When NBC News learned that two anti-gun authors had created another “study” that proved (this time) that private gun ownership resulted in more police officers being murdered, they were only too happy to ignore the study and its flaws and instead give one of its authors plenty of ink. Wrote Maggie Fox, “The report is sure to be controversial but it adds a new dimension to a conversation that’s been recently focused more on police shootings of unarmed Americans.” The study, “Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officials in the United States,” authored by a couple of PhDs, David Swedler and David Hemenway, and published on August 14 in the American Journal of Public Health, blames the prevalence of police murders on guns in private hands without saying that those hands belong to criminals and not innocent private citizens.
Fox quoted Swedler:
Officers are three times more likely to be murdered on the job in high gun ownership states in comparison with low gun ownership states. That was the big WOW for me.
If we’re interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what’s killing them is guns.
It’s pencils that misspell, it’s Big Macs that make people fat, and it’s guns that shoot police officers. Bob Owens of Bearing Arms couldn’t resist:
[I] interviewed several guns in response to Mr. Swedler’s claims, including a Beretta 92FS, a Springfield Armory SC, and a Walther PPQ, asking [them] if they had any particular animosity towards law enforcement officers.
In response, the three handguns merely sat there….
Here’s the conclusion from the report:
High public gun ownership is a risk for occupational mortality for LEOs in the United States. States should consider methods for reducing firearm ownership as a way to reduce occupational deaths of LEOs.
This was the foregone conclusion as indicated in the report that Fox obviously failed to read: “We hypothesized that firearm ownership would be positively correlated with homicide rates of LEOs.” Not surprisingly that’s precisely the conclusion reached by the piece.
There were some disclaimers placed throughout the study, but one had to dig deeply to find them. There was this elemental bit of logic: “It is possible that homicides of LEOs are driven by criminal offender theory: [that] more frequent encounters with motivated violent offenders are the root cause of LEO homicide rates.”
Well, really. Especially when one learns from the FBI that, from 2004 to 2013, 46 percent of officer murderers had prior arrests for crimes of violence. 63 percent of them had been convicted on prior criminal charges and 50 percent had received probation or parole to prior criminal charges!
The study contained errors of logic, something called post hoc, ergo propter hoc, or “after this, therefore because of this” as seen here:
An international comparison of LEO mortality in New York City and London … found that 20 times as many officers died from intentional gunshot wounds in New York compared with London, where personal firearm ownership is markedly lower.
What was missing from the “study” was any possible explanation except the one wished to be drawn, namely that the LEO homicide rate in London increased by 50 percent in the eight years after Britain’s 1997 handgun ban went into effect!
There were other flaws, including the use of data on suicides in each state as a proxy for the number of guns owned in that state, rather than real gun ownership numbers. Worse than that, the data was measured across states, not over time.
John Lott caught this immediately. The founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of More Guns, Less Crime, The Bias Against Guns, and Freedomomics, said:
It took [me] just a couple of minutes to read the paper and realize that the empirical work was done in a very non-standard way … the authors … only control for differences across states and not over time….
Just accounting for the changes in crime rates over time completely reverses the claims made in the [report].
The NRA leaped on this massive distortion of truth to promote an agenda by pointing out that the increasing prevalence of private ownership of guns has actually decreased the number of police homicides:
Law enforcement officer killings have been decreasing while ownership of firearms has been increasing dramatically.
From 1993 to 2013, the most recent year of data from the FBI and BATFE, the annual number of law enforcement officers feloniously killed dropped 61 percent, the number killed with firearms dropped 61 percent, and the number with handguns dropped 64 percent, while the American people acquired 140 million new firearms, including 64 million new handguns.
In 2013, the number of law enforcement officers feloniously killed by any means, with any firearms, or with handguns was less than half the annual average of the last 20 years.
It always helps to know who is behind the study and what their agenda might be, especially when it comes to the private ownership of guns. While David Swedler was obtaining his PhD at John Hopkins, he led studies of occupational homicides of law enforcement officers, and co-author David Hemenway heads up the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. In April, 2013, Hemenway provided observers with this homily about the ownership of guns, and manhood:
Instead of it being the mark of a real man that you can shoot somebody at 50 feet and kill them with a gun, the mark of a real man is that you would never do anything like that….
The gun is a great equalizer because it makes wimps as dangerous as people who really have skill and bravery and so I’d like to have this notion that anyone using a gun is a wuss. They aren’t anybody to be looked up to. They’re somebody to look down at because they couldn’t defend themselves or couldn’t protect others without using a gun.
It’s also helpful to know the background on the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health where Swedler investigated police homicide rates. Founded in 1916 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, it changed its name in April, 2001 in honor of one of its biggest benefactors, one Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and backer of Everytown for Gun Safety – the anti-gun movement that sprang into being in 2014. That school is now called the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Efforts by anti-gunners like Hemenway and Swedler, educated at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, which is funded by Bloomberg, must be carefully parsed to confirm that their studies, and those like them, are merely grist for the media’s propaganda mill, despite being given the imprimatur of credibility by the likes of NBC News.