Daily Archives: January 22, 2013

They already drive on the wrong side of the road, so why not this?

"It's a long way, to Tipperary, ..."

“It’s a long way, to Tipperary, …”

From our Irish Correspondent: (mild) protest over proposal to let drunks drive home “slowly, on quiet roads”.  How else is an Irishman expected to get back to beat his wife and the wee ones?

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There might be something genuine about our Charlatan in Chief but don’t look for it in the musical highlights.

Beyonce lip synched, even the Marine Band was dubbed.  Hey, it’s just the national anthem – you can’t expect the Kenyan and his pals to get worked up about that, can you? I was disappointed in the Marines, at first,  but on reflection, maybe they figured out that actually performing would signify respect for this dreadful man. Semper Fi, baby.

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Faint stirrings

Three transactions worth noting:

3 Woodland Drive

3 Woodland Drive

3 Woodland Drive, 0.08 acre with teardown on a street I didn’t know existed (apparently it’s off the steep hill, Sound View, leading up to Field from Arch – who knew?) sold for $440,000 after starting out at $699,000. One can always dream.

212 Milbank, a condo, started at $2.995 million in February of last year, eventually dropped to $2.700 and today reports an accepted offer. I attribute that to an improving market rather than the rather modest price reduction.

22  Brown House Road, one of the Collins/Electrolux houses, zoomed off the market, coming on at $1.995 January 8th and gone already. Owners paid $1.905 for it in 2005, performed unspecified “renovations” in 2012 and, as I say, it sold immediately. The rest of town may still be stuck at 2003 price levels – Old Greenwich (and Riverside) are not.

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Sale and a contract

Three Connecticut Avenue has sold, 38 Dairy Road has an accepted offer.

3 Connecticut Avenue

3 Connecticut Avenue

3 Connecticut sold for $658,000. It was just purchased last spring for $575,000, had a new roof and other amenities added and listed again this past October for $685,000, receiving an acceptable offer in just 9 days.

38 Dairy Road had a longer trail to the selling block. Purchased in 2000 for $1.640, it’s been on and off the market since then, being rented out during some of that time. It started at $2.595, eventually dropped to $1.865 and now it’s going. It was listed as land as well as a residence and to my mind, its value is that of a building lot. I wasn’t wild about it because, although Dairy Road’s a good location, this land is down off the road and my father once taught me that water flows downhill. But that’s nothing that can’t be corrected with a proper (read, “expensive”) drainage system and it’s always possible in this age of miracles that the law of gravity has been repealed. Hey, it’s working for the Democrats, isn’t it?

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Good thing I have other things to do today

Broker open house tour offers little to nothing new. Two I don’t need to see again are 1 Birchwood Lane and 47 Round Hill Road, asking $4.995 million and $8.195 respectively.

Fine dining at Birchwood?

Fine dining at Birchwood?

1 Birchwood is an interesting example of the speculative building boom and its bust. Built in 2006 at the height of the market on marginal land (it’s on Will Merry, with the babbling brook tinkle of Merritt Parkway traffic washing over it), and unusual design, in that its master bedroom extends the entire length of the east side of the house and plantings that – well you tell me: do they look like miniature Brussels sprouts to you,too?

In any event, it was priced at $6.495 in 2006 and has never sold. I assume it’s been rented out for some of the intervening years, never a great way to improve a home’s condition, dropped to $5.895, $5.695 last spring  and today it’s offered at $4.995. Had it started at this latest number it might have sold seven years ago. As it is ….

47 Round Hill Road did sell after it was built, for $8.175 million in 2005, a number that struck some of us as exuberant but heck, those were the go-go years. The buyers tried reselling it for $8.995 in 2010 without success, dropped it to $7.995 in 2012 and when it still hadn’t sold by September, raised its price to $8.195 as a lesson to us all. I suppose next month they’ll be back at $8.995 and then, who knows? $15 million by July? Rush right over or you’ll be sorry.

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It only took six weeks, but the Washington Post finally debunks the “40%” myth.

Surely the New York Times will be next, eh? Anti-gunnists’ favorite number, “40% of all guns are purchased without background checks  is exposed as “stale data” by WaPo. Collected pre-Brady law [which required background checks beginning in 1994] and even then, the numbers were suspect.

Washington Post:

“The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.–President Obama, remarks on gun violence, Jan. 16, 2013

“Studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement.”

–“Now Is the Time: The president’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence,” released Jan. 16

“That’s why we need, and I’ve recommended to the president, universal background checks. Studies show that up to 40 percent of the people — and there’s no — let me be honest with you again, which I’ll get to in a moment. Because of the lack of the ability of federal agencies to be able to even keep records, we can’t say with absolute certainty what I’m about to say is correct. But the consensus is about 40 percent of the people who buy guns today do so outside the NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check] system, outside the background check system.”

–Vice President Biden, remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Jan. 17

Regular readers of this column know that we are often suspicious when politicians inject the phrase “up to” before citing a statistic. That’s because it often suggests the politician is picking the upper value in a range of possibilities.

A reader expressed deep skepticism of this 40-percent figure when Obama used it. We were further struck by Biden’s admission he could not say with “absolute certainty” that it was correct. So let’s investigate.

The Facts

The White House says the figure comes from a 1997 Institute of Justice report, written by Philip Cook of Duke University and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago. This study is based on data collected from a survey in 1994, just the Brady law requirements for background checks was coming into effect. (In fact, the questions concerned purchases in 1993 and 1994, while Brady law went into effect in early 1994.) In other words, this is a really old figure.

The data is available for researchers to explore at the Interuniversity consortium on political and social research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. Digging deeper, we find that the survey sample was just 251 people. (The survey was done by telephone, using a random-digit-dial method, with a response rate of 50 percent.) With this sample size, the 95 percent confidence interval will be plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Moreover, when asked if he or she bought from a licensed firearms dealer, the possible answers included “probably was/think so” and “probably not,” leaving open the possibility the purchaser was mistaken. (The “probably not” answers were counted as “no.”)

When all of the “yes” and “probably was” answers were added together, that left 35.7 percent of respondents indicating they did not receive the gun from a licensed firearms dealer. Rounding up gets you to 40 percent, though as we noted the survey sample is so small it could also be rounded down to 30 percent.

Moreover, when gifts, inheritances and prizes are added in, then the number shrinks to 26.4 percent. (The survey showed that nearly 23.8 percent of the people surveyed obtained their gun either as a gift or inherited it, and about half of them believed a licensed firearms dealer was the source.)

Interestingly, while people often speak of the “gun show loophole,” the data in this 1994 survey shows that only 3.9 percent of firearm purchases were made at gun shows.

There is a bit of irony here. While the 40-percent figure appears overstated and out of date, it remains the most cited statistic on the secondary market because foes of gun control have thwarted extensive research on guns. Advocates of gun controls thus continue to rely on a flawed statistic nearly two decades old.

Cook and Ludwig, in a paper that released this month at a gun-violence conference hosted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that there appears to be little or no impact from the Brady law in reducing the homicide rate, even though government officials (such as Obama) routinely tout the number of people prevented from buying guns because of background checks.

So is there any other, recent data that might provide some insight into the impact of the off-the-books gun market?

Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, will report data from a 2004 survey of inmates in state prisons in a chapter in a book titled “Reducing Gun Violence in America,” to be published Jan. 28 by Johns Hopkins Press.

The offenders were incarcerated from crimes committed with handguns, and this is how they reported how they obtained the guns:

Licensed gun dealer: 11 percent

Friends or family: 39.5 percent

“The street:” 37.5 percent

Stolen gun: 9.9 percent

Gun show/Flea market: 1.7 percent

In other words, only a relatively small percentage was purchased from licensed dealers. Obama’s proposal on universal background checks, however, allows for “limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes.”

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