Bindu Kalesan, an assistant professor of medicine and strident foe of firearm civil rights (more about that later) at Boston University, has crashed onto the public health anti-gun rights advocacy scene. Kalesan is the lead author on an already-disputed article just published in The Lancet, claiming that passage of more gun control laws could reduce gun deaths. Her ideological allies in major media have trumpeted, prematurely it turns out, her legislative prescription with headline-friendly factoids such as CNN’s “Study: 3 federal laws could reduce gun deaths by more than 90%.”
Dr. Kalesan was just appointed last year to the stratospheric academic position of Director of BU-Medicine’s Center for Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research. She has already stirred controversy with BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal)-owned publication Injury Prevention, in which she helpfully suggests that politicians who are looking to suppress firearm civil rights would do well to start by attacking the American tradition of gun ownership. (See DRGO’s blog entry We Don’t Need No Thought Control, BMJ.)
Her Lancet article follows in the overtly hoplophobic style of her previous work, but is notable for the same flaws present in almost all public health research on guns. Her aim was to demonstrate how the presence of a broad range of gun control laws is related to a decrease in gun deaths. To do this she had to consider all the confounding factors that might blur the true effects of only the laws, and then somehow eliminate their influence in the calculations.
Variations in the minute details of laws between states, the degree to which prosecutors choose to enforce them, the ways various courts around the country adjudicate those laws, changing populations—the list of confounding factors goes on and on. The task of accounting for those factors is an impossible task for even the smartest scientists.
And so prominent anti-gun rights advocacy scientists have already lined up to excoriate Kalesan’s paper:
“That’s too big [Kalesan’s claim of a 90% gun death reduction] — I don’t believe that,” said David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “These laws are not that strong. I would just be flabbergasted; I’d bet the house if you did [implement] these laws, if you had these three laws and enforced them really well and reduced gun deaths by 10 percent, you’d be ecstatic.”
“Briefly, this is not a credible study and no cause and effect inferences should be made from it,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research… What I find both puzzling and troubling is this very flawed piece of research is published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals around,” Webster said in an interview. “Something went awry here, and it harms public trust.”
Long-time anti-gun rights advocacy researcher Dr. Garen Wintemute took apart Dr. Kalesan’s analysis in this Los Angeles Times article: “I’m generally skeptical of cross-sectional studies of association,” Wintemute said. “Evidence from such studies is not considered to be strong.”
Teasing out statistical correlations from an enormously complex arena such as 50 different states with different populations, laws, courts, hospitals’ abilities to treat gunshot wounds, and all the other factors both known and unknown is a daunting enough task for an objective scientist. So it’s fair to say that a scientist who has loudly proclaimed her hatred of guns and her contempt for gun owners has no chance at all of being taken seriously.
Bindu Kalesan has done something no scientist should ever do. She has declared her extreme politics, including an astonishing hostility to the American civil right of gun ownership, repeatedly and pointedly on social media. She has even attacked Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership:
In her Facebook entry Kalesan condemns DRGO as “terrible people” who “need to be reported.” She doesn’t say to whom we should be reported, but presumably to some agency that could silence us because of our beliefs.
Far from projecting an image of an objective, deliberate scientist in her social media posts, Dr. Kalesan seems to view her Facebook page as a place to vent her deepest rages against gun owners. She reposts, often with approving comments, gun control propaganda that parades headline-screaming anecdotes of gun crimes or rare accidents:
And this bloody shirt-waving Huffington Post image and article suggesting that Iowa lawmakers are trying to legislate “a militia of toddlers.” Dr. Kalesan adds her faux outrage emoticon approval:
The professor of medicine turns raving ideologue in her January 4 Facebook entry, declaring that the huge body of criminology research done by the likes of Prof. Gary Kleck, Gary Mauser, Wright and Rossi, and John Lott doesn’t exist:
Dr. Kalesan is not shy about displaying her animosity against civil rights. This medical school professor joins in the hard-left Huffington Post’s joke that the right to keep and bear arms is a disease. But this mood is in keeping with her BMJ article (see above) urging an assault on the American culture of gun ownership.
In this Facebook entry Dr. Kalesan indulges the radical racism and totalitarianism of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Note her comment below the photo, “Guns were meant to kill after all.”
We warn readers about the graphic content in Dr. Kalesan’s venomous post on her Facebook page here. She posts a rant from “The Other 98%”, tacitly approving of its repulsive, man-hating message, which includes a casual recommendation of sexual assault against young men who want to buy a gun:
Dr. Kalesan seems to have a reserve of bad feeling left over for her other bogeymen, too. This post on her Facebook page reveals what might be charitably called psychological conflicts about white men (to whom she seems to universally ascribe malice and ill intent–in essence, a racist viewpoint) and the police. It also presents a fascinating perspective on the concept of privilege, coming from a woman with a doctorate and a prominent academic position publishing multiple “studies” in an effort to leverage her very privileged position to suppress fundamental civil rights of others:
It’s no secret that universities have become a refuge for all manner of hoplophobic, racist, thuggish, and distinctly un-American characters. We’re talking about tenured faculty.
But medical schools? Boston University Department of Medicine? When did it become acceptable for an openly racist, hoplophobic, man-hating and spiteful woman such as Dr. Bindu Kalesan to occupy a chair on the faculty of a respected medical center? To use a prestigious institution of learning as the launching pad for her hateful pronouncements? To fill the pages of formerly respected medical journals with junk science so shabby that even her gun-grabbing academic allies feel compelled to condemn it?
How long can Boston University Department of Medicine claim to be a hallowed institution of higher learning as long as it harbors Bindu Kalesan on its staff? The only course it can take after what she has done is to ask her to clear out her desk, and the sooner the better for the reputation of Boston University Department of Medicine.
—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.