"Professor" Philip Alpers unmasked.

Published in NZG&J Issue #90 Sept/Oct 05

A number of incredulous shooters contacted SSANZ to ask how, in a recent NZ Herald article on firearm problems in Papua New Guinea, (04.07.05), anti-gun lobbyist Philip Alpers managed to be described at least eight times as “Professor Alpers”. Surely this was in jest?

  We were pretty amazed ourselves at Alpers new title. In July 1991 his academic record was laid out in startlingly different terms by Deborah Coddington, (now the MP, but then a writer for North & South magazine):  Alper’s late mother is quoted directly; “I remember (Philip) coming to me when he’d failed UE and asking if he had to go to university, and I said, “For God’s sake no”.  If that was his attitude to university, he’d better stay home”.  However, Alpers must have had a partial change of mind as he told Coddington then that he “sat in on lectures at university without enrolling”. Now let’s keep in mind that a professorship normally entails 8 or 9 years study to obtain a doctorate and several more years post-doctoral research at a tertiary institution.  Was Alpers perhaps trading on an honorary doctorate in a manner that one of our MP’s was recently chastised for? 

 So we put it to Sydney University that Alpers had no formal tertiary qualification whatsoever and this is what we uncovered:

 “Mr Alpers is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Public Health who was appointed on 14 December 2004.  Mr Alpers is not a university graduate, as would normally be required by the Faculty of Medicine’s policy on adjunct titles.  However, because of his distinguished international record as a researcher and policy analyst, his recent association with Harvard University, and the international standing of his referees, the faculty deemed the title appropriate”. 

 Indeed, the title, “Adjunct Professor” can be conferred at Sydney University for:

 “..persons who are expert in an appropriate field… Adjunct titles are frequently conferred upon persons from professional practice… Holders of such titles are not necessarily required to have an academic background”, (but they must have demonstrated) “leadership at a national level of significant public / private organization, significant contribution to academic / professional / business development”. 

 So we put it directly to the university, who on earth would referee for someone like Alpers whose various so-called scientific papers have one thing in common; they’re littered with the most clumsy and basic mathematical errors and elementary errors of logic, which invariably favour Alpers’ own arguments!  Their reply:

 “The University cannot disclose private and confidential information of that nature to third parties such as yourself.  As all your correspondence is being copied to Associate Professor Alpers for his information, I suggest you address any further questions to him directly”. 

 Good idea, we thought.  After being advised by Alpers that we should “feel free to ask (him) anything we couldn’t find elsewhere”, he apparently had a change of heart. 

 “As you’ve already been told, universities in common with other employers do not permit disclosure of reference-related information to third parties”.   

 So there you have it.  In our day, Professors were a little different.  Their many and various academic degrees, the universities that conferred these titles upon them, and the dates were all a matter of public record for every department.  These were proudly displayed in the front of every University Calendar.  Every tertiary institution had a student records office, which would, on production of a name and date of birth, freely disclose a student’s academic record.  Indeed, many a pretender has been caught out this way. But now it seems that anyone can, purely on the strength of a few letters from undisclosed sources, by-pass all those fee-paying students slogging it out the hard way.

 But not everyone is comfortable making such claims. SSANZ President Dr. Lech Beltowski says that although he himself has a medical degree and also a pharmacy degree, he would never dream of promoting himself as a “Professor”, be it associate, adjunct or any other type. 

 In the 1987 NZ Listener article, we perhaps learn a lot about how Alpers came to be the chief anti-gunner in NZ along with now disgraced Huntly lawyer Mike Meyrick.  Alpers’ interview with Coddington delved into his early career in a newsroom:  Alpers is quoted as saying, “I was arrogant, loud, brash, insensitive and totally tactless and for that reason I was used as a “shafter” interviewer.” He asked (then Minister for Agriculture), Colin Moyle, “Are you a homosexual?” (launching a debate that forced Moyle to resign, though he later reclaimed his seat with widespread public support.  So much for Alpers later complaining that shooters have threatened his employment!). Alpers also challenged then newly selected MP for Mangere, David Lange, “Aren’t you too fat?”

 Alpers adds, “It was this constantly wanting to comment, wanting to put my own personality, my own beliefs into items that got me into trouble with the news and justifiably so”. But he notes that after taking up a new job in Wellington, “There I got rewarded for exactly the things I had been hit around the head for doing in Auckland”.  Now, it seems, he puts his beliefs into science.

 These interviews reveal that Alpers worked for a Friends of the Earth as a lobbyist but bemoaned that; “It didn’t pay”.  Much more recently he was to reveal in the Dominion that gun lobbying had, however, paid off for him.  It’s good to know what motivates people.

 SSANZ website carries International Critique of Alpers’ call for Pacific Disarmament.

Our newly updated SSANZ website features Professor Gary Mauser’s critique of Philip Alpers latest study: “Small Arms in the Pacific”.  We also have Alpers originals for your referral.  In his critique Professor Mauser, (a real professor at Simon Fraser University, in B.C. Canada), says of the Alpers study: 

 “This paper provides a brief review of a 2003 study by Alpers and Twyford in which they claim that the availability of civilian firearms contributes to criminal violence in the Pacific region.  The authors admit they did not collect any information on illegal or smuggled firearms, but instead they focus on firearms that are legally owned.  Despite recognizing that the principal source of illegal arms in the Pacific is police armories, these authors conclude that the most important next step to solving the problems of criminal violence in the region is to introduce more restrictive firearm laws to disarm civilians.  This is a stunning non-sequitur”, (illogical connection), “as the authors merely assume their conclusion.  Their study provides no empirical support that civilian ownership of firearms poses any potential for criminal or terrorist misuse. 

 The drive to introduce further restrictions on civilian firearm ownership in the Pacific”, (and this most certainly includes NZ, - ed.), “is based upon the fallacy that the availability of civilian firearms exacerbates criminal violence.  If this were true, then logically there would be higher levels of crime where there are higher densities of gun ownership.  This is not the case.  Alpers and Twyford imply that legal firearms in the hands of civilians are somehow the most important factor in destabilization.  This is false.  The problem lies with illicit firearms, not legal firearms.  Contrary to what Alpers and Twyford claim, there is no empirical support for criminals or terrorists obtaining significant numbers of firearms from civilians in any of the countries in the Pacific region.  Alpers and Twyford claim that criminals obtain the bulk of their firearms from police armories or from homemade weapons in the South-Pacific.  This is a further internal contradiction in their study….

 If access to firearms “increases both the lethality of violent encounters and the number of victims”, as Alpers and Twyford claim, then there should be a statistical correlation between civilian firearms ownership and homicide rates across the countries in the South Pacific.  In order to test this claim empirically, I analyzed the data Alpers and Twyford provide concerning civilian firearms ownership and homicide rates across the countries in the South Pacific.

Unfortunately, the data sets differ somewhat between the two versions of their study.  Therefore I analyzed both data sets and found essentially the same result; despite the author’s claims, no significant correlations could be found between the civilian firearm ownership and homicide rates in their data for the countries in the South Pacific”. 

 So Alpers and Twyford have been hoist by their own petard, yet again. SSANZ notes that the NZ Herald and other NZ papers gave  “Professor” Alpers’ claims an extensive spread, complete with a staged full-colour photo of an armed hold-up with an uncocked 1911 single-action Colt!  But no-one seems to have taken the time to ask a real professor, Gary Mauser, why the Alpers/Twyford  study is such a crock even to the most detached scientific observer.  In fact, when Alpers was challenged to explain to Radio 5AN in Adelaide, (on 24/02/99), why it was that NZ, with it’s very high Pacific region gun ownership rates, also had such low rates of gun deaths, his reply was;

 “Now, I can’t explain that, I don’t think anyone can, except to suggest that we’re just backward and we’ll catch up with you one day”. 

 As a long time gun registry advocate, Alpers refused to concede that our gun safety record might have something to do with our unique police/shooting community investment in character vetting procedures.  One might equally point to Professor Bellesiles.  This anti-gun researchers’ errors and inventions were publicly exposed, forcing his resignation from Emory University for “research misconduct”.

 Perhaps it’s the case that, as the Australian government needs justification for its ongoing forced gun buy-backs, there’s a ready demand for pseudo-scientific studies to support these agendas.

Blatantly flawed reports about guns in far-off Papua New Guinea could easily be used as a reason for demanding the adoption of Australian style gun laws in New Zealand – a so-called harmonization process that could be activated by the signing of Pacific Forum protocols.






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COPYRIGHT 2004. "Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the monthly journal of Hillsdale College ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John R. Lott, Jr., is Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute and received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles. He has been a senior research scholar at the Yale University School of Law, a fellow at the University of Chicago School of Law, a visiting fellow at Cornell University Law School and a Hoover Institution fellow. He has taught at the University of Chicago, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Rice University and Texas A&M University. In 1988 and 1989, he was chief economist for the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He is the author of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns.

Hillsdale College ."