[Ed: This piece appeared June 19 as a SCOPE-NY ‘Briefing’.]
On June 13th, Ammoland had an article entitled, “Is Gun Control Making Vermont less Safe.” It answered its question by concluding, “Vermont’s gun control measures had no salutary impact whatsoever in the already peaceful jurisdiction.”
But how it got to that conclusion was an interesting path since it dealt with whether or not many of the academic studies on gun control – or anything else in the social science realm – have much validity.
It concluded that “…different researchers presented with the same exact data will come to wildly different conclusions.” Oops.
How did it reach that conclusion?
In a 2022 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences*, the authors assembled 161 researchers in 73 teams and provided them with the same data and hypothesis to be tested.
The authors reported: “Results from our controlled research…demonstrate that analyzing the same hypothesis with the same data can lead to substantial differences in statistical estimates and substantive conclusions. In fact, no two teams arrived at the same set of numerical results or took the same major decisions during data analysis.” (Emphasis added.)
Gee whiz. Does that mean that, ”Much of social science is of dubious value, even before trying to account for political bias.”
Following that path, in 2022, Reason magazine exposed almost all “gun violence” social science as junk science.
“Drawing on the expertise of statistician and New York University and University of California at San Diego instructor Aaron Brown and a 2020 analysis by the RAND Corporation, the video** explained that the vast majority of gun violence research is not conducted in a manner sufficient to offer meaningful conclusions. An article accompanying the video, written by Brown and Reason Producer Justin Monticello, noted, 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.” (Emphasis added.)
Reason and Brown then examined those remaining 123 studies from the RAND analysis and offered the following,
“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.”
“The gun issue aside, the problems inherent in the type of modeling presented here, the academy’s obvious political bias, and the replication crisis*** have led to increasing doubts about whether large swathes of the social sciences have any value at all.”
Then there are ‘Fact Checkers’ who claim to tell us what is true and what is false (without letting their personal biases enter into their analysis).
On June 13, 2023, The Washington Free Beacon ran an article about the political donations of self-identified fact checkers. It used federal campaign finance disclosures over the past four election cycles. It found that, “$22,580 of the $22,683 in political donations that came from self-identified fact checkers during that time—a whopping 99.5 percent—went to Democrats and liberal groups. Only three of the fact checker donations made during that period went to Republicans.”
Luckily, Democrats never let their political biases enter into their analyses. (Sarcasm intended.)
So, how do everyday gun owners make sense of what is true and what is junk science?
You could do what the Left does and read the NY Times and Washington Post and listen to CNN and MSNBC. (Just kidding.)
The answer is that you can be very skeptical, research the subject and use your common sense. The tough part is researching since that will take time. SCOPE and many 2A defender organizations often print rebuttals to misinformation but there is so much of it ‘out there’ the best approach is a rule-of-thumb: the Left believes that everything and anything – including lying – justifies their march to power and control.
** See this video explainer on the topic.
–Tom Reynolds is the president of SCOPE-NY.