Government-Funded Anti-Gun Study From Berkeley Under Assault

Anyone surprised that a study reaching an anti-gun conclusion could come out of UC-Berkeley, simply hasn’t been paying attention to…anything, ever. The study seems to indicate that gun criminals are buying guns at gun shows in Nevada, taking them to California, and doing all kinds of naughty things.

I say “seems” because when you look at the study more critically, you start to see its problems.

The University of California at Berkeley study, funded in part with money from a $2.3 million National Institutes of Health grant and released on Monday, found a 70 percent spike in deaths and injuries from firearms in California communities within one- to two-hour driving distances of Nevada gun shows.

The researchers compared the number of gun-related deaths and injuries occurring two weeks prior to the gun shows to the number that happened in the two weeks afterward. The study found no spikes in gun deaths or injuries following gun shows in California and concludes that the difference “may be due to California’s stricter firearm regulations” including a background check and a 10-day waiting period.

The study did not, however, note the legal hurdles involved with a California resident purchasing a firearm in Nevada or any other state. Federal law only allows Americans to buy guns outside their home state if they are purchasing a rifle or shotgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Those dealers must conduct a background check on the purchaser and are limited to sales allowed by the purchaser’s home state.

Sales of handguns by licensed dealers and sales of any firearms by private sellers can only be done legally if the firearm is transferred through a licensed dealer in the purchaser’s home state where the sale would be subject to the laws of that state. Because of federal rules, all legal firearm purchases a California resident makes at a Nevada gun show would still be subject in some form to California’s gun laws.

“Generally, a person may only acquire a firearm within the person’s own State,” according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives guide on interstate firearm purchases. “Exceptions include the acquisition pursuant to a lawful bequest, or an over-the-counter acquisition of a rifle or shotgun from a licensee where the transaction is allowed by the purchaser’s state of residence and the licensee’s state of business.”

There’s more there, to be sure.

Another flaw is that the study is looking at a correlation and trying to argue causation. Yes, there’s no way to experiment for this, but it also means that it’s very difficult to determine the true reason for these spikes. Especially since, as John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center noted:

Lott said he didn’t understand how it’s possible to conduct a study evaluating a two-week before-and-after period. Las Vegas and Reno are where the vast majority of the gun shows occur, and they take place nearly every weekend.

“Every two-week before period is another show’s two-week after period,” he said.

If that’s true, then it may well be a case of confirmation bias at work. The researchers believed they would see this, and then “found” it. They simply didn’t really worry about whether this spike happened after every gun show.

Either way, it’s safe to dismiss this study as absolutely useless.