Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Scientific research and 'gun violence'

There's an interesting two part article at BoingBoing on the topic:  'Science and gun violence: why is the research so weak?'  I won't bother to reproduce bits of them here, because it's worth reading both articles in full to get the flavor of the author's arguments.  Briefly, she argues that because of the way data is collected, then analyzed, it's seldom sufficiently thorough or rigorous to draw conclusions.

Here's my take on the subject.  I think there's far too much partisanship among scientists to trust the data they collect.  Most of them seem to start from a given perspective - that guns are either good or bad - then look for data to defend or justify that perspective.  As a result, I look upon so-called 'scientific' arguments for or against firearms ownership with a jaundiced eye.

What say you, readers?  Go read the two articles, then let us know your opinion in Comments.



sonjay said...

One of the most significant factors in this kind of research is that the opposing sides don't even agree on exactly what the research should be researching.

Both parts of that article used the term "gun violence" exclusively. Not once is the word "violence" used alone. The gun-grabbers always want to look only at "gun violence" without considering the overall levels of violence.

If you care only about gun violence, then the gun grabbers have a point: If we could somehow magically make all the guns in the world disappear, and we could somehow magically make it impossible for anyone to manufacture or make any more guns, the rate of "gun violence" would, by definition, fall to zero.

But that doesn't mean that the world would somehow magically become peaceful and free of violence. There would undoubtedly still be plenty of violence; it just wouldn't involve guns.

The pro-gun side, on the other hands, generally prefers research that looks at overall rates of violent crime. It's probably obvious which side of that debate I fall on; I happen to think that looking at overall rates of violent crime is the only valid approach to this kind of research.

As long as the two sides approach this kind of research from such fundamentally opposing premises, there will never be agreement on the relationship between guns and crime, no matter how much research is done or how it's conducted.

tweell said...

It is a hard one, and muddled by both sides IMHO. From what I have seen, the anti-gun folks appeal to feelings rather than logic, pick their statistics and even outright lie (Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael Bellesiles).

The pro-gun folks want as little information available as possible about firearm owners. This is to keep the US from sliding down the slippery slope of registration to confiscation that has happened to so many other places. However, it still keeps us from being able to prove the point beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I'm obviously biased, but given the anti-gun faction's actions and claims to date, I figure that even having that information available would not change their stance.