Gun control researcher Adam Lankford at the University of Alabama has a budding credibility problem.
Last month I advised supporters of federal gun research to give the public concrete reasons to believe the work would be unaffected by politics. Here’s an example of how not to do that. Fox News reported a few weeks ago that University of Alabama researcher Adam Lankford, author of a media-sensation study on the connection between mass shootings and gun ownership across countries, refuses to share his data and the details of his methodology with skeptics.
I’d be the last person to assume that a news story has all its facts straight, but the details in this Fox News article, if accurate, are disturbing. Academics are expected to be as transparent as possible with their data and methods, but when skeptics wondered how Lankford was able to tally the number of mass shootings in countries where the records are sparse and are not kept in a language that he understands, Lankford offered only the vaguest responses.
Award-winning Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck is among critics that suspect that Lankford’s methodology is of dubious validity and amounts to junk science featuring made-up statistics.
The study by Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, was published in the journal Violence and Victims in January and has been cited by media outlets — including The New Yorker, The Washington Post and Time magazine. But the study, formally published earlier this year after a draft was released in academic circles, has raised questions about what critics consider dubious methodology.
“The Lankford ‘study’ is nothing more than junk science disguised as research, and never should have been published in a responsible scholarly journal,” Florida State University criminology professor Gary Kleck told FoxNews.com.
The study, titled “Public Mass Shooters and Firearms: A Cross-National Study of 171 Countries,” concluded that “The United States and other nations with high firearm ownership rates may be particularly susceptible to future public mass shootings, even if they are relatively peaceful or mentally healthy according to other national indicators.”
Academic peers who have sought to examine the findings say Lankford refuses to share the data and details he used to support his findings.
Kleck and others say the obvious hazard in claiming to study 46 years’ worth of shootings in most of the world’s nations is that, while data may be easily found for U.S. shootings, compiling information for developing nations could be all but impossible.
“This would rig results in favor of finding a positive association between gun ownership and mass shootings,” Kleck said.
Gun control research, like climate change research, is highly politicized, and prone to questionable peer-review from like-minded souls who have no interest in doing a thorough review that may debunk research that supports their own prejudice and biases.
That Adam Lankford refuses to share the data and details of how he achieved his results is a huge “red flag” to any reputable scientist in any field, and suggests that it cannot withstand actual peer review and analyst.