Confermation Bias Within The Gun Control Debate
The physiological definition of confirmation bias by the American Psychological Association (APA) is the ability or act of ignoring, finding, manipulating, or modifying evidence and data to support your beliefs, ideas, or ideology. Dr. Raymond Richardson, a professor at Tufts University located in Medford Massachusetts, summarized in 1998 confirmation bias [as] the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand (175). Confirmation bias due to the fact that is can be for good or for evil is dangerous. The impact can be minor or of extreme proportions.
With confirmation bias the entire idea is a person could be doing so, with or without intent to do so. The only way to not have confirmation bias is to take the data, facts and sources. Then try to break them down to the weakest points or if the data is against the interest of the source dispersing it.
Confirmation bias is ever present in the conversations and laws involving the debate of Gun Control on all sides of the debate. The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV) and its sister organization the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), a left-wing anti-gun tax exempt lobbyist group founded in 1974 and headquarter in Washington, DC only seeks and interprets evidence that support the ideology guns themselves are the cause of gun violence. On the other side, the National Rifle Association (NRA) - a pro-gun lobbyist group founded on November 16, 1871 in New York, NY and relocated to Fairfax, VA in 1993 - refuse to blame anything other than culture and education for the overall violence problem. Both sides of the argument on guns are flawed and show confirmation bias in the evidence they present to support their argument.
In February 2018 EFSGV published a report using the Center of Disease Control (CDC) statistic on factors of deaths in the United States (US) to support their opinion that gun control laws like in the Common Wealth of Massachusetts actually works. However, the EFSGV had filtered the information provided by the CDC not separate homicide and murders, from suicides. Plus, even on the site the CDC states that the numbers provided are suppressed values (2018). This means that the data is already not an accurate representation of what is truly happening.
After contacting the CDC Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and asking what suppressed values on their website means. They provided a clarification statement of the values being suppressed or labeled as suppressed due to states, towns, or cities not being required to add the question of have you or a member of the household to the yearly census. Plus, as the CDC also stated in the response the data is hard for them to determine who in the family is reporting the death or injury. This is caused by the fact a person who is dead cannot fill out the US census questionnaire.
With the additional problem of the volatility of the answers provided in response to the questionnaire is not verified. Even more so the categories overlap or are differently defined by individuals answering the census questions. With this in mind about the accuracy and volatility of the data provided to the CDC in the census questionnaire that also changes year to year it is easy to manipulate at all levels.
As of November 20, 2018, the data on the CDC website was relabeled and no longer placed into charts. Unable to get a reason from the CDC Public Affairs Officer for the change in formatting and removal of the breakdowns in percentages. The new setup of the CDC data states it is census data in clear text, in multiple locations and does not attempt to break the data down for you. Leaving you to make the determination of the meaning of the data.
The EFSGV confirmation bias to support the gun control agenda lead them to manipulated the data to show what they wanted or need to see, to confirm the beliefs, ideas, and ideology of gun control. They provided false validity to the data by not stating it was data from a census questionnaire. Leaving the reader to believe it had more validity than what it truly does.
Using the same data set provided by the CDC prior to the November 20, 2018 update just by removing all the filters on types of Intent of Death and Mechanism of Death the data chart of percentages showed an entirely different picture from what EFSGV was trying to make in the publication. Firearm related deaths in Massachusetts fell down from 65.0% to only 7.2% of deaths. Leaving the highest cause of deaths in Massachusetts being drug poisoning at 32.2% and falls causing 15.9% of deaths. Just by removing the filters on the data provided by the CDC you are two times more likely to die as a result of a motor vehicle than by a firearm.
With the post November 20, 2018 update of the CDC website the data in Table 1.1 and 1.2 shows Massachusetts being in the group of safest states with New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. However, once you filter it to just homicides involving a firearm in table 2.1 and 2.2 you see that Massachusetts has some counties that falls higher than the majority of the country. Even though they still are within the extreme low rate per 100,000 population leaves little to work with to improve in Massachusetts.
It also gives EFSGV little to argue about gun violence. The only difference between tables 1 and tables 2 is the fact table 1 shows homicides, suicides, and legal interventions. With table 2 only showing homicides. The only conclusion from the data is that Massachusetts has suicides and legal interventions resulting in deaths as a result of firearm related injuries.
With some filtering and over validation of the data provided it is possible to confirm any belief, expectations, and hypothesis at hand. Being caused by the fact the CDC uses very wide net categories that are not well defined and have no legal definition being left to the person who is answering the question on the census to interpret. The EFSGV took advantage of the census data provided and shaped it to their cause.
EFSGV statements of the need for gun control to stop gun-violence is shown to be invalid with their source the CDC. Facts about the data they are using are ignored and not reported in the publication, misleading the reader to believe the data has more validity than it does.
With the National Rifle Association (NRA) you have a YouTube publication by Colion Noir a NRATV host who in a story of Chicago starts with news reports and videos of crime and murder in Chicago. Then calling Chicago, Chiraq referring to it being equal to an active war zone. In the video Colion Noir interviews Leonard GLC Harris a Hip-Hop artist who contradicts the statement made earlier in the video. Leonard Harris points out, what gets the ratings and news is murder and mayhem... If you are constantly seeing murder and mayhem [explicit] you will become a reflection of that (NRA & Noir, 2018).
Leonard Harris later on in the video points out the crime problem is a culture problem. The number one way anybody learns is through the social learning theory. You can go to school all day and read what's in the books[...] But, when you see your mother and father do and your friends[...] on a daily bases that's what you are going to normalize.
Leonard Harris ignores the fact and example that goes against the arguments he made. Leonard Harris who grew up in Chicago with the criminal parents, friends, and environment is a perfect example, that it is not only a social learning problem only. He is not a criminal and is a productive member of the community serving as perfect example as a Hip-Hop artist.
They talk about African American culture and social learning being the problem, even though they have evidence stating it is not the only problem and cause for gun crime. They made the statements ignoring the examples and evidence that goes against the argument they were trying to make.