I wrote a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, in response to a letter they published today. (Click on the Title if you want to read the original.) I have certain pet peeves, things that push my button, and this Ms. Foster trotted out one that particularly annoys me. It's said that Disreali remarked that there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. This so-called statistic is one of the worst offenders, and demanded a response. I don't know if the T-P will publish it, but hey!, that's what blogs are for. I'll just publish it myself!
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Adele Foster writes (letters, Feb. 27) that a gun in the home "is 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend through suicide, homicide and accidents than to be used for self-defense (New England Journal of Medicine)."
Oh, please. Since the study that produced this "statistic" was first published back in the mid-1980s (and what was a medical journal doing studying criminology anyway?), it has been repeatedly debunked as fatally flawed in scope, methodology, and even basic definitions. For example, this figure assumes that the only way of using a gun in self-defense is by shooting somebody, rather than by brandishing it and scaring an attacker off. And under the terms of the study, a drug dealer murdering a hated rival counts as a "friend" shooting a "friend." Sorry, not in the real world.
There may be lots of good reasons for not wanting to have a gun in your home. But pseudoscience like this study, by a Dr. Arthur Kellerman who, again, was not a criminologist, is not among them.