Study suggests cohabitating with gun owner could be fatal

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Research on guns and gun violence produces a whole lot of studies. The vast majority of them are absolute garbage. I’ve tons of stories where I take a study and look at just what all is wrong with it.

Sometimes, the mistake may well have been made in good faith. Other times, it’s just bad research.

Yet a study that recently made headlines shouldn’t have gotten any attention at all.

Most U.S. gun owners say they own firearms to protect themselves and their loved ones, surveys show. But a study published Monday suggests people who live with handgun owners are shot to death at a higher rate than those who don’t have such weapons at home.

“We found zero evidence of any kind of protective effects” from living in a home with a handgun, said David Studdert, a Stanford University researcher who was the lead author of the Annals of Internal Medicine study.

The study has several shortcomings. For example, the researchers said they could not determine which victims were killed by the handgun owners or with the in-home weapons. They couldn’t account for illegal guns and looked only at handguns, not rifles or other firearms.

The dataset also was limited to registered voters in California who were 21 and older. It’s not clear that the findings are generalizable to the whole state, let alone to the rest of the country, the authors acknowledged.

But some outside experts said the work was well done, important and the largest research of its kind.

“I would call this a landmark study,” said Cassandra Crifasi, a gun violence policy researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “This contributes to our understanding of the potential causal relationship between guns in the home and homicides,” she said.

Except, it doesn’t.

As Rob Doar from the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus notes:

In other words, they couldn’t find any “preventative effects” from guns because they didn’t bother to look. That’s like making a big thing about how you can’t find your car keys when all you were looking for were deer tracks.

Even without this, though, we’ve got plenty to discuss about this study.

Such as this tidbit:

The study has several shortcomings. For example, the researchers said they could not determine which victims were killed by the handgun owners or with the in-home weapons. They couldn’t account for illegal guns and looked only at handguns, not rifles or other firearms.

So they couldn’t account for people who lived with a gun owner but were killed by a third party, and that’s significant. After all, a lot of people who live in bad neighborhoods have guns. A lot of people who live in bad neighborhoods get killed through no fault of their own, nor the fault of anyone they live with.

Then there’s the old chestnut of correlation not equaling causation. Especially since they can’t even determine if the person the victim lived with was responsible for the shooting.

It also doesn’t seem to account for whether the shooting was justified.

After all, a battered wife gets a gun and fully complies with California’s laws. Then her husband gets particularly violent one day and she shoots him in self-defense. That would count within this framework, but does anyone really think that’s a bad thing? I consider it community service.

Honestly, the fact that anyone would call this a landmark study is laughable. It’s easily the most debunkable study I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot since I’ve been writing here.

The kick in the butt is that the mainstream media is unlikely to include any pushback on this study. Instead, we’ll see this brought up on the regular with anti-gun activists citing this as a reason we need new gun control–also generally ignoring that this was in California, the most gun-controlled state in the nation.