The news networks are going nuts over a report published by Chapman, Alpers, and Jones, purporting that the study shows Australia’s 1997 NFA was an incredible success.
Here’s the actual publication, straight from the source:
Chapman, S., Apler, P., Jones, M., “Association Between Gun Law Reforms and Intentional Firearm Deaths in Australia, 1979-2013”, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2016, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530362, (accessed 24 June 2016).
This report has been making the rounds over the last 48 hours, of course, it’s been taken hilariously out of context. Even so, it has caused a fair amount of furore from the Australian firearms community. I’ve seen everything from well thought out responses, to full blown shit fights.
The paper itself isn’t actually as bad as it seems, despite the snippets taken wildly out of context by various news networks and University Facebook pages. Science Alert was the first place I saw mention of the report, followed by a short video posted on the Macquarie University Facebook page, both of which were in the process of being swarmed by angry fire ants. I mean firearms owners.
Surprisingly, Chapman et al. actually wrote an unexpectedly balanced paper that has been taken way out of context by news networks looking for a quick and dirty piece of the sensationalist news.
The actual report is not as black and white as the news networks and social media make it out to be. Chapman et al. have done a better job at examining the data in this paper than in their previous papers. The data set used by Chapman et al. (ABS) is unbiased and so that leaves us with critiquing the interpretation of the data. Even there Chapman et al., did not fudge their interpretations. In fact, they made quite reasonable statements regarding the modelling of their data set.
Specifically, Chapman et al., recognised that there was no statistically significant decline in firearms homicides post 1997 compared to pre 1996, and that non-firearms suicides remained steadily declining post 1997 without accelerating. Contrary to their 2006 paper, Chapman et al., separated firearms homicide and firearms suicide so as not to lump them together under the catchall category of firearms deaths, which was a significant limitation in their previous studies. Third party analysis of their previous studies concluded that the data did not support the author’s conclusions about firearms homicides significantly declining post 1997. This time around, the raw data still doesn’t support the hypothesis that firearms homicides declined significantly post 1997. Go figure.
About the only thing the gun-control lobby can get out of this study is that the statistics say we haven’t had a mass shooting since 1996. Or have we? This silver lining is solely dependant on how you define a mass shooting. Chapman et al. have chosen to define a mass shooting as an incident where there are five or more deaths, not including the shooter. As there is no internationally accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, Chapman et al. are free to define it however they want, which of course works in their favour. Cherry pick data and definitions to suit your agenda? Elementary, my dear Watson.
If there is anything we can take away from the study, it is this: it is not possible to determine whether the change in firearms deaths can be attributed to gun law reforms. Word for word, plucked straight out of the report itself.
Perhaps Chapman et al. are trying their best to become legitimate scholars? Who knows, maybe they’re taking a leaf out of Dr Samara McPhedran’s book.
Speaking of which, go check out Dr McPhedran’s excellent factsheets at www.ic-wish.org/fact_sheets.htm
Knowledge is power.