Thomas Sowell

What makes this reasoning especially strange in a medical journal is that it closely parallels the reasoning used by those who commit the fallacy of judging hospitals by their death rates. People who go into hospitals are more likely to die than people who don't. Does that make hospitals dangerous? Or does it show that people who go into a hospital already have health risks?

Indeed, death rates may be higher in a world-class medical facility than in the local county hospital, because it is people with more dire medical problems who are more likely to go into hospitals with top specialists and state-of-the-art equipment.

Just as it would be fallacious to assume that people who go to different kinds of hospitals have the same levels of risk to begin with, so it is fallacious to assume that people who decided to keep a gun in the house were in no more danger initially than those who didn't. Some were criminals and were killed by the police. Comparisons of apples and oranges don't prove anything.

The more recent anti-gun book by Michael Bellesiles of Emory University has been lavishly praised in such organs of the left intelligentsia as The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, and was awarded a prestigious prize for historians. Then other scholars began checking out his evidence.

The net result is that Professor Bellesiles has now resigned from Emory University after an investigation into his research led to a report that raised questions about his "scholarly integrity." But that is unlikely to stop his study from continuing to be cited by advocates of gun control.

Facts are not the real issue to gun control zealots, who typically share the left's general vision of the world, in which their own superior wisdom and virtue need to be imposed on others, whether on guns, the environment, or other things.

When John Lott asked the gun control crusader to look at the facts he had amassed, he may have thought that the issue was simply whether one policy was better than another. But what was really at stake was a whole vision of society and the crusader's own sense of self. No wonder she could not risk looking at the facts.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate