thursday in The Lancet.

If you believed any of that, I have some lovely beachfront property in Arkansas I’d like to talk to you about.

Recently the RAND Corporation analyzed 27,900 studies like the one above that purport to  research gun control measures. Shockingly, they found that only a tiny fraction of them actually survive rigorous scientific scrutiny into their findings.

What’s more, of the legitimate studies that did followed scientific practices, even those didn’t affirm the effectiveness of gun control laws.

In other words, the vast majority of the 27,900 studies examined by RAND were junk “science.” In fact, RAND’s analysis suggests that in many of these faulty studies, “researchers may have suppressed results that suggest gun control measures are not working as intended.” Get outta town!

Screen capture by Boch. Via YouTube.

As Bloomberg columnist, statistician and risk analyst Aaron Brown puts it in the video above . . .

If you think that most published journal articles on public policy issues have clear causal conclusions, such as that a specific gun control regulation does or does not work, you would be mistaken. 

From Reason Magazine . . .

There has been a massive research effort going back decades to determine whether gun control measures work. A 2020 analysis by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, parsed the results of 27,900 research publications on the effectiveness of gun control laws. From this vast body of work, the RAND authors found only 123 studies, or 0.4 percent, that tested the effects rigorously. Some of the other 27,777 studies may have been useful for non-empirical discussions, but many others were deeply flawed. 

We took a look at the significance of the 123 rigorous empirical studies and what they actually say about the efficacy of gun control laws. 

The answer: nothing. The 123 studies that met RAND’s criteria may have been the best of the 27,900 that were analyzed, but they still had serious statistical defects, such as a lack of controls, too many parameters or hypotheses for the data, undisclosed data, erroneous data, misspecified models, and other problems. 

…Tellingly, the studies that have gotten the most media or legislative attention aren’t among the 123 that met RAND’s approval. The best studies made claims that were too mild, tenuous, and qualified to satisfy partisans and sensationalist media outlets. It was the worst studies, with the most outrageous claims, that made headlines.

[emphasis added.]

Or as Brown found . . .

Of the thousands of studies that have been done on the effect of gun control laws, nearly all are so flawed as to be total nonsense. The hundred or so good studies are usually ignored or misrepresented by politicians and the media. 

So the next time you hear the mainstream media or a politician touting the latest groundbreaking “study” showing the salutary effects of gun control laws just remember this report. Using these to support claims that gun control actually prevents criminal misuse of guns is less scientifically accurate than claiming drinking milk causes car accidents.

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