Academic surveys criminals, finds support for gun control, may write book

... but interestingly enough, not support for gun bans.  The survey covered 50 people, from what I can tell all currently in prison, 42 of which were serving time for drug offenses.  The author sometimes calls his respondents "inmates" and other times "students"; why he does this is unclear.  Perhaps his respondents are inmates who are also students?

I'm assuming the survey population from which answers are drawn is the same, regardless of whether "inmates" or "students" is used.

Some interesting points from the survey:
Have you ever been shot, or shot at, with a firearm? If so, provide details :

Thirty-one inmates answered "Yes," and only three of them said the shots had been fired by law enforcement officers.

Of course, the answers as reported do not preclude criminals shooting at criminals.  In fact, all but one of the reported responses were cases that could easily be characterized as criminal-on-criminal activity -- the responses quoted had a definite tendency to initiate or escalate a confrontation, even while some could reasonably be considered defensive.  There's really no way to characterize most of the responses as being solidly self-defense or solidly criminal, it's all in the context that's missing from the responses.

The last reported response was someone who was shot after being robbed.  Note that he was shot after cooperating with his attacker.
But some students did seem to back some gun control measures, with 42 of the 50 in favor of licensing (for any and all guns), waiting periods and pre-purchase mental competency tests. 

So, criminals want to institute strict gun controls, yet obviously they have had no difficulty obtaining their own guns despite the mere possession of a firearm being a felony for probably everyone who participated.  (The odds are that everyone surveyed was either a prior felon or addicted to drugs, given the rough details we have about the participants in the survey -- currently incarcerated, 84% for drug crimes).

The survey was conducted by a Joseph Cooper, who teaches media law and ethics.  What the relationship between that field and criminology is, I have no idea. 

Because I'm always more than a little suspicious of excerpted media reports from such surveys, I asked the person who conducted the survey for his data.  This is a normal request in most scientific circles, because it allows for peer review.  His response to my request:
Thank you for your inquiry and request, but because my surveying will continue (following the Court's decision in D.C. v. Heller), and because of Dept. of Correction protocols and policies, and because of a book prospect, I must decline.
I will leave the reader to judge whether that's a reasonable response or not.  While, obviously, he would be in something of a bind if the data he used has conditions attached to it, I'm not sure I buy that; how would any research on questions like this be peer-reviewed if the data cannot be shared due to a firm policy?  I wouldn't mind waiting until after Heller v DC to get a complete dataset, but if that's holding him up, why publish articles about it in the newspaper?

It seems a little defensive to me.  I'm particularly curious how any of those reasons could justify his refusal to share non-personally-identifiable data while not preventing him from excerpting that data in nationally-published newspaper articles.

Amusingly enough, he visited my blog immediately before issuing his response to me in email -- less than 2 minutes before, in fact.  I wonder if that had any influence on his decision?

At any rate, since he refuses to provide his data, I'm not inclined to give his results any significance -- particularly not his carefully-excerpted and nationally-published excerpts.  The price of credibility is openness to validation.

Thanks to David Hardy for his patience in answering a few questions concerning the ettiquette of data sharing.

This entry was published Mon Jun 23 14:54:42 CDT 2008 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2008-06-23 14:54:42.0. [Tweet]

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