Doing The Research The New York Times Won’t Do


In Sunday’s New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal claimed, as the title of her article put it, “More Guns = More Killing.” She based this on evidence that would never be permitted in any other context at the Times: (1) anecdotal observations; and (2) bald assertions of an activist, blandly repeated with absolutely no independent fact-checking by the Times.

There is an academic, peer-reviewed, long-term study of the effect of various public policies on public, multiple shootings in all 50 states over a 20-year period performed by renowned economists at the University of Chicago and Yale, William Landes and John Lott. It concluded that the only policy to reduce the incidence of, and casualties from, mass shootings are concealed-carry laws. The Times will never mention this study.

Instead, Rosenthal’s column proclaimed that armed guards do not reduce crime because: “I recently visited some Latin American countries … where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, ATM, restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.”

So there you have it: The cock crowed, then the sun came up. Therefore, the cock’s crowing caused the sun to come up. Rosenthal went to Harvard Medical School.

Here’s a tip: High-crime areas are often bristling with bulletproof glass, heavy-duty locks, gated windows and armed guards. The bulletproof glass doesn’t cause the crime; it’s a response to crime. On Rosenthal’s logic, hospitals kill people because more people die in hospitals than outside of them.

(In any event, the Lott-Landes study didn’t recommend armed guards, but armed citizens.)

Rosenthal also produces a demonstrably false statistic about Australia’s gun laws, as if it’s a fact that has been carefully vetted by the Newspaper of Record, throwing in the true source only at the tail-end of the paragraph:

“After a gruesome mass murder in 1996 provoked public outrage, Australia enacted stricter gun laws, including a 28-day waiting period before purchase and a ban on semiautomatic weapons. … Since, rates of both homicide and suicide have dropped 50 percent …,”: said Ms. Peters, who lobbied for the legislation.”

“Ms. Peters” is Rebecca Peters, a George Soros-funded, Australian anti-gun activist so extreme that she had to resign from the International Action Network on Small Arms so as not to discredit the U.N.-recognized organization — which isn’t easy to further discredit.

Could the Times’ public editor weigh in on whether unsubstantiated quotes from radical activists are now considered full and complete evidence at the Times?

It would be as if the Times headlined an article, “Abortion Increases Risk of Breast Cancer” with the sole support being a quote from Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry. (Except Terry would have evidence.)

Whether or not the homicide rate went up or down in Australia as a result of strict gun control laws imposed in 1997 is a fact that could have been checked by Times researchers. But they didn’t, because facts wouldn’t have given them the answer they wanted.

Needless to say, the effect of Australia’s gun ban has been extensively researched by Australian academics. As numerous studies have shown: After the gun ban, gun homicides in Australia did not decline any more than they were expected to without a gun ban.

Thus, for example, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the homicide rate has been in steady decline from 1969 to the present, with only one marked uptick in 1998-99 — right after the gun ban was enacted.

The showstopper for anti-gun activists like Ms. Rosenthal and Ms. Peters is the fact that suicides by firearm seemed to decrease more than expected after the 1997 gun ban.

But so did suicides by other means. Something other than the gun ban must have caused people to stop guzzling poison and jumping off bridges. (Some speculate that it’s the availability of anti-depressants like Prozac.)

Curiously — and not mentioned by Rosenthal — the number of accidental firearms deaths skyrocketed after Australia’s 1997 gun ban, although the law included stringent gun training requirements.

It turns out, until the coroner has certified a death as a “suicide,” it’s classified as “unintentional.” So either mandatory gun training has led to more accidents, or a lot of suicides are ending up in the “accident” column.

Most pinheadedly, especially for a graduate of the Harvard Medical School, Rosenthal says: “Before (the gun ban), Australia had averaged one mass shooting a year. (Since then,) there have been no mass killings.”

Mass murder is a rare enough crime that any statistician will tell you discerning trends is impossible. In this country, the FBI doesn’t even track mass murder as a specific crime category.

After Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” killers slaughtered the entire Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., the murder rate in that quiet farming town went up 400 percent in a single year! Was it Holcomb’s big showing at the 4-H club competition that year?

Totally unbeknownst to Elisabeth Rosenthal, Australian academics have already examined the mass murder rate by firearm by comparing Australia to a control country: New Zealand. (Do they teach “control groups” at Harvard?)

New Zealand is strikingly similar to Australia. Both are isolated island nations, demographically and socioeconomically similar. Their mass murder rate before Australia’s gun ban was nearly identical: From 1980 to 1996, Australia’s mass murder rate was 0.0042 incidents per 100,000 people and New Zealand’s was 0.0050 incidents per 100,000 people.

The principal difference is that, post-1997, New Zealand remained armed to the teeth — including with guns that were suddenly banned in Australia.

While it’s true that Australia has had no more mass shootings since its gun ban, neither has New Zealand, despite continuing to be massively armed.

The only thing Australia’s strict gun control laws has clearly accomplished is increasing the amount of violent crime committed with guns immediately after the ban took effect. Of course, Times reporters don’t have to worry about violent muggings, rapes and robberies because they live in doorman buildings.

For those who can’t afford fancy doorman buildings, bad journalism kills.

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