Gun statistics — Should they be tortured or gently cross-examined? by Miguel A. Faria, MD

In a recent letter to the editor in The Telegraph (Macon), Mr. Colin Frayne began his letter by pointing out the need for “factual information” about guns. He cites the statistics that for 2016, “36,861 total annual deaths [were] from guns, of which 58 deaths were from terrorism.” And compares it to Japan, which allegedly had only one firearm death that same year. Statistics are not like pictures that tell a thousand words. They must be carefully analyzed. Unfortunately, in the hands of the mainstream liberal media, statistics are frequently tortured and made to confess to almost anything favoring the gun control agenda. That is why gun statistics must be carefully cross-examined in search for the truth.

Mr. Frayne cited the Financial Times for his data, but he could have cited CBS, NBC, ABC or CNN. They are parroting similar disinformation. For example, the purely propagandistic article, “How the US gun culture compares with the world in 5 charts — CNN (October 4, 2017) had previously propounded more or less the same data cited by Mr. Frayne.

However, unlike, Mr. Frayne — who did not tell the readers that of the 36,861 total annual deaths, two-thirds were suicides — CNN did. Most fellow gun prohibitionists have been following the lead of the mainstream liberal media, which have been claiming that the possession of so many guns in civilian hands in the U.S., is responsible for the high gun suicide rate. For the Democrats and their allies in the liberal press, the gun control arsenal must be replenished with suicide statistics because suicides outpace homicides every year by a 2:1 ratio.

The CNN article therefore further stated, “Gun-related suicides are eight times higher in the US than in other high-income nations.” But why select gun suicides? Why not compare the U.S. with other nations as to international suicide rates by all means? Fortunately, Mr. Frayne also mentioned Japan, which makes this lesson even more instructive. The latest figures (2015) show that Japan ranks 26th in International Suicide Rates; the Japanese commit suicide via hanging, suffocation, jumping in front of trains, and Hara-kiri at a rate of 19.7 per 100,000, much higher than the United States. Americans rank 48th and the rate is 14.3 per 100,000. Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Hungary, and many other European countries have higher rates of suicide than the U.S., and all of them have stricter gun laws. So obviously, worldwide, people use different cultural methods, guns, or whatever means they have available, to commit suicide, and they do so frequently at a higher rate than the U.S. But the liberal media chooses to cherry pick and compare the U.S. homicide and suicide “gun” rates with other countries to make America look bad. But one is just as dead from a gunshot as by a machete chop!

Parroting CNN, the letter writer also stated, “Forty-two percent of civilian-owned guns around the world are in the U.S., which accounts for 4 percent of the global population.” This is a statistic difficult to come by. But assuming, it is true, it was American arms that also liberated Western Europe, beat the Nazis, and then protected the pusillanimous Europeans from the Soviet Bear during the cold war. American civilians even sent guns to Britain to arm the Home Guard (HG), the first line of defense against the Nazis. The HG was using pikes to prevent the Nazis from landing in England! The guns incidentally were never returned. The Europeans, in short, should be thanking God for the Americans on a daily basis, instead of decrying our “gun culture.”

As for the assertion, “Half of the 265 million guns in the U.S. are owned by 3 percent of U.S. adults.That’s an average of 17 guns each for individuals in this group.”  If the statement is correct, all it means is that 3% of Americans are serious gun collectors. If they were criminals we would not know about their possession. And as to gun ownership, even good citizens, with good reason, lie about their guns. They are afraid of common thieves as well as confiscation by legal predators. Researchers have found that gun surveys underestimate gun possession and gun usage by approximately 36%, which means, for example, that one-third of gun owners will deny gun ownership and even beneficial gun usage in surveys and polls.

International homicide rates per 100,000 population

Lastly, echoing CNN, Mr. Frayne asserts, “The gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 25.2 times higher than other high-income countries.” Notice the caveats, “gun homicides” and “high-income countries.” With gun homicides, the liberal media eliminate the competition from other countries where murders are committed, as with suicides, by whatever means available, from beating to death barehanded to swinging machetes, knifing, and whatever the murderous mind may conceive. “High income countries” means that most of the world doesn’t count. I must suppose that only the lives of wealthy (“high-income”) Europeans count and are worth comparing to the U.S. Why? Most of Africa, including North Africa; Latin America, including our next-door neighbor, Mexico and most of the Caribbean and Central America; and the Eurasian landmass, including Russia and Kazakhstan — have higher rates of homicides than the U.S. In Rwanda, the genocide of Tutsis by Hutus was mostly done with machetes. Liberals can get away with anything, but as a Hispanic I have for years resented this neglect of most of the world by the progressive gun-grabbers, and it is time that ethnic and geopolitical discrimination stops. All lives count, particularly when it comes to homicides — with or without guns — and the U.S. is nowhere near the top.

The CNN article claimed erroneously, “When it comes to gun massacres, the US is an anomaly. There are more public mass shootings in America than in any other country in the world.” Well, I have debunked those assertions elsewhere. As Gun Owners of America (GOA) has reported, France had more mass killings in 2015 than there were mass shootings in America in all of Obama’s two terms. Besides, mass shootings account for less than 1 percent of murders in the U.S.

Are there any other gun statistics that need cross-examining?

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, M.D. is an Associate Editor in Chief in socioeconomics, politics, medicine, and world affairs of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). He is the author of Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution — Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002). His website is  http://HaciendaPublishing.com.

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Gun statistics — Should they be tortured or gently cross-examined? HaciendaPublishing.com, October 17, 2017. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/gun-statistics–should-they-be-tortured-or-gently-cross-examined-by-miguel-a-faria-md

Shorter versions of this article also appeared in GOPUSA.com and The Telegraph (Macon), October 17, 2017.

Copyright ©2017 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


Police shootings and black on black crime

According to data from both USA Today and the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, there are approximately 400 “felons” killed by police officers or “justifiable homicides” yearly in the US. In 2012, for example, there were 426 such homicides. These figures represent cases in which officers killing a suspect claim there was “an urgent safety need” for the shooting.

It also includes cases where the police report that the victim “attempted flight,” “was killed in the commission of a crime,” or “resisted arrest.” All of these scenarios, which are reported by the FBI as “justifiable homicides,” are posited to be over represented by black suspects. Admittedly, some of these “justifiable homicides” may ultimately turn out to be not justifiable and the victims not felons. Some critics also speculate that not all the police homicides are reported. That may be corrected; the FBI is now doing better tracking of statistics for its Uniform Crime Report and is requesting more information from local police departments about crimes in which the police use deadly force against citizens.(1)

And yet there is a much bigger problem: Black on black crime. Government statistics reveal blacks killed blacks in alarming epidemic proportions. In 2013 blacks represented 13%, whites 64%, and Hispanics 16%, respectively of the U.S. population. (Notice that ethnic Hispanics now constitute a larger segment of the U.S. population than blacks.)  Below are the homicide statistics for 2013 by offenders and victims:

Whites (non-Hispanic; 64% of the population) committed 3005 homicides; the victims were white in 2509 cases, and black in 409 cases.

Blacks (non-Hispanic; 13% of the population) committed 2491 homicides; the victims were white in 189 cases, and black in 2245 cases.

Hispanics (16% of the population) committed 588 homicides; the victims were white or Hispanic in 486 cases, and black in 87 cases.(2)

Given these statistics, why are the media and black leaders preoccupied with the politics of police shootings, a relatively small fraction of black homicides, justifiable or not, when young blacks continue to kill each other in veritable urban battlefields? And yet, although far from perfect, opportunity is available to everyone, public education is virtually obligatory, and government programs abound, so much so that they are rife with waste and abuse.

What should black leaders,(3) civic organizations, and the mainstream media(4) be clamoring for as viable solutions? Should it be the continuation of the failed policies of the past, such as more self-perpetuating dependency-creating social programs,(5-6); more sham education in self-esteem enhancement and political correctness; more failed penal rehabilitation through the usual revolving prison doors; or should it be new approaches, such as the rebuilding of the nuclear family, moral support for churches, and the revamping of education with the return to more stringent requirements in the basics, history, math, science, etc., as well as the reincorporation of the teachings of civics and morality in public education?

Consider the new civic organization “Black Lives Matter” that was formed as a result of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of John Zimmerman in Miami in 2012. The organization, which has met in Macon, cites “state violence” as causing a “genocide” of blacks claiming, “Every 28 hours a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement.”(6) That may be, and in fact many of these incidents may not be “justifiable homicides” as classified in old FBI files. But these police incidents pale in comparison with the fact that every 4 hours a black man, woman, or child is murdered by other blacks in their own neighborhoods, in their own streets, in their own homes in America. Is this street violence really State-sponsored genocide or the result of a counterculture of lawlessness and violence that can be traced to dependency and alienation fostered by the legacy of the Great Society (perpetuated by Black leaders) and the liberal media that tells black men continuously and relentlessly that they cannot succeed without government handouts or leading lives in crime.

Various Wars on poverty, drugs, etc. have been declared advancing the State and leaving wreckage in their wake. Another war, a silent one but perhaps more deadly, is the War on the Family, a war that has destroyed black families and threatens to do the same against Americans of all races. It needs to stop. All that needs to be done is for the government to take a step back and let US breathe! If “Black Lives Matter” genuinely cares, its leaders should begin not with self-defeating, divisive, and inflammatory rhetoric — but with an uncompromising call for rebuilding the black family.

References

1. FBI will overhaul tracking report, add missing crimes by Kevin Johnson. USA Today. April 2, 2015. Available from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/02/fbi-crime-report/70…

2. Crime in the United States, 2013. Available from: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-…

3. Faria MA. Let’s not make any more excuses. The Macon Telegraph, September 17, 2014. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/randomnotes/let%E2%80%99s-not-make-any-more-excuses

4. Faria MA. Looting and Burning — Trampling the Rule of Law. HaciendaPublishing.com, November 27, 2014. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/looting-and-burning-trampling-the-rule-of-law/

5. Riley J. Race Relation and law enforcement. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/articles/race-relations-and-law-enforcement-jason-l-riley

6. Richardson CE. Back when we were Negroes. Macon Telegraph. July 31, 2011. Available fromhttp://www.haciendapub.com/articles/back-when-we-were-negroes-charles-e-richardson

7. Black Lives Matter. Available from: http://blacklivesmatter.com

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is a retired professor of neurosurgery and the author of Cuba in Revolution: Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002). His website is: www.haciendapub.com.

This article can be cited as: Faria MA. Police shootings and black on black crime. GOPUSA.com, April 27, 2015. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/police-shootings-and-black-on-black-crime/

The photos used to illustrate this commentary came from a variety of sources and did not appear in the original GOPUSA.com article. A shorter version of this commentary was also published in The Macon Telegraph on June 3, 2015.

Copyright ©2015 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


Statistical Malpractice — ‘Firearm Availability’ and Violence (Part II): Poverty, Education and other Socioeconomic Factors

In Part I of this article, Politics or Science, we made some preliminary observations regarding the Harvard School of Public Health study published in the February 2002 issue of the Journal of Trauma.(1)

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) has been lauding the study as “the most comprehensive study ever conducted on impact of gun availability.” In its press release, the organization further states, “The elevated rate of violent death among children in high gun ownership states cannot be explained by differences in state levels of poverty, education, or urbanization.”(2)

The authors of the study assert in their abstract, “A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides. The elevated rates of suicide and homicide among children living in states with more guns is not entirely explained by a state’s poverty, education, or urbanization and is driven by lethal firearm violence, not by lethal nonfirearm violence.”(1)

Now we will be examining the factors that Miller et al. claim were “not entirely” responsible for the high rates of unintentional firearm injury, homicide, suicide and overall violence in the mostly Southern states. Rather than using the biased VPC shibboleths “highest” or “lowest gun ownership states,” I have used the more objective terminology “high” and “low levels of juvenile violence” states for the purpose of this critique.

Although it’s not politically correct to bring race and ethnicity into the debate, let us state that illiteracy, broken homes and violence, with or without firearms, have been shown to be more prevalent, whether linked to cultural, socioeconomic or other factors, to African-Americans and Hispanics (and less so to whites and Asians).(3)

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

The percentage of African-American (and other significant minority) students enrolled in public schools in those states with high levels of juvenile violence are as follows:

  • Louisiana, 47.6 percent (Hispanics, 1.3 percent)
  • Alabama, 36.4 percent (Hispanics, 1.1 percent)
  • Mississippi, 51 percent
  • Arkansas, 23.5 percent (Hispanics, 3.0 percent)
  • West Virginia, 4.2 percent.

The percentage of other minorities in these states can be assumed to be insignificant because they are so small (i.e., less than 1 percent).

On the other hand, the percentage of African-American (and other significant minority) students in states with low levels of juvenile violence are as follows:

  • Hawaii, 2.4 percent (Hispanics, 4.6 percent; Asians, 72.2 percent)
  • Rhode Island, 7.7 percent (Hispanics, 13.1 percent; Asians, 3.2 percent)
  • New Jersey, 18.1 percent (Hispanics, 14.9 percent; Asians, 6.1 percent)
  • Delaware, 30.6 percent (Hispanics, 5.4 percent; Asians, 2.2 percent)
  • Massachusetts, 8.6 percent (Hispanics, 10.2 percent; Asians, 4.3 percent).(4)

As can be seen by these figures, New Jersey does have a relatively high percentage of Hispanics and a small Asian minority. Hawaii has only 2.4 percent blacks, while whites are 20.5 percent, and Asians, the least violent ethnic group, constitute 72.2 percent of the population.

Politically incorrect as it may be, blacks and Hispanics account for a much higher percentage of students in high levels of juvenile violence states, at 33.6 percent, whereas whites and Asians account for 66.4 percent.

Conversely, in the low levels of juvenile violence states, blacks and Hispanics account for only 23.1 percent, whereas whites and Asians account for a larger percentage of the enrolled students in public schools at 76.9 percent.

Moreover, previous studies have shown a significantly higher percentage of illiteracy and poverty in black and Hispanic populations. While the gap in the rates at which African-Americans and whites complete high school is narrowing, in the year 2000 there was still a 7 percent gap between them.

As far as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) score averages, there are also significant differences between whites and other minorities. In the year 1999-2000, Asian Americans led the pack in mathematics with 565/verbal, 499; followed by whites, math, 530/verbal, 528; then Hispanics, math, 467/verbal, 461; and finally blacks, math, 426/verbal, 434.(5)

And since it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, let us look now at Table 2 and compare such important factors as median household income and the level of poverty in the two sets of states.

Suffice to say, when it comes to median household income, the “high level of juvenile violence” states ($26,234) average only two-thirds that of the “low levels of juvenile violence” states ($39,127).

As seen on the same table, the lower median household income corresponds with the lower socioeconomic status of the “high levels of juvenile violence” states (percent of persons below the poverty level,18.9 percent vs. 10 percent).(6)

Discussion

And yes, the death of any child by any cause is a tragedy. I, too, decry the high levels of violence in our society. As a neurosurgeon who has spent incalculable hours in the middle of the night treating victims of gunshot wounds, I also deplore the level of violence and crime in America ­ but we must have the moral courage to find the truth and recognize the fact that there is another side to the story that is seldom promulgated by public health researchers and disseminated in medical literature.

We now know, for example, that the defensive uses of firearms by lawful citizens, at up to 2.5 million per year, dwarf the offensive gun uses by criminals. Between 25 and 75 lives are saved by a gun for every one life lost to a gun, whether by an unintentional shooting, homicide or suicide.

Medical costs saved by guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are 15 times greater than costs incurred by criminal uses of firearms. Gun safety programs for children, particularly the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program, have resulted in a steady decline in unintentional injuries over the last several decades.

The number of guns in the civilian U.S. population has been increasing steadily for decades, and yet the number of fatal gun accidents has been falling for as long as statistics have been compiled (since 1903). In 1945, there were 350,000 firearms and 18 fatal gun accidents per million Americans. By 1995, although the number of guns in the U.S. had more than doubled, incredibly, there were 850,000 firearms with only 6 fatalities per million Americans.

Presently, according to government figures, at least 45 percent to 50 percent of U.S. households have firearms in the home. And yet the latest U.S. statistics show that the rates of serious crimes, including homicides with firearms and aggravated assaults, have fallen to record 25-year lows ­ despite the fact that the number of guns in the hands of Americans have exceeded the 200 million mark, nearly 1 million firearms per million Americans.

Furthermore, we should ask ourselves why, at the international level, Switzerland, New Zealand and Israel with modest gun control laws (as opposed to the draconian gun control laws in most of the rest of the world) and relatively easy availability of firearms, have low rates of homicide and violence, with or without firearms.

Because those countries ­ like Japan, which, on the other hand, has stringent gun laws ­ have an intact family structure and cultural cohesion, and civility and discipline are traditionally preserved in the population.

Yes, we must lay the blame where it belongs for the persistence of violence in America, and it’s not in “easy gun availability” but in many factors, as we have seen, pertaining to the cycle of government dependency, broken families, the failure of public education and the cultural disintegration that has been taking place for decades, particularly in the poorer Southern states, and for which the federal government has been largely responsible.

And, incidentally, if I have not been more pointed in addressing specific errors in my criticisms of this study by Miller et al., it’s because the raw, primary data that the authors used in formulating their conclusions have not yet become available for public review.(7)

One critic who has already raised pointed objections to specific errors in methodology leading to faulty conclusions in the study is Roger Schlafly, Ph.D., a concerned citizen and mathematician. He wrote me about this study as well as an article published in The Economist, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead” (March 2, 2002), vaunting the study of Miller et al.

Schlafly states that in reality the highest childhood firearm death rates are in three rural states ­ Alaska, Montana and Idaho ­ with much hunting but less accessible emergency care. He holds that the study actually used “adult fatality rates to estimate firearm ownership levels so that the only insight gained by the study is that child firearm fatalities are correlated with adult gun fatalities.”

Schlafly also points out that although the authors mention gun survey data, Miller et al. instead used a modified “Cook’s index” ­ an index that they assert excludes suicides and homicides among children 0-19 years of age from the calculations in the study and that they affirm is highly correlated with gun availability measures.

The study thus ranked the states not only by “Cook’s Index,” the supposed proxy for firearm availability, but also to select the five “high-gun” and five “low-gun” states.

Roger Schlafly remarks, “I am a little baffled as to why this story would be news [in The Economist]. Wouldn’t everyone expect that high-gun states would have more gun deaths than low-gun states? Isn’t that obvious whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun? States with more cars probably have more car accidents also.

“The only thing I found surprising was that ’16 times.’ If one state had twice as many guns, then I’d expect about twice as many gun accidents. But why 16 times? I doubt that any state has 16 times as many guns (per capita) as another state. The study neglects to mention that the child firearm accidental death rate is on a long-term decline.

“During the 10-year study period, the annual rate declined from 0.69 to 0.31 per 100,000. (Based on the same CDC figures used by the study, available online.)”

Obviously, my own objections, with which Schlafly also agrees and which were described for the reader in this two-part critique, are more broad and encompassing and extend not only to flaws in specific assumptions and methodologies, but also to the overall design of the study and the misuse of epidemiological research.

Miller et al’s complex study using an even more complex methodology,­ i.e., “pooled, cross-sectional, time-series data from the fifty states over a one year period” and the so-called “Cook’s Index” as proxy for firearm availability ­ are elegant examples of what the eminent social scientist and physician Dr. Bruce G. Charlton, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, calls “statistical malpractice.”(8)

The peer review process at the Journal of Trauma has failed ­its reviewers lost with the authors in their own numbers and over fecund statistics. Miller et al have used statistical malpractice in their failed effort to blame firearms per se on the tragic loss of children’s lives without seriously considering the role of more important variables.

Despite the authors’ claim that “state level analyses were adjusted for state urbanization, poverty, and education levels,” they actually failed to do so because of the lack of control over the overwhelmingly complex, confounding factors. What about other variables, such as reading and television-watching habits in children, culture and ethnicity, that were not even considered by the investigators?

Errors of this type are referred to as “ecologic fallacy” in epidemiological studies, whereby complex analytical techniques are combined with large data sets involving general populations extending over long periods of time.

Statistics are not science. They may show correlations, but they cannot prove cause-and-effect relationships because of the large amounts of variance and myriad numbers of confounding factors.(9)

This type of statistical legerdemain to prove cause-and-effect relationships in science was indeed exposed years ago by Dr. Charlton, who warned other scientists:

“Minimization of bias is a matter of controlling and excluding extraneous causes from observation and experiment so that the cause of interest may be isolated and characterized. … Maximization of precision, on the other hand, is the attempt to reveal the true magnitude of a variable which is being obscured by the “noise” [from the] limitations of measurement.”(8)

Conclusion

The authors of this study have failed not only to exclude extraneous causes from their “pooled, cross-sectional, time-series data,” but also they failed to incorporate into their analysis and conclusions the “true magnitude of the variables” ­ poverty, level of education, ethnicity, urbanization, race, broken families, etc. ­ among the children in the several states.

In fact, in observing cultural differences affecting most markedly the Southern states and analyzing the findings of the Journal of Trauma study, the thoughtful critic and honest scholar could very well ask himself if indeed the South has fully recovered from the devastation of the Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed more than a century ago.(10)

Try as the authors did, statistical adjustments failed to remove the multiple confounding variables. Dr. Charlton’s admonition was forsaken in the conception and design of this study.

“As a result, medicine has been deluged with more or less uninterpretable ‘answers’ generated by heavyweight statistics operating on big databases of dubious validity. Such numerical manipulations cannot, in principle, do the work of hypothesis testing. Statistical analysis has expanded beyond its legitimate realm of activity. The seductive offer of precision without the need for understanding is a snare to the incautious because exactitude is so often mistaken for explanation.”(8)

In other words, this published gun (control) study is an example of politically driven propaganda, result-oriented research with preordained, biased conclusions, which can only be characterized as junk science.(11-13)

Still, if the editors of the Journal of Trauma had insisted in publishing it, they should have printed it with an editorial caveat that such “pooled, cross-sectional, timed-series data” studies, involving such large populations over a long period of time, are utterly unreliable, even more so than Cohort and Case Studies analyses, subject to ecologic fallacy limiting their value in science.

The editors of the Journal of Trauma have done a disservice to their readers, obfuscating rather than contributing to solving the problem of violence in our society.

References/Notes

1. Miller M, Azrael D, Hemenway D. Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths, suicide, and homicide among 5-14 year olds. J Trauma 2002;52(2):267-275.

2. New Harvard University study shows direct link between gun availability and gun death among children. Press release. Violence Policy Center, February 21, 2002, http://www.vpc.org/press/0202study.htm.

3. For example, Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University writing in a syndicated column, “An ugly conspiracy of silence,” in the summer of 1999 analyzed the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and found that in the category of interracial crimes (1997) there were “1,700,000 interracial crimes, of which 1,276,030 involved whites and blacks. In 90 percent of the cases, a white was the victim and a black was the perpetrator, while in 10 percent of the cases it was the reverse.” Williams added, “Regardless of race, criminal violence is despicable and deserving of condemnation. But far more destructive are the official and unofficial attempts to mislead and conceal.”

Books that discuss this theme from different perspectives are David Horowitz’s “Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes,” Dallas, Texas, Spence Publishing Co., 1999; and Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, New York, N.Y., Free Press, 1996.

4. National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP ­ State Profiles. http://nced.ed.gov/naep3/states/profile.asp?state=.

5. National Center for Education Statistics. NCES Fast Facts. Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores. http://nced.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=53.

6. National Center for Education Statistics. NCES Fast Facts. Table 2: Household income and poverty rates, by state: 1990, 1994, and 1995. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/98018/Tab2.prn.

7. Open-data, public review policy of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Medical Sentinel 1999;4(6):193-195.

8. Charlton BC. Statistical malpractice. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians in London, March-April 1996, pp. 112-114.

9. Milloy, SJ. Junk Science Judo. Washington, DC, Cato Institute, 2001, pp. 54-97. See also Bennett JT., DiLorenzo TJ. From Pathology and Politics: Public Health in America. New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2000, pp. 80-83, 135-141.

10. Clark TD, Kirwan AD. The South Since Appomattox. A Century of Regional Change. New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1967.

11. Faria, Miguel A Jr. The perversion of science and medicine (Part I): On the Nature of Science; (Part II): Soviet science and gun control; (Part III): Public Health and Gun Control Research; (Part IV): The Battle Continues. Medical Sentinel 1997;2(2):46-53 and Medical Sentinel 1997;2(3):81-86.

12. Faria, Miguel A Jr. Public Health and Gun Control ­ A Review (Part I): The Benefits of Firearms and (Part II): Gun Violence and Constitutional Issues. Medical Sentinel 2001;6(1):11-18.

13. Kates, Don B., Schaffer, Henry E., Lattimer, John K., Murray, George B., Cassem, Edwin H. Guns and public health: epidemic of violence or pandemic of propaganda? Tennessee Law Review 1995;62:513-596.

Acknowledgment

My thanks to Jerome C. Arnett, M.D., member of the Editorial Board of the Medical Sentinel, Roger Schlafly, Ph.D., and Andrew L. Schlafly, Esq., AAPS General Counsel, for reviewing the original study and this critical article, and providing advice and suggestions. —­MAF

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D., is editor in chief of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and author of Cuba in Revolution ­ Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002; http://www.haciendapub.com).

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Statistical Malpractice ­ ‘Firearm Availability’ and Violence (Part II): Poverty, Education and other Socioeconomic Factors. Hacienda Publishing, Inc. March 24, 2002. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/statistical-malpractice-firearm-availability-and-violence-part-ii-poverty-education-and-other-socioeconomic-factors/

Copyright ©2016 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D


Statistical Malpractice — ‘Firearm Availability’ and Violence (Part I): Politics or Science?

“There is a worrying trend in academic medicine which equates statistics with science, and sophistication in quantitative procedure with research excellence. The corollary of this trend is a tendency to look for answers to medical problems from people with expertise in mathematical manipulation and information technology, rather than from people with an understanding of disease and its causes.

“Epidemiology [is a] main culprit, because statistical malpractice typically occurs when complex analytical techniques are combined with large data sets. The mystique of mathematics blended with the bewildering intricacies of big numbers makes a potent cocktail. …”
­ Bruce G. Charlton, M.D.
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1996

Once again, Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) and the Violence Policy Center (VPC), two strident gun control organizations, have entered the gun and violence debate with renewed vigor.

You already know about AGS using the 9-11 tragedy to push its gun control agenda using the disingenuous cliché of “closing the gun show loophole.”(1)

Needless to say, AGS continues to neglect the fact that the government’s National Institute of Justice 1997 study “Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities” has shown that less than 2 percent of criminals obtain their illegally-possessed firearms from gun shows.(2,3)

Moreover, AGS has claimed it has found a link between terrorism and gun shows. The link has been shown to be fully immersed in deception, used, once again, to exploit the 9-11 tragedy to further push its gun control agenda.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has correctly tagged AGS “an anti-gun lobbying group with no members, no gun safety programs, and now, no credibility.(4)

Enters the VPC, citing a Harvard School of Public Health study published in the February 2002 issue of the Journal of Trauma.(5) According to the VPC’s interpretation of that study, “The elevated rate of violent death among children in high gun ownership states cannot be explained by differences in state levels of poverty, education, or urbanization.”(6)

The authors of the study did not put it quite so bluntly; they knew better. Yet, according to the abstract of the study, they assert:

“A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides. The elevated rates of suicide and homicide among children living in states with more guns is not entirely explained by a state’s poverty, education, or urbanization and is driven by lethal firearm violence, not by lethal nonfirearm violence.”(5)

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton once rhetorically explained that no one could prove that he had ever established administration policy based “solely” on the basis of campaign contributions, although in the case of Red China, the communist Chinese got their share of high-tech, strategic, missile-launching technology to pose a new threat to the U.S.

In the authors’ abstract, the words “not entirely” become the key to understanding the pre-ordained drift of their gun control agenda and the expected, result-oriented conclusions. The published study, indeed, is the typical, hackneyed public health, result-oriented gun research repeatedly published in the medical literature claiming that “gun availability is responsible for firearm violence.”

Thus, perhaps, we should analyze further the meaning of the words “not entirely.” What follows is a preliminary critique of the study while the primary, raw data is requested from the authors for further analysis.

According to the study, the five states with the highest gun ownership ­ Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia ­ were more likely to have children dying from unintentional firearm injury (gun accidents), suicide (with or without firearms) and homicide than children in the five states with the lowest levels of gun ownership ­ Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware.

Why more western states like North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Utah, Nebraska, Alaska, etc., that have relatively “easy availability” have low firearm death rates for children is left unexplained.

In fact, the whole study revolves around using the phraseology “not entirely” to exclude the much more important reasons for violence with or without firearms: the levels of poverty and education, not to mention the related cultural factors and the utter breakdown of the family in those states by welfare and other government policies.(7)

I will explain, but before I do so, allow me to expound on two themes revolving around the subject of this study and make a couple of observations ­ observations that were overlooked by the public health researchers and their consorts at the VPC.

Mass Shooting Incidents

Three of the most notable mass shootings of the last several years occurred in the aforementioned states. Two of them, although they were adult, workplace shootings, occurred in Hawaii and Massachusetts, two of the states with draconian gun control laws and less “availability of firearms.”

Likewise, several mass shootings, adult workplace and children school incidents, have taken place in California, despite the stringent gun control laws and the supposedly less “availability of firearms” in that state.

The Xerox workplace incident in Honolulu, Hawaii (Nov. 2, 1999), the San Diego, Calif., Santana School shooting (March 5, 2001) and the Wakefield, Mass., incident of Dec. 26, 2000, all took place in states with very restrictive gun control laws, where guns shall have been less “available.”

School shootings, of course, can take place in states where firearms are more available to law-abiding citizens. And when they do, armed, law-abiding Americans can respond and stop the shooting before more innocent victims are robbed of their lives.

This was the case in 1998 in Pearl, Miss., a state cited in the study, when a schoolteacher used his firearm to stop a school shooting by a student. Lives were thus saved. More recently, in Virginia, two law school students overpowered and subdued a gunman using their own weapons.

The point is that, as usual, the public health researchers ignored the beneficial aspects of gun ownership and concentrated only in obtaining supporting evidence for their long-known thesis that firearm availability is responsible for violence in our society.

The fact is that only the law-abiding obey the law, criminals do not. When the government passes restrictive gun laws, those laws interfere in the lives of law-abiding citizens. Yet they do not stop criminals (or the mentally deranged) bent on breaking them.

While neither state waiting periods nor the federal Brady Law has been associated with a reduction in crime rates, adopting concealed carry gun laws cut death rates from public, multiple shootings (e.g., those that took place in schools in San Diego, Pearl, Miss., and Littleton, Colo.) by an amazing 69 percent, according to Prof. John Lott, formerly of Yale University.

Television and Media Violence and Juvenile Delinquency

Another observation virtually ignored by the authors of the study, as well as their promoters at the VPC, is the effect of television and media violence on juvenile delinquency.

It should be of interest to the reader to learn that some of the most important, breakthrough research papers on this topic first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. The pioneering research was conducted and the paper written by Dr. Brandon Centerwall of the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Dr. Centerwall’s studies found that homicide rates in Canada were not related to easy gun availability by ordinary citizens, as he had expected, but to criminal behavior associated with watching television.

He found that homicide rates, not only in Canada but also in the U.S. and South Africa, soared 10 to 15 years after the introduction of television in those countries. In the U.S., there was an actual doubling of homicide rates after the introduction of television.

Moreover, Dr. Centerwall noted that up to half of all homicides, rapes and violent assaults in the U.S. were directly attributed to violence on television. And that was when violence on TV was nothing compared to the rampant and graphic violence depicted today in the movies and on TV.

Moreover, Dr. Centerwall showed with elegant data that reducing gun availability did not reduce Canadian homicides. Homicide rates in Vancouver, for example, were lower before the gun control laws were passed in Canada, and in fact rose after the laws were passed. The Vancouver homicide rate increased 25 percent after the institution of the 1977 Canadian gun laws.

This valuable research, though, was not made widely available and was virtually consigned to the “memory hole” of the public health establishment. Fortunately, Dr. Centerwall ‘s research pointing to the effects of television violence affecting homicide rates has been made available.(8)

In the summer of 2000, the media, including medical journalists, focused their attention on the associations of violence in television, music, video games and movies to violent behavior in children and adolescents.

To this end, a consensus statement of experts released on July 26 and sponsored by the AMA and other medical groups proclaimed, “At this time, well over 1,000 studies ­ including reports from the surgeon general’s office, the National Institute of Mental Health and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations ­ point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.”

Moreover, the report continued, “Its effects are measurable and long-lasting … prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.”(8)

Why is all this background information being discussed about television violence and crime ­ virtually, life imitating art? Because, interestingly enough, the authors of the Journal of Trauma study ignored relevant and important data impacting directly on their research.

Let us look at Table 1.

As clearly shown in this table compiled from government statistics (1994), it turns out that, among other factors, students in the “high levels of juvenile violence” states not only watch more television (24.2 percent) than those in the “low levels of juvenile violence” states (19.8 percent) but also do “less reading on their own time almost every day (39.6 percent vs. 44.2 percent).”(9)

We will be looking at the factors that Miller et al. claim were “not entirely” responsible for the high rates of unintentional firearm injury, homicide, suicide and overall violence in the mostly southern states. Incidentally, rather than using the biased, VPC shibboleths “highest” or “lowest gun ownership states,” I have used the more objective terminology, “high” and “low levels of juvenile violence” states, for the purpose of this critique.

On Feb. 28, 2002, I wrote Dr. Matthew Miller, the lead author of the study published in the Journal of Trauma, and requested that he kindly supply me with the primary, raw data which he and his associates used in reaching their conclusions.(10)

As of the time of this submission, March 11, 2002, I had not received an answer to my request. Hopefully, I will conclude with Part II of this critical article when I have had a chance to fully analyze that data. Stay tuned!

References

1. Faria MA. Women, guns, and disinformation. NewsMax.com, Feb. 21, 2001.

2. Kopel DB. The facts about gun shows. The Cato Institute, Jan. 10, 2000.

3. Faria MA. Gun shows under fire. NewsMax.com, April 27, 2001.

4. AGS continues to lie to promote attacks on gun shows. NRA/ILA Fax Alert, Vol. 9, No. 4, Jan. 25, 2002, p. 2.

5. Miller M, Azrael D, Hemenway D. Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths, suicide, and homicide among 5-14 year olds. J Trauma 2002;52(2):267-275.

6. New Harvard University study shows direct link between gun availability and gun death among children. Press release. Violence Policy Center, February 21, 2002.

7. Bennett, James T. and DiLorenzo, Thomas J. From Pathology and Politics: Public Health in America. New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2000, pp. 80-83, 135-141.

8. Faria MA. TV violence increases homicides. NewsMax.com, Aug. 17, 2000.

9. National Center for Education Statistics. NCES Fast Facts. Table 16: Average proficiency in reading for 4th graders in public schools, by selected characteristics, region, and state, 1994.

10. Open-data, public review policy of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Medical Sentinel 1999;4(6):193-195.

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D., is editor in chief of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and author of Cuba in Revolution ­Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002; https://HaciendaPublishing.com).

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Statistical Malpractice —­ ‘Firearm Availability’ and Violence (Part I): Politics or Science? Hacienda Publishing. March 12, 2002. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/statistical-malpractice-firearm-availability-and-violence-part-i-politics-or-science/

All Rights Reserved © 2016 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


Junk Science Judo by Steven J. Milloy

There are three kinds of lies — lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Mark Twain

Junk science is the abuse of science by health scare con artists. It is fraud perpetrated to advance a special interest, or more likely, a political agenda. Junk science hurts us all, causing a significant negative impact on the quality of our life. For example, during the early 1990s a massive cholera outbreak in Latin America caused 10,000 deaths as a result of countries refusing to use chlorine to disinfect water supplies because of the labeling of chlorine as a carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).(1) Likewise, millions of people die every year because DDT cannot be used against the mosquitos that cause malaria.

Steven J. Milloy, a scholar at the Cato Institute, in his instructive book Junk Science Judo reveals who the junksters are, how they operate and how to fight them. As he shows, “…all’s fair in love, war — and junk science.”(2) The dishonest junksters place their agendas ahead of the facts. They’re out for themselves and they don’t care about science or about your welfare. They routinely cheat and use deception by using faulty data and analysis.

The media nearly always play a key role in these health scams. They trumpet junk science and have breached the line between news and entertainment. Most viewers accept the news as truth, whereas the news really is just another TV show striving for ratings and responsible to the financial bottom line. After all, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather compete for 30 million viewers daily.(3)

The scientific method originated from advances in the sixteenth century. Early thinkers such as Copernicus, Paracelsus and Vesalius departed from dogma and led us to the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Sir Francis Bacon in 1620 popularized and promoted what later became the scientific method.(4) A hypothesis, if confirmed, is elevated to a theory which, if confirmed, is elevated to a law. Under the scientific method, the burden of proof is on the party advancing the hypothesis, not on the reader. In fact, “proving the negative” is a logical impossibility.(5) Since junk scientists usually can’t prove anything, they use the precautionary principle — which means taking precautions against the unproven threat, “better safe than sorry.”

Setting a human exposure level to a chemical on the basis of a lab animal experiment involves several major assumptions and is certainly a leap of faith. In the 1970s, a flood of laws was enacted mandating the establishment of human exposure levels to potentially hazardous substances.(6) The EPA chose to use default assumptions where the standards were arbitrarily set much lower than was justified by scientific knowledge.

Many scams and scares are carefully documented in the book. For example, in 1975 research showed a cancer-causing effect of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in rats. The ensuing panic led to the 1976 federal law banning their production. In 1999, the same researcher found no association with human cancer. But the federal law remains in force.(7)

In a 1979 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article, Herbert Needleman of Harvard Medical School claimed that low-level lead exposure caused lower IQs in children. Subsequently, an EPA panel found no association, and a University of Pittsburgh panel found “deliberate misrepresentation” by Needleman. It turns out that there is no measurable association between lead exposure and IQ.(8)

In 1986, “consumer” activist Ralph Nader promoted the Alar panic. The Phil Donahue Show and 60 Minutes were involved, and the Natural Resources Defense Council immediately realized a large increase in revenue. Never mind that the doses of Alar given to mice equated to a human drinking 19,000 quarts of apple juice every day for life.(9)

Perhaps the most tragic example of junk science was the cancer scare fraud perpetrated by Rachel Carson about the insecticide DDT in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. As a result, in 1972 the EPA banned DDT. The EPA administrator at this time was a member of the radical Environmental Defense Fund and based the ban solely on politics, not on science. The judge who had presided over seven months of hearings concluded that DDT was not a carcinogen to man and did not harm fresh water fish, birds or other wildlife.(10) Yet today, millions of people worldwide die every year because of the infamous ban.

Another area of junk science is the use of statistics to prove cause-and-effect relationships. As Bruce G. Charlton, M.D. has shown, this trend in academic medicine looks for answers to medical problems from experts in mathematical manipulation rather than from researchers who understand the disease. Statistics, which is concerned with correlations, can be applied to any problem but is not sufficient for hypothesis testing, which is the cardinal function of scientific research. This use of statistical malpractice bridges the gap in the transition from curiosity-led science to medical research which is driven by the bottom line of health policy and management.(11)

The primary reason for today’s use of junk science in preeminent medical journals such as the NEJM and JAMA is in part the liberal philosophy of the editors involved. Another reason is because in managed care, the flow of medical information to Americans has shifted from their physicians in the past to the news media today. Milloy suggests that editorial support for publishing an article, which was based only on scientific merit in the past, today also is driven by publicity and sensationalism.(12)

As the author points out, the following alleged associations never have been proven: cell phones and brain cancer; coffee and pancreatic cancer; coffee and heart disease; birth defects and exposure to many chemicals or to the popular anti-nausea drug Bendectin; pelvic infections and IUDs such as the Dalkon Shield; medical illness and silicone breast implants; and heart valve lesions and fen-phen.(13) In more than one instance, these allegations have led to the bankruptcy of a major, beneficial company.

Milloy also documents that cancer clusters occur by chance, that statistics are not science, that statistical correlations are not biological explanations, that the use of pesticides does not equal exposure to them, that exposure is not toxicity, that DDT does not cause cancer in man or harm birds, that Alar on apples — in spite of Ralph Nadar’s opinion — does not cause cancer, that dioxin is not a carcinogen (nor, in spite of CBS anchor Dan Rather’s 2000 report, does it cause diabetes). The “infamous” Love Canal was never shown to have any adverse health effects and Three Mile Island was not a nuclear disaster, although it did end the prospect of cheap and clean electric power in this country.(14) Finally, mice are not men, and basing public policy on poisoned animals without human experimentation is not rational.(15)

The people who profit from promoting junk science are highly motivated, well organized, and well financed. One of the ways to fight them is to learn what junk science is and how it operates. Another way is to require public disclosure of study data, as was proposed in 1999 by Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr., editor emeritus of the Medical Sentinel. The failure of any author to disclose this data should lead to suspicion about the reliability of the study since, as Milloy points out, scrutiny is a part of the scientific process.

Junk science always has existed – alchemy, astrology, and haruspicy (predicting the future by examining the livers of animals) were its early forms.(16) But its persistence today, when added to our culture of politically-correct medicine (the politicization of public health, and of our medical and nursing professions)(17) to our snitch culture (the destruction of our legal system)(18) and to our culture of death (the destruction of our traditional medical ethics),(19) is an alarming situation which bodes ill for our future.

Junk Science Judo is a wonderfully effective weapon to use in the meantime. By reading the book, you will earn your black belt for debunking junk science.

References

1. Milloy SJ. Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams. The Cato Institute, Washington, DC, 2001, p. 1.
2. Ibid., p. 107.
3. Ibid., p. 11.
4. Ibid., p. 42.
5. Ibid., p. 45.
6. Ibid., p. 57.
7. Ibid., p. 123-124.
8. Ibid., p. 146-149.
9. Ibid., p. 19.
10. Ibid., p. 145-146.
11. Ibid., p. 74-75.
12. Ibid., p. x-xiii, 36-37.
13. Ibid., p. 9-11.
14. Ibid., p. 135-152.
15. Ibid., p. 6.
16. Ibid., p. 123, 190.
17. Satel S. P.C. M.D. Basic Books, New York, NY, 2000.
18. Redden J. Snitch Culture: How Citizens are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State. Los Angeles, CA, Feral House, 2000.
19. Smith WJ. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. Encounter Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.

Reviewed by Jerome C. Arnett, Jr., MD
Elkins, WV

Dr. Arnett is associate editor of the Medical Sentinel, a medical ethicist, and a practicing pulmonologist in Elkins, West Virginia.

This book review may be cited as: Arnett JC. Junk Science Judo by Steven J. Milloy. Medical Sentinel 2002;7(4):134-135. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/junk-science-judo-by-steven-j-milloy/.

(Junk Science Judo by Steven J. Milloy, Cato Institute, 2001, ISBN: 1-930865-12-0, 216 pages, $18.95, softcover.)

Copyright ©2002 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)