Physician gun group excoriates firearm law database

A pro-gun group of physicians excoriated a newly-released database of state firearms laws as a “waste of time” in a blog published last week.

Dr. Tom Vaughan, of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, said the Boston University researchers behind the State Firearm Law Database revealed nothing more than an anti-gun bias by including “misleading statements and outright lies” in their analysis, published in the Georgia-based Telegraph May 23.

“While I’m fairly sure I know what they hope to accomplish — career advancement and research funding from wealthy liberals like Michael Bloomberg — I’m not sure that they’re prepared for other experts to analyze their data and draw their own conclusions,” he said in a May 25 article for DRGO.

He continued, “While such a database, constructed impartially, could be very useful, the authors reveal their strong anti-Second Amendment bias. They have salted the article with a few facts, but they have also included several misleading statements as well as blatant lies, presumably to broaden its appeal.”

Michael Siegel, professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston University, and Molly Pahn, the institution’s research manager, collaborated on the database to uncover patterns in firearm law adoption, according to the Telegraph editorial.

“More than anything else, this database is intended to help researchers evaluate the effectiveness of different state-level approaches to reducing gun violence,” Siegel and Pahn said. “By examining the relationship between changes in these laws over time and changes in firearm mortality, researchers may be able to identify which policies are effective and which are not.”

The database tracks 133 different laws designed to reduce gun violence, according to Siegel and Pahn, of which five states — Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota — have adopted fewer than six between 1991 and 2016. Two states, California and Massachusetts, passed more than 100 of the possible measures, while 16 states repealed more laws than enacted in the 25-year period studied.

Missouri and South Carolina led the pack, repealing nine laws as of 2016.

Despite lax gun laws, gun suicide rates in Alaska and Idaho in 2015 rank 49th and 47th, respectively. Idaho’s rate of firearm homicides, however, ranks sixth in the nation. Alaska comes in at 37.

Gun violence in the other three lax states identified in the report — Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota — likewise appear sporadic. Mississippi’s gun homicide rate ranks third to last nationwide, while its suicide rate is significantly higher, at 33. Montana’s rankings skew the opposite direction, ranking 14 for gun homicides and 48 for suicides. South Dakota’s gun homicide rates rank 11 highest in the nation while its suicide rate is 28 highest.

The two most active states in ratifying firearm laws, California and Massachusetts, report high rates of gun violence. California’s gun suicide rate ranks 8 in the nation and its homicide rate comes in at 25. Massachusetts reports the highest suicide rate nationwide and the fourth highest homicide rate.

Since, 1991, however, both states’ rates dropped by about half in each category, while the rates in the five most relaxed states increased, sometimes by less than a tenth of a percent, according to the report.

Other research highlights include nearly half of all states adopted a “Stand your Ground” law between 2004 and 2017, while a dozen have legalized permitless carry.

Siegel and Pahn also noted state laws designed to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits quadrupled from just seven in 1991 to 33 in 2016.

“No other consumer product manufacturer enjoys such broad immunity,” the researchers told The Telegraph. “A similar law at the federal level resulted in the dismissal of a lawsuit against gun manufacturers brought by the families of children killed in the Newtown tragedy in Connecticut.”

Vaughn identified this as one of the analysis’s most blatant fallacies.

“As if Lexus could be held liable if one of their cars was deliberately driven into a crowd of people, or Stanley could be successfully sued when one of their hammers is used to bludgeon someone to death,” he said.

The researchers’ comments regarding the “Gun Show Loophole” drew more criticism from Vaughn, who called it “another lie of omission.”

“They fail to note that virtually every mass homicide committed with firearms in the past 10 years has been committed by someone who passed such a check when purchasing the firearm used in the crime — even the New York Times has acknowledged that,” he said. “And several studies have demonstrated that common criminals obtain their guns almost exclusively through illegal means — sales between known criminals, theft, etc. They will never subject themselves to background checks.”

Siegel and Pahn say they want their research to help legislators “distinguish policies that effectively reduce firearm violence from those that are ineffective and therefore superfluous.”

Except, Vaughn argues, the database fails by design. “So if you’re planning a move from California or Massachusetts in the not too distant future — perhaps because you’d like to live in a state where gun ownership is more common, and firearm laws more respectful of citizens’ natural right to self defense — this database may be useful,” he said. “Or if you’re curious as to what sort of academic standards apply at Boston University, this article may help you understand that as well. Otherwise, no need to waste your time.”