The New York Times, or as SayUncle calls it, the paper of making things up, ran a story on Monday asserting that 1% of North Carolina concealed handgun permit holders had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. They didn’t break down the number of felonies versus the number of misdemeanors as that would lessen the impact.
Grass Roots North Carolina head Paul Valone was interviewed for this story and responded late yesterday in a GRNC Alert.
Mike Luo’s crusade
Following an extensive interview between GRNC president Paul Valone and New York Times reporter Mike Luo, the Times is now trying to depict North Carolina’s population of concealed handgun permit-holders as rife with felons. To support his claims, Luo relies on flawed methodology, misuse of anecdotal data, and selectively ignored facts he learned during the interview. The current piece is at least the third time Luo has written biased and misleading articles on gun ownership.
Although Luo claims to have done data-matching between criminal databases and permit-holders, he admitted confirming only a dozen matches with the NC State Bureau of Investigation.
Data matching between large databases is subject to high rates of “false positives” depending on the number and type of parameters matched. To quote one data mining whiz: “The problem is that if you’re trying to search a couple of large data sets for something that occurs infrequently, the number of true hits (if any) is likely to be far less than the number of false positives.”
…and liars figure
When asked whether Luo would confirm all matches with the SBI, or whether he would do statistical analysis of his data, determining what percentage of North Carolina permit-holders commit crimes, or whether he would simply provide misleading anecdotal examples as he did on a November 13, 2011 piece on restoration of gun rights for felons, Luo refused to answer.
How Luo creates a false impression
The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”: By pulling a small number of anecdotes rather than verifying all of the data, Luo hopes to paint a false portrait of NC concealed handgun permit-holders as criminals.
Selective data: Luo has a reputation among researchers for cherry-picking research to support his assertions, and for failing to disclose the gun-related leanings of researchers he cites.
The Charlotte Observer fell over itself to propagate Luo’s deceptive story
The Charlotte Observer ran this insult to their gun-owning readership as front page news!
GRNC president Paul Valone responds
“What The New York Times recently published is a biased ‘hit piece’ designed to undermine the unerringly successful expansion of concealed carry laws. By cherry-picking anecdotes from error-prone data matching, reporter Michael Luo creates a false impression of widespread abuse by concealed handgun permit-holders. Luo admits not bothering to confirm more than a handful of the matches found, so given the small data set used, the number of “false positives” may well exceed the number of accurate matches.
“Even Luo’s claim of 2,400 crimes by permit-holders – which includes DUI convictions and relatively minor misdemeanors – represents only a tiny fraction (0.6%) of the 395,251 concealed handgun permits approved since 1995. Moreover, data from other states reveals that few permit revocations result from misuse of firearms.
“As Luo was told during the interview (but chose to ignore), when Grass Roots North Carolina helped draft the state’s concealed handgun law in 1995, we gave law enforcement officials the tools for permit revocations by attaching concealed handgun permit information to the state drivers’ license database. Any concealed handgun permit-holder arrested for a crime would be immediately identified as such.
“Furthermore, nothing in the law prevents the North Carolina Department of Justice from doing checks on permit-holders to ensure they remain in compliance with the law, nor would we oppose such an effort. If the state fails to avail themselves of those tools, the problem lies not within the concealed handgun law, but instead within its enforcement.”
Sean at An NC Gun Blog has some further comments on GRNC’s response here and has been running a whole series of stories examining the NYT piece. They make for good reading.
I do find it interesting that this story comes out less than two weeks after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg starts another crusade to close the “private sale loophole”. I really don’t think it is any coincidence.