Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Hidden Life of Guns

It is indeed ironic that the quote "follow the money" traces its lineage back to then-Washington Post reporters Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein. "Deep Throat" told the reporters that the key to understanding Watergate was the money. And so it is with a collection of feature stories in today's Washington Post entitled The Hidden Life of Guns.

The stories feature a multi-media piece (at least online), a hit piece on a gun store in Prince George's County, MD, and a tut-tutting piece on the "gun lobby" and the Tiahrt Amendment. It is this last story entitled Industry pressure hides gun traces, protects dealers from public scrutiny where the role of money in supporting so-called gun policy research becomes apparent. To support the authors' contention that the Tiahrt Amendment protects "rogue" dealers from scrutiny by groups such as the Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns as well as making it harder for the police, they call on Professor Glenn Pierce of Northeastern University and Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

First, Wexler:
"It was extraordinary, and the most offensive thing you can think of," said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group for police chiefs. "The tracing data, which is now secret, helped us see the big picture of where guns are coming from."

And now, the work of Prof. Glenn Pierce:
But in 1995, Professor Glenn L. Pierce of Northeastern University analyzed ATF tracing data and discovered that a tiny fraction of gun dealers - 1 percent - were the original sellers of a majority of the guns seized at crime scenes - 57 percent. Pierce's analysis "blew everybody away" at the ATF, recalled Joseph R. Vince Jr., then deputy chief of the firearms division. Law enforcement might be able to reduce crime by focusing on a relative handful of gun dealers.
Many in academia and the non-profit world have become grant-whores. In a publish or perish world, securing a grant is the road to salvation for a professor. It supports grad students to do the grunt work, it brings you recognition, it legitimizes your work as being "significant", and, most importantly, it makes your university very happy as they get a cut of the grant for so-called overhead. And as for non-profits, it keeps their doors open as they exist on soft money.

So, if we follow the money, where does it lead? To the surprise of almost no one in the gun community, both the Police Executive Research Forum and Dr. Glenn Pierce are recipients of grants from the Joyce Foundation either directly or indirectly. The Joyce Foundation is THE leading funder of gun violence (sic) groups along with anti-gun oriented research in academia. If the National Rifle Association were to set up a grants program for pro-gun research, the academic world as well as journalists would be in an uproar. However, when it comes to the Joyce Foundation, silence.


  1. Pro-gun NRA grants for academia? GREAT IDEA! NRA Foundation grants support youth shooting sports, why not buy a few professors?

  2. @RKV - Frankly, the money would have to be "laundered" before many in academia would touch it. It could be the kiss of death to a non-tenured professor and the rest of academia would dismiss any research, no matter how accurate or good, as tainted.

    John Lott's work was attacked early on because he was on a fellowship funded by the Olin Foundation. Olin was only tangently related to Olin Corp at that time but it still provided an avenue for attack.

  3. well, find a way to take that joyce money. and then do what you want to do, and don't do what they can't outright tell you they want you to do. join me in the trenches.