- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Economists who research guns and crime overwhelmingly believe that firearms are a force for protection more than a danger to owners and their surroundings, according to a new poll of the academics.

Gary Mauser, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, who ran the survey for Crime Prevention Research Center President John R. Lott Jr., said his goal was to ask researchers with a scientific bent what they thought about guns and safety, hoping to cut through the personal biases that often cloud the firearms safety debate.

Of the 35 economics researchers that responded, 29 of them said guns are more likely to be used for self-defense than to commit a crime.

“These researchers are methodologically sophisticated; they are scientists, not polemicists,” Mr. Mauser said in an email to The Washington Times, explaining why he choose economists rather than other academics for his research.

That matters because there’s a growing debate over what the experts actually think about gun violence.

Harvard Professor David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has drawn attention for his work asking public health and sociology researchers their conclusions about guns, and he has found them to be skeptical of firearms.

Take Mr. Mauser’s question about self-defense and crimes: While 83 percent of economists believed guns were more likely to be used for self-defense, nearly three-quarters of Mr. Hemenway’s sociologists and public health professionals disagreed with that finding.

Mr. Hemenway also found most of his participants thought guns made a home more dangerous and increased the risk of suicide, and they believed permissive concealed carry laws have not helped reduce crime.

Mr. Mauser said at least a portion of the difference resulted from the wording used.

In the question of self-defense versus crime, Mr. Hemenway asked if guns were used for the former “far more” than the latter. Mr. Mauser said that may have skewed his results, so, in his own survey, he changed the question to test if people believe there is a net benefit from gun ownership.

He also defended his survey participants as the better group, since they were economists who had written on guns.

“Remember, all of the researchers I included had direct research conducting empirical studies of the gun issue, unlike those in Hemenway’s study. My target population is more knowledgeable,” he said.

Mr. Mauser’s survey reached out to 53 researchers who published gun research in peer-reviewed economics journals. Of those, 35 responded.

Mr. Hemenway’s pool of responses is larger. He has done several iterations of his survey, but for the question about self-defense he sent 286 emails and got back 122 completed responses. His survey about whether guns make homes safer was sent to 276 researchers, with 85 of them completing the poll.

Mr. Hemenway questioned Mr. Mauser’s methodology, saying it was “strange” to only survey economists who published in economics journals. Mr. Hemenway, an economist himself who has published nearly 100 articles on the subject, wasn’t included in the survey because he submits his work to publications that don’t focus on economics specifically.

“Because so few gun researchers publish there, Lott was forced to accept researchers who may have only been a co-author of a paper about guns many decades ago — probably not someone who was ever widely knowledgeable about firearms, or someone who has kept up with the literature,” Mr. Hemenway said.

Mr. Mauser’s survey reached out to 53 researchers who published gun research in peer-reviewed economics journals. Of those, 35 responded.

Mr. Hemenway’s pool of responses is larger. He has done several iterations of his survey, but for the question about self-defense he sent 286 emails and got back 122 completed responses. His survey about whether guns make homes safer was sent to 276 researchers, with 85 of them completing the poll.

As far as the public is concerned, however, Mr. Mauser and his side are having the better of the argument. Gallup polling last year found 63 percent of Americans believe having a gun makes a home safer, compared to just 30 percent who say it makes a home more dangerous.

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