CPRC on CNN to discuss the false claim that gun licensing reduced firearm homicides in Connecticut by 40%

13 Jun , 2015  

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Carina Storrs with CNN interviewed John Lott, and tried to get across the point that you can’t cherry pick one law in one state when many places are changing their laws.  Unfortunately, she left out the main point that even for Connecticut there was no real evidence that the licensing law was responsible for this drop in firearm homicides (e.g., even their comparison would have show a relative increase in firearm homicides in Connecticut if they had added just one more year of data).  For the part of the article dealing with Lott, CNN had this:

. . . Ten states have laws similar to Connecticut’s, including background check requirements. It is hard to know what effect permit-to-purchase laws have without looking in these other states, said John R Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, a gun rights advocate and columnist for Fox News. “If 10 states passed a law, eight could increase and two could fall, and how do I know that it was because of the gun law?” he said.

Although Webster said he would like to study the effect of gun laws in other states, that research is not practical. Most states passed meaningful gun laws, such as laws requiring background checks, long ago, “frankly before I was born,” and it would be hard to know how those laws were enforced back then, and how society responded to them, he explained. In addition, information from death certificates was less readily available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before 1980, he said.

Massachusetts passed a gun law more recently, in 1998, and the number of firearm-related homicides reportedly increased after the law. However, this law did not really change how people buy guns in the state because a law requiring background checks had already been in place for decades, Webster said. . . .

Storrs also mentioned that what happened in Massachusetts, something that the CPRC had informed her about that we had looked at (see also here).  She mentions Dan Webster’s response that somehow background checks were the key difference, but, even that claimed difference in laws is accurate (both states already had federal background checks),  that doesn’t explain why you don’t also include Massachusetts because if you think that there are different parts of different laws that are important you can include dummy variables for licensing and background checks.  In addition, even assuming for the sake of argument that the Connecticut law reduced firearm homicides, Webster isn’t disentangling the different parts of the law and he is implicitly admitting that he believes it is the background check, not the licensing that is crucial (after all both Massachusetts and Connecticut had .  Of course, Webster ignores the large literature that showing no benefit from lower crime rates due to background checks.

Webster dishonestly attributed the entire drop in firearm homicides from 1995 to 2005 to the gun law, even though there had been large drops nationally and regionally over that same period and even if you do it the way he wants to do it (which is wrong) adding one more year reverses his results.

“I did expect a reduction [but] 40% is probably a little higher than I would have guessed,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research who led the study, which was published Friday in the American Journal of Public Health. . . .

Carina Storrs’ story on this study got covered by a wide range of places such as: WBAL in Baltimore; KPRC in Houston; WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida;  FoxCT in Hartford, CT;  WTVR in Richmond; KXLY in Spokane;  KQFX in Columbia, Missouri; WDJT in Milwaukee; WJCL in Savannah; WCYB in Bristol, Tennessee; WDSU in New Orleans; KBZK and KRTV in Montana; and about 70 other places.

Other media have also given this story extensive coverage: including the Associated Press (with newspapers across the country carrying their story), Washington Post, Newsweek, US News & World Report,  Philadelphia Inquirer, Newser, Baltimore Sun, Arstechnica, Salon, and Huffington Post. Medical publications that have covered this include: HealthDayDoctorsLounge,  CNN was the only organization that provided any coverage of another side of the story.


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