NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medical Journal Bias on Guns

October 20, 2010

Medical journals have increasingly strayed into politics at the expense of scientific accuracy.  For example, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has over the last few months published a number of extremely biased and poorly done studies on gun control, says economist John R. Lott, Jr.

One article makes the case for extending background checks to the private transfers of guns, arguing that "perhaps the principal reason for the well-documented failure of the Brady Act to lower rates of firearm-related homicide is that its requirements do not apply to private-party gun sales."  But the authors make this argument without providing any evidence that these or any other background checks reduce crime.

  • The only "evidence" that "screening works" comes from their claim that, in 2008, 1.5 percent of those having a Brady background check were denied from purchasing a gun.
  • However, virtually all these cases represent so-called "false-positives."
  • In 2006 and 2007 (the latest data years available), a tiny fraction -- just 2 percent of those 1.5 percent -- involved possible unlawful possession; just 0.2 percent of the 1.5 percent were viewed as prosecutable.

Gun shows are not an important source of guns for criminals, says Lott.

  • Justice Department surveys of criminals indicate that fewer than 1 percent of such guns are obtained at a gun show.
  • Instead, the vast majority of crime guns come from illegal purchases off the street, something exceedingly difficult to control.

A second piece describes the effects on crime from the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court decision in the following way: "Dire predictions have not yet been realized."  This suggests that there is inevitable misfortune yet to come, but in fact D.C.'s murder rate fell by 23 percent in 2009 and continued falling sharply in 2010, several times faster than the drop in murder in the rest of the nation.

Source: John R. Lott, Jr., "Medical Journal Bias on Guns," National Review Online, October 18, 2010.

For text:


Browse more articles on Government Issues