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The Mysterious Gun Study That’s Advancing Gun Rights

The Mysterious Gun Study That’s Advancing Gun Rights

Update: 2024-06-2011
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This episode of The Daily delves into the mysterious study by William English, a Georgetown University professor, that has been cited repeatedly in lawsuits challenging gun restrictions across the country. The study, which found that gun owners use their firearms for self-defense approximately 1.7 million times a year, has been used to argue that AR-15s and high-capacity magazines are in common use and therefore harder to ban. However, the episode reveals that the study was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, English did not disclose the source of funding, and the questions asked in the survey were phrased in a way that could have skewed the results. The investigation also uncovers that English has served as a paid expert witness for pro-gun plaintiffs in at least four cases before conducting the survey, and that the funding for the study came from a pro-gun group called the Constitutional Defense Fund. The episode raises concerns about the lack of transparency and potential bias in the study, and how it has been used to influence legal arguments in favor of gun rights.

Outlines

00:00:00
Craft Matters

This Chapter is a short advertisement for UBS, highlighting the importance of craft in various aspects of life, including investing. It emphasizes UBS's commitment to delivering services with passion, expertise, and meticulous attention to detail.

00:00:39
The Mysterious Study

This Chapter introduces the topic of the episode, focusing on a study by William English that has been used to strengthen gun rights arguments in court cases. The study found that gun owners use their firearms for self-defense approximately 1.7 million times a year, which has been cited as evidence that AR-15s and high-capacity magazines are in common use and therefore harder to ban.

00:12:32
Who is William English?

This Chapter delves into the background of William English, the author of the study. It reveals that he is a political scientist and economist at Georgetown University with a background in behavioral issues and incentives. However, he has little public track record on gun issues, making his involvement in the study unusual.

00:16:51
Funding and Connections

This Chapter explores the funding sources for English's study. It reveals that English has served as a paid expert witness for pro-gun plaintiffs in at least four cases before conducting the survey, and that the funding for the study came from a pro-gun group called the Constitutional Defense Fund. The episode raises concerns about the lack of transparency and potential bias in the study.

00:26:03
The Impact of the Study

This Chapter discusses the impact of English's study on gun law litigation. It highlights how the study, despite its questionable methodology and funding, has been used to influence legal arguments in favor of gun rights, culminating in its citation in Supreme Court briefs and oral arguments.

Keywords

William English
William English is a political scientist and economist at Georgetown University who conducted a survey of gun owners in 2021. The survey has been cited repeatedly in lawsuits challenging gun restrictions across the country, but its methodology and funding have been called into question. English has been reluctant to discuss his research and has been accused of bias due to his ties to pro-gun groups.

Second Amendment
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the individual right to keep and bear arms. It has been the subject of much debate and litigation, particularly in recent years, as courts grapple with the scope and limits of the right to bear arms. The Supreme Court's 2022 decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen significantly expanded the Second Amendment right to carry a firearm outside the home and established a new test for gun restrictions.

Gun Rights
Gun rights refer to the legal rights of individuals to own and use firearms. Gun rights advocates argue that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own and use firearms for self-defense, hunting, and other lawful purposes. They oppose gun control measures, such as bans on certain types of firearms or restrictions on magazine capacity, arguing that such measures infringe on the Second Amendment right.

Gun Control
Gun control refers to laws and regulations designed to restrict the ownership, use, and sale of firearms. Gun control advocates argue that such measures are necessary to reduce gun violence and protect public safety. They support measures such as background checks, bans on assault weapons, and restrictions on magazine capacity.

Firearms Policy Coalition
The Firearms Policy Coalition is a gun rights advocacy group that has been involved in numerous lawsuits challenging gun restrictions across the country. The group has been accused of using dark money tactics to fund its litigation efforts and has been linked to the funding of William English's survey.

Constitutional Defense Fund
The Constitutional Defense Fund is a pro-gun group that has been linked to the funding of William English's survey. The group's funding sources are opaque, and its address is a UPS store in Virginia. The group has been involved in litigation efforts to overturn gun restrictions and has paid English for his work.

Amicus Brief
An amicus brief is a legal document filed in a court case by a party who is not directly involved in the case but has an interest in the outcome. Amicus briefs are often filed by advocacy groups or experts to provide the court with additional information or arguments. In the case of William English's survey, an amicus brief was filed in the Supreme Court's Bruen case, citing English's research and arguing in favor of gun rights.

Dark Money
Dark money refers to political spending by groups that are not required to disclose their donors. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to track the source of funding and can raise concerns about undue influence on elections or policy decisions. The Firearms Policy Coalition and the Constitutional Defense Fund have been accused of using dark money tactics to fund their litigation efforts.

Brewin
Brewin refers to the Supreme Court case New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which significantly expanded the Second Amendment right to carry a firearm outside the home and established a new test for gun restrictions. The case has been cited as a major victory for gun rights advocates and has led to a wave of litigation challenging gun restrictions across the country.

Q&A

  • What is the main finding of William English's study?

    English's study found that gun owners use their firearms for self-defense approximately 1.7 million times a year. This finding has been used to argue that AR-15s and high-capacity magazines are in common use and therefore harder to ban.

  • Why is the methodology of English's study being questioned?

    The study has been criticized for its lack of transparency, including the phrasing of questions, the lack of disclosure of funding sources, and the broad definition of self-defense. Critics argue that these factors could have skewed the results of the study.

  • What is the connection between William English and pro-gun groups?

    English has served as a paid expert witness for pro-gun plaintiffs in at least four cases before conducting the survey. The funding for the study came from a pro-gun group called the Constitutional Defense Fund. These connections raise concerns about potential bias in the study.

  • How has English's study influenced gun law litigation?

    English's study has been cited repeatedly in lawsuits challenging gun restrictions across the country. It was even cited in Supreme Court briefs and oral arguments in the Bruen case. The study's influence has helped to bolster gun rights arguments and has contributed to a wave of litigation aimed at overturning gun restrictions.

  • What are the implications of the findings about English's study?

    The findings raise concerns about the lack of transparency and potential bias in research used to influence legal arguments. It highlights the importance of scrutinizing the methodology and funding sources of studies, particularly those used in high-stakes legal cases. It also raises questions about the role of dark money in shaping legal arguments and influencing public policy.

Show Notes

In the battle to dismantle gun restrictions, raging in America’s courts even as mass shootings become commonplace, a Times’ investigation has found that one study has been deployed by gun rights activists to notch legal victories with far-reaching consequences.

Mike McIntire, an investigative reporter for The Times, discusses the study and the person behind it.

Guest: Mike McIntire, an investigative reporter at The New York Times.

Background reading: 

For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday. 

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The Mysterious Gun Study That’s Advancing Gun Rights

The Mysterious Gun Study That’s Advancing Gun Rights

The New York Times