Want To End Gun Violence? Be Responsible.

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              So now The (failing) New York Times has become so desperate for readers and clicks that it has a dear Abby column where readers send in questions about whatever little problem they have, and some ‘expert’ responds with the proper advice. You can find this crap in the Social Q’s column in the Style section, and yesterday’s lead question is from a ‘mother’ who is worried about her teen-age daughter and the question starts off like this:

              “Our 15-year-old daughter is very headstrong. She’s never been in real trouble, but she bristles against rules and authority: curfews, homework, appropriate clothing — you name it! Recently, she exploded when her younger brothers discovered her journal in the family room. Now, she keeps it locked in a heavy black box she found at a secondhand store. The problem: The black box turns out to be a gun safe! she refuses to give up the safe, and we don’t want it in our house. Help!”

              The advice to this poor woman comes from Philip Galanes, who used to be an entertainment lawyer for the Paul, Weiss law firm, but now has become the entertainment himself. And here’s what he tells this poor woman to do: “Start by asking if she knew what the gun safe was. (I wouldn’t have!) If none of your children are very young, go deeper: Ask them about gun violence and their sense of safety. Let them take the lead. You and your husband can help them synthesize their thoughts. That’s probably more useful than any top-down declarations by you, and it may be the sort of meaningful give-and-take that your daughter responds to.

              How come this distraught woman wasn’t told to keep the safe around the house in case she and/or her husband decide to buy a gun? Aren’t that what responsible parents should be doing now that the CDC has declared gun violence to be a public health threat?

              That’s right. Back last August, the head of the CDC, Rachel Walensky, broke a 15-year silence about gun violence and not only proclaimed it to be a serious threat to public health, but also named the CDC’s -ready? – acting principal deputy director (whew), Debra Houry, to take the lead in promoting CDC’s response to this public health threat. Houry believes that gun violence can be effectively controlled through “research, education and targeted prevention.”

              If that’s all true, I still don’t understand why the Dear Abby wannabe in The (failing) New York Times didn’t advise the reader (who may not actually exist) to throw out the goddamn safe and oh, by the way, make sure never to bring a gun into the house. Because that’s what the CDC learned the last time they funded gun research which found that access to a gun in the home created a risk to health, the risk being a medical condition called death.

              But now that the CDC has decided to revive some evidence-based research that was done twenty-five years ago, we have to look to build a consensus about gun risk, and the consensus is that guns aren’t so risky as long as they are used in a ‘responsible’ and ‘safe’ way.

              That’s become the approach to gun violence promoted by the CDC over the past year, and obviously the reason for those mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park (among other places) is because the shooters in all three of those events didn’t behave in a ‘safe’ or ‘responsible’ way.

              Not to worry. If there’s no big deal shooting, the whole issue will disappear and Philip Galanes will have to come up with some other problem that will align with inflation, or college loans or whatever the Fake News decides needs to be talked about this coming week.

              As for me, I think I’ll take a ride down to the guy who sells guns, ammo, archery equipment and fishing bait in my town. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even buy a gun. I have room in my gun safe for another AR-15 or maybe a new Glock.

              And if I do buy a gun, I’ll have no trouble passing a background check because, after all, I’m a safe and responsible guy.

Do We Still Need Research on Gun Violence?


              I have been writing about guns, the gun business and gun violence for early ten years.  I posted my first blog in May 2012 when I learned that the NRA, of which I am a Lifetime Endowment member, was pushing a law in Florida that, had it not been overturned by a federal appeals court, would have criminalized physicians who counseled patients about guns.

              I simply didn’t understand how anyone would be afraid of anything said to them by a physician, but I guess I’m kind of naive in that respect, considering how many people are still resisting the Covid-19 vaccine.

              My gun blog had a few viewers but that changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in December which created a media firestorm about gun violence and changed the public discussion about guns in several immediate ways.

              To begin, Obama came out with a new gun-control law which went nowhere but at least generated the beginnings of grass roots gun-control organizations to compete with the NRA. This was also the time that social media made it easier to form advocacy groups and promote ideas and strategies for gun control. Nobody has done this better than Shannon Watts and her girls.

              At the same time, the pro-gun groups or as they prefer to call themselves, the gun ‘rights’ folks, also started popping up on the internet, forcing the NRA to move towards the alt-right, partially to deflect criticisms from gun-control groups, as well as to protect its right flank from the real crazies like Gun Owners of America and the militia nut jobs who have emerged full flower before and during the Age of Trump.

              Meanwhile, if we go back to 2012 and try to understand what has happened with guns and gun violence from then until now, what we quickly realize that things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. Know what the national gun-violence rate was in 2012?  Try 10.44. Know what the GV rate was in 2020, which is the most recent year for data from the CDC? How about 13.44. Gee, that’s only an increase of 28.7%.

              But wait a minute, you say. The 2020 number has to be taken with a grain of salt or maybe with a salt shaker because, after all, that was the first Pandemic year.

              Yea, right. Except it’s not right. The national violence rate from 2012 to 2020 went up by 17.4% – a little more than half the increase in the gun-violence rate.

              Now if you tap the average medical or public health gun researcher on the shoulder and ask for an explanation as to why gun violence has shown such a remarkable increase over the past eight years, he or she will tell you that nobody was able to do any CDC-funded research on gun violence over that period of time.

              Which is true, except that I’m not so sure that our inability to prevent or reduce gun violence has little, if anything, to do with research into the causes of this scourge at all.

              Back in the early 90’s, two very able researchers published research which definitively found that access to a gun in the home created risk for homicide and suicide. And by the way, this research did not qualify guns as to whether or not they were safely stored.

              I read these articles when they first appeared and I not only knew they both were correct, but I never understood why it was necessary to do any more research on the issue of guns, gun violence or gun risks.

Meanwhile, during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the gun industry shifted away from the production of long guns – shotguns, rifles – to the production of handguns, in particular semi-automatic pistols which carried 15 rounds or more of military-grade ammunition.

Why did this product shift take place? Because new manufacturing technologies – MTM manufacture and polymers – doubled and sometimes tripled operating margins for companies that primarily produced handguns. For all the talk about how Americans wanted to own handguns because they needed to protect themselves from increased crime, the gun industry has never succeeded in convincing a majority of Americans that they need to own a gun.

We are the only country in the entire world which allows law-abiding residents to buy, own, and walk around with guns which are designed solely for the purpose of ending human life. I mean, you just don’t use a Glock or a Sig pistol to shoot a bird out of a tree.

Need more research to figure that one out? No, you don’t.

Is Trump To Blame For Covid-19?

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All of a sudden, Mister Orange Head is behaving like a former President – calm, reasonable, trying to do and say the right thing. Last night he called into Fox and didn’t rant about ‘election fraud,’ or the ‘Chinese flu,’ or the ‘border invasion.’ Instead, he actually promoted the idea that Americans should get vaccinated because vaccines are ‘safe.’ 

Oh well, oh well. I guess the MAGA movement’s time has passed. I guess that attacking RINOS just isn’t helping Orange Head’s strategy to remain in charge of the GOP. I guess he just can’t raise enough money to start a new media network because he’ll need his cash to pay his legal fees.

Be that as it may, I was hoping to write a column today about how much we should blame Orange Head for Covid-19. After all, this is a guy who could only respond to the virus threat in partisan, political terms.  The virus was a Democratic ‘hoax.’ Dr. Fauci was just another member of the Deep State. Orange Head was a true ‘wartime leader’ who was out there fighting against the ‘Chinese flu’ enemy from Day One.

I was going to attack Orange Head because I wanted to throw out my own little conspiracy theory that Trump’s refusal to do anything serious about the virus was because he believed the virus was basically an inner-city disease, and since inner-city (read: minority) residents just sit around and gobble up welfare, plus always vote blue, who cares if they die off in large numbers or not?

Part of my theory wasn’t just based on the fact that Orange Head is an out-and-out racist and real piece of sh*t. It was also based on what I have been hearing again and again over the last year, namely, that Covid-19 has disproportionately hit inner-city neighborhoods and caused all kinds of untold suffering among minority populations and groups.

How can this not be the case? After all, even the most respected and authoritative medical organization, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, has stated in no uncertain terms that the virus has been particularly deadly when it comes to the health of inner-city children. Never mind inner-city adults.

There’s only one little problem. The idea that minorities have been harder hit by this pandemic than the population at large happens not to be true. If anything, the data appears to indicate that this virus makes absolutely no class or racial distinctions at all in terms of how and where it spreads.

The Kaiser Family Foundation publishes a weekly update which tracks, among other things, the percentage of Covid deaths by the percentage of each racial group in every state. He most recent data is through February 28. As of that date, the percentage of Covid deaths suffered by Whites was the same or higher than the percentage of Whites in that state’s population as a whole.

So, for example, Colorado’s White Covid death rate is 68%, the proportion of White residents of the state’s total population is also 68%. In Georgia, Whites account for 58% of all Covid fatalities and Whites are 52% of the state’s total population. In Minnesota, the percentages are 85% to 79%, in New Jersey it’s 56% to 54%.

The two states which are both very large and have disproportionate numbers of minority Covid deaths are – where else? – California and New York. In California, Blacks and Hispanics are 52% of the Covid deaths but count 45% of the state’s total residents. In New York, where the numbers do not count New York City, Blacks are 14% of the population but 23% of Covid deaths. God only knows what the numbers for anything are in New York City.

So, my little conspiracy theory about Trump ignoring the virus because it wasn’t a ‘problem’ for Whites doesn’t really hold up. That doesn’t change the fact that Mister Orange Head should go f*ck himself, the horse he rode in on and the whole cavalry behind him as well.

Even though Orange Head is pretending to be such a thoughtful and reasonable kind of guy, to quote Grandpa, he’s nothing but pure, unadulterated drek.

Should The CDC Sponsor Gun Research?


It has been more than 30 years since the CDC eliminated gun violence from its research budget, but the hiatus may be coming to an end. The Democrats have stuck $50 million into the CDC budget, whether the line item will survive the usual horse-trading between the House and the Senate remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fact that the funding of gun research is even being discussed by all the Democratic Presidential candidates is a development which many of us believed we would never live to see.

That being the case, I find myself in something of a dilemma because I am not sure that any of this research will necessarily yield positive results. Why do I say this? How can I afford to disagree so radically from a time-honored narrative supported by virtually everyone who wants gun violence to come to an end? After all, public policies should always be based on valid research, and who can provide such research about gun violence except my friends in public health?

 There’s only one little problem. Which is that the research activity on gun violence done by public health scholars to date lacks one, fundamental element that should be present in all evidence-based research, namely, a self-imposed requirement that the point of publishing research is to invite, indeed demand public critiques from other researchers in the same field.

Unfortunately, public health gun research is the only field of academic research which can’t seem to ever produce public debate of any kind. If I had a nickel for every gallon of ink spilled by public health researchers on the so-called mistakes made by John Lott, I could stop working for a living, go down to Delray Beach and buy a condo at King’s Point. On the other hand, if I had a nickel for every ounce of ink that public health researchers have spilled criticizing the work of themselves or their peers, maybe I should go down to Lake Okeechobee and rent an unfurnished trailer at Canal Point.

And by the way, I’m not so sure that Lott’s thesis about more legally-owned guns resulting in less crime is necessarily all that wrong. If you eliminate the words ‘legally-owned’ from his argument, what he says may be more correct than not. The problem with John’s work is that he assumes something about the spread of concealed-carry laws (CCW) which probably isn’t true; namely, that criminals intent on attacking someone else usually commit violent crimes against law-abiding folks.

In fact, most victims of violent crimes happen to be the same kinds of people who commit those crimes; younger, minority males living in inner-city neighborhoods being the most typical types of people treated in the ER for gun injuries, fatal or not. These young men don’t have CCW but probably more of them are now walking around with illegal guns. For all we know, Lott’s thesis that armed, self-defense may be an effective deterrent to violent crime might be correct, even if this deterrence factor is most frequently found within the criminal-prone population itself.

I began thinking about the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument from this perspective after reading research on gun violence published by criminologists, scholars for example like Marvin Wolfgang, whose studies on both teen-age delinquency and homicide have never been surpassed. Of course Wolfgang, considered by some to be the ‘most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world,’ is persona non-grata in the public health field since he had the audacity to suggest that maybe Gary Kleck’s research on armed, self-defense should not be simply dismissed.

I simply do not understand how anyone can claim to be conducting ‘evidence-based research’ when the evidence is never subject to public, critical review. Of course I hope the CDC restores funding for gun research, but I would also hope that the resumption of such funding be tied to some degree of critical, self-analysis by the public health research community itself.

I may be the smartest person I ever met, but there are plenty of folks who would disagree. Which is why anyone is free to post a comment on what I write.

There Really Is A Way To End Gun Violence.


              One of the favorite games played by members of Gun-Control Nation (myself included) over the last couple of years was to look at the monthly background check report issued by FBI-NICS and announce with glee that the number of checks for gun transfers each month was going down. We all figured that if the slide continued through four years of Trump (and God forbid eight years if he won again) that the problem of gun violence would take care of itself because as a consumer item, the guns would simply go away.

              Guess what? We forgot that gun sales have always been pushed or pulled by the fear that guns might disappear. And now that virtually every 2020 Democratic candidate has promised to do ‘something’ about gun violence, the fear has returned within the ranks of Gun-nut Nation and the virus is beginning to spread.

              When it comes to gun retailing, August is always the slowest month of the year. Guns can’t compete with the beach. By the time you pay for that beach house rental, buy some sand toys for the kids and eat at the Clam Shack every night, the five hundred bucks you stashed away because you just have to have that little walkaround Glock, is money that has been spent.

              It turns out that not only did the August NICS numbers show a 15% increase over the August numbers for 2018, they were the highest numbers for any August going all the way back through the years of the hated Obama regime. The increase was strongest in the ‘other’ category, which happens to be the category which usually designates ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., AR-15’s. In Florida, where our friends are trying to get a Constitutional ban on assault rifles on the 2020 ballot, the increase in ‘other’ background checks was 48.7 percent.

              The good news for gun nuts is that this spike in sales has not yet generated any upward movement in prices for either ammunition or guns. One of the big online resellers, Cheaper Than Dirt, is listing quality 22LR ammunition for five cents a round, which is a price in adjusted dollars out of 1975. Another outfit has fully-assembled AR’s for less than $500 bucks. When Obama was turning America into a Muslim state, you couldn’t find a black gun anywhere for under a thou.

              My friends in Gun-control Nation who are busily promoting an expansion of background checks or Red Flag laws or some other type of ‘reasonable’ restriction that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands, need to remember that every, single one of the more than one million NICS checks done in August represents a gun being transferred into the ‘right’ hands. How do any of those new additions to the civilian gun arsenal wind up being used by someone to blow someone else away, which happens to be most of the gun injuries which happen every day?  We have absolutely no idea.

              Back in 1993 and 1994, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research which definitively found that access to guns increased homicide and suicide risk. And by the way, these studies didn’t differentiate between guns that were, or were not safely stored. These studies got the gun industry to push their friends in Congress to delete gun research from the budget of the CDC, a budget item that my friends in public health are now clamoring to restore.

              If there had been a grass-roots movement for gun control in the 1990’s, the findings by Kellerman and Rivara might have been translated into a law to strictly regulate the ownership of assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols. This kind of law exists in every other advanced nation-state, which is why they don’t suffer from gun violence and we do.

With all due respect to my liberal friends who remain enthralled by the 2nd Amendment, we don’t need no stinkin’ research,  we don’t need no stinkin’ reasonable laws.  We just need to get rid of certain guns which were never designed for hunting or sport.

Gee, that was a tough one to figure out.

Do We Need CDC Funding To Understand Gun Violence?


              To paraphrase Jonathan Swift who was paraphrasing either a Greek or Persian proverb, so the mountain shook and out came a mouse. Which is the only way I can describe the Congressional hearing in DC yesterday covering gun-research funding for the CDC. The House Appropriations Committee (actually its subcommittee) heard testimony from four witnesses – Andrew Morral from RAND; Ronald Stewart from the Trauma Committee of the American College of Surgeons; Daniel Webster, who runs the gun research program at Johns Hopkins; and the hated John Lott who, on occasion, is allowed to show up at public-policy meetings to represent the ‘other side.’

               After some rather long-winded remarks by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) who chaired the hearing and some less-winded remarks by the Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) each of the panelists were given 5 minutes to make an initial statement. I listened very closely to these comments, but by end of the 15 minutes taken by Morral, Stewart and Webster, I found myself having difficulty staying awake. It wasn’t only that they didn’t really explain the connection between the lack of CDC funding and the persistence of gun violence over the past twenty years (although to Webster’s credit, I think he was about to offer such an explanation when his time expired and he was cut off) but they delivered their remarks in a manner which made them all sound somewhat bored and almost reluctant to have shown up.

              On the other hand, when John Lott delivered his opening remarks, whether or not you would agree with anything he said, at least he was animated and sounded excited about the issues that were going to be discussed. You would think that the panelists who were testifying in favor of resuming the CDC funding would have gone out of their way to make the Committee feel that this hearing marked a very important day. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t see Webster, Morral or Stewart stifling yawns.

              Near the end of the hearing, the mouse truly emerged from the mountain when the panelists were asked to list priorities for gun-violence research. Morral wanted more research to determine who was right and who was wrong about such hot-button issues as open carry, gun-free zones and stand your ground. That’s a biggie. Stewart knew that gun violence was caused by ‘hopelessness’ and wanted more research on how to change hopelessness into hope. A very clear agenda, I must say. Webster believed that more work needed to be done to identify ‘bad’ gun dealers although he failed to mention that most felons get their guns from sources other than retail stores.

              Lott then actually stated a fact. It was the only fact mentioned by any of the ‘experts’ on the panel. He said that 50% of all homicides occurred in 2% of American counties and were connected to the drug-selling gangs which operate in those high-violence zones. He suggested that more research was needed on ways to de-incentivize people who commit gun crimes while selling drugs – the one, specific strategy for reducing gun violence that was mentioned during the entire event.

              At one point, things actually got interesting when Andy Harris (R-MD) asked the three proponents of more research dollars whether or not they supported  a national registry of guns. Morral shlumped around in his chair and tried to beg off entirely, stating that he was just a ‘social scientist;’ Stewart said he was against it even though he heads a medical organization which has come out explicitly for just such an idea; Webster dithered a bit and then decided that he also should respond with a ‘no,’ although he has been gung-ho for comprehensive background checks which would eventually create a national list of everyone who owns a gun.

              Why do gun-control researchers and advocates like Morral, Stewart and Webster kid themselves into believing that anyone on the pro-gun side would ever think they have any interest in protecting gun ‘rights?’ If those guys are really interested in finding ‘non-partisan’ solutions to gun violence, it’s time to man up and admit that they don’t like guns. 

Gun Violence Isn’t Our Biggest Epidemic By A Long Shot.


              Every morning on my way to work I stop off at a mini-mart for coffee, maybe a doughnut, and sometimes I also fill up the car. I have no idea how many other Americans do the same thing every morning on their way to work, but it must number somewhere in the millions. Between gasoline,coffee and junk food, I probably put fifty bucks into the cash register of this mini-mart every week. Multiply fifty bucks by, let’s say 30 million commuters,that’s around $1.2 billion every week, okay? The real number is probably much higher than that.

              When I get on line to pay for my coffee, I notice that probably one out of every two customers in front of me buys at least one, five-dollar lottery ticket, one out of every three buys a pack of nine-dollar smokes, and usually two out of three buys some kind of junk food as well. And when I say ‘junk’ food, I’m talking about every ingestible product in the mini-mart with the exception of a few oranges which I have never seen anyone actually buy.

              For all the talk about healthy eating, fresh foods, low-carb diets and so forth and so on, Americans are captives of the processed food industry.  There is no other advanced country whose population consumes so much crap.  How do I know this?  Because the United States ranks at the top of the heap of all advanced countries when it comes to being fat.  The current obesity rate in the United States is nearly 40%, which is twice the rate for the OECD as a whole. The U.S. obesity rate is four times as high as Switzerland, ten(!) times as high as Japan. And since our poverty rate is somewhere around 12%, this means that most of our obese population consists of the same men and women who stand in front of me on the mini-mart line.

              Now if you follow the discussion about gun violence,you have certainly heard that our gun-violence rate is the highest in the OECD. Our friend David Hemenway has published comparisons between the U.S. gun-violence rate and other ‘advanced’ countries,finding that gun violence in the United States is 7 times higher than anywhere else. To put it in dollars and cents, we suffer from 35,000 gun deaths and rack up at least $8 billion in direct medical expenses every year.

              Let me break it to you gently, okay?  The numbers on the cost of U.S. gun violence are peanuts compared to what it costs us to walk around with so much fat. In 2008, the CDC estimated the medical costs incurred for treating conditions directly caused by obesity to be $147 billion, almost 20 times more than what we spend on injuries caused by guns.And while Gun-control Nation has recently sent out an alarm that deaths from guns in 2018 will exceed deaths which occur when we smack up our cars, deaths from obesity have been exceeding automobile deaths for years.

              Anyone who believes that gun violence is a worse ‘epidemic’than obesity either needs to have their head examined, or their waistline measured, or both. On the other hand, both obesity and gun violence share one,common thread; namely, both are caused by the ability of consumers to purchase legal products whose threats to health are barely controlled. There isn’t a single kid in the United States whose school doesn’t have a ‘healthy eating’course in the curriculum. Know how much difference this has made to obesity? No difference.  Now we have a group of dedicated, gun-violence researchers who have been given money to develop online courses on gun safety that can be used in public schools. Good luck, guys.

              Want to get rid of obesity?  Get rid of processed foods.  Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of – guess what?

Where Research On Gun Violence Needs To Start.

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Last month our friends at the RAND Corp. unveiled a new initiative on gun violence, the National Collaboration on Gun Violence Research (NCGVR) which will soon begin allocating $20 million in research funds to promote gun-violence research.  The purpose of this effort, according to the NCGVR, is to support “rigorous research designed to broaden agreement on the facts associated with gun policy, and support development of fair and effective policies.”  RAND’s plan is to eventually grow their funding to $50 million. This ain’t chopped liver, even in my book.

              This new project grows out of a 400-page study, The Science of Gun Policy, which RAND published last year and can be downloaded here. The study identified eight major gun-violence categories (referred to in the report as ‘outcomes’), linked these outcomes to thirteen public policies that were believed to reduce violence levels in each category, and then analyzed the degree to which research conducted since 2004 supported the mitigating effects of each policy or not. The outcomes were what you would expect: homicide, suicide, unintentional injury and so forth.  The policies were the usual grab-bag of what has long served as the ‘wish list’ of gun-control advocates – comprehensive background checks, red flag laws, more intensive licensing, etc.

The researchers evaluated the ‘science’ of gun-violence research by scoring the research based on the degree to which it showed that each policy actually made a difference in the level of gun violence which the particular policy was designed to affect. The ratings ranged from inconclusive to limited to moderate to supportive, and not a single category of research received a supportive rating, not one. Two outcomes, gun suicide and gun homicide, were found to be moderately impacted by background checks and CAP laws; a spread sheet detailing the value of gun research for determining the value of every other public policy for all the other outcomes was basically blank. To put it bluntly, the RAND report found scant evidence that research conducted since 2004 has been of any real value at all. Wow.

This report no doubt reflects a decision of RAND to try and fill the gap. And while the lack of government funding for such research efforts has definitely played a significant role in restricting the degree to which the science of gun policy has remained far behind where it might otherwise be, I would like to suggest that perhaps there is another reason why the team that produced the RAND report found little, if any research that could be used to support gun-control policies from an objective, evidence-based point of view.

Every year somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million Americans attempt or succeed in inflicting serious injury on someone else. It’s called ‘aggravated assault,’ but for all kinds of reasons, we don’t have any hard data on how often it occurs. For that reason, gun-violence researchers rarely focus on gun assaults unless the victim winds up dead. Most of these deaths started as arguments, escalated to assaults, then out comes the gun.  But in most cases, actually in at least 80% or more of these events, the shooter doesn’t know how to aim the gun and the person with the bullet inside them lives.

Let’s put this into context. The context is that less than 10% of the arguments that wind up as aggravated assaults involve the use of a gun. So how come 10% use a gun and 90% don’t?  It can’t be explained by saying that there aren’t enough guns to go around. The guns are all over the place!

As long as gun-violence researchers rely on medically-based data about victims to understand gun violence, we won’t get very far. And if we don’t understand what’s going on in the head of the shooter, as opposed to the body of the victim, how can we develop public policies to reduce gun violence that will really work?

I just hope my friends at RAND will take this issues into account when deciding how to distribute their generous and much-needed research funds.


So What If The CDC Gun-Violence Numbers Are Wrong?

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Our friends at The Trace dropped a real bombshell last week by exposing the fact that the gun-injury data published by the CDC may or may not be correct. And if the data which we use to understand gun violence isn’t any good, then how can we figure out what to do about the problem that kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year? Or maybe the real number is as high as 160,000, or maybe it’s around 90,000; according to the intrepid Trace reporting team, the CDC estimate could be off either way by as much as 30 percent.

cdc             To arrive at this shocking state of affairs, the reporters from The Trace enlisted the help of another organization whose expertise, when it comes to figuring out data, is above reproach.  I am talking about the help they received from a team that works for Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight website – remember how accurate they were in predicting the outcome of the Presidential election in 2016?

With all due respect to this earthshaking news about the possible lack of precision in CDC gun-violence numbers, I published not one, but two columns on exactly this problem back in June. I also was unable to get a list of the hospitals that provide the data for the injury estimates, but I did find a national map which indicates the location of each medical center whose injury numbers are gathered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and then forwarded to the CDC.  The Trace quotes the editor of a major medical journal as stating that if the hospital sample includes sites which treat lots of gun injuries, this will influence the overall estimate in significant ways. This is nothing more than someone saying something because he’s been asked to say something; if you look at the map of participating hospital sites, you discover that, au contraire, some of them are located in places where gun violence rarely occurs.

Of course no article on anything having to do with public health gun research can be published by The Trace unless they get some quotes from some usual suspects such as major public health researchers like David Hemenway and Philip Cook. The former says he doesn’t trust the numbers, the latter was actually trying to figure out how many gun injuries end up resulting in deaths (the ‘case-fatality’ rate) which is a somewhat different issue than just trying to validate the non-fatal injury rate itself.

This report is grist for the mill of groups and organizations who are trying to re-start gun-research funding from the CDC. And I would certainly never (read: never) state or insinuate that there should be any kind of prohibition on such funding in any way. But this article raises two concerns that The Trace team does not appear to acknowledge or understand, nor are these issues found on the radar screen of their friends at 538.

With the exception of live births and deaths, both of which must be reported as accurately as possible to the U.S. Census so that we know how many people are actually living in the United States, virtually all of the data produced by the CDC on illness and health issues are estimates, and while the CDC does a much more comprehensive tracking of heart attacks than gun-shot wounds, take a look at the data on heart disease and you’ll notice that the reported numbers always are preceded by the word ‘about.’

More important the fact is that while everyone keeps barking up the tree about how we need more funding, I see little attention paid to another branch, namely, research not on the victims of gun violence, but on the perpetrators of this dread disease. If 75,000+ individuals didn’t pick up a gun every year and use the weapon to try and kill someone else, we wouldn’t experience a gun-violence rate that is many times higher than the rest of the OECD. Any chance The Trace might try to figure that one out?


Further Comment On What We Don’t Know About Gun Violence Numbers.


If I didn’t have anything better to do, I would have spent an hour this past Thursday at the Hammer Health Sciences Center, part of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, listening to a panel of experts talk about public health solutions to gun violence. The lead panelist, Professor Sonali Rajan, has published several articles on gun violence, one of which, “Firearms in K­12 Schools: What is the Responsibility of the Education Community?” notes that schools tend to be very safe environments , but “even one instance of gunfire in a school should be considered one too many.”

cdc             Is Dr. Rajan serious?  I thought the science of what happens when a bullet collides with a human body had long been settled, at least since somewhere around the 15th Century when Bartolomeo Beretta manufactured a pile of gun barrels at his little factory in Gardone in 1526.  But evidently Professor Rajan and her colleagues still believe that all kinds of gaps exist in public health research gun research; in fact, she concludes by saying, “There is an urgent need for coordinated efforts by the education community to effectively address the implications of firearms inside and surrounding K‐12 schools.”

And why is there such an ‘urgent’ need for more gun research? Because those meanies at the NRA and their sycophantic followers in Congress have blocked research money for more than twenty years. In her article, Dr. Rajan joins a long and distinguished list of scholars who have been pointing out, with good reason, that the lack of funding stymies any real effort to figure out strategies that will lead to less violence caused by guns.

Far be it from me to try and cast the boys in Fairfax as being anything other than totally opposed to gun-violence research.  But while it’s convenient to cast the NRA as the villain in this piece, the story doesn’t end there. I can’t imagine that someone doing research on any virulent disease would accept not knowing where the data came from on which the study was based. But guess what? The data on gun violence published by the CDC comes from a ‘representative sample’ of 100 U.S. hospitals who send data on all ER visits for injuries to an agency called the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the outfit that DD Trump is trying to shut down.

Hey, wait a minute.  I thought that thanks to those NRA meanies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate the design of baby carriages, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers and other lethal products, but they can’t regulate guns. But they can send data on gun injuries to the CDC.  And while the folks at NEISS declined to send me the ‘nationally representative’ list of hospitals which supply the data on gun injuries, they do publish a map showing the location of these participating hospitals, so please download it here.

Take a look at Louisiana, the Number One state for gun injuries of both the fatal and non-fatal kind.  The NEISS hospital appears to be located at least 50 miles away from New Orleans, which happens to be the state’s chief killing ground. In Virginia, the participating hospital is probably near the small town of Danville, more than 100 miles from Richmond. There’s no hospital at all in New Mexico, which is only ranked 4th-highest among all states for gun suicides involving victims under the age of 29.

This is the source for the data which scholars use for the research which then informs the GVP community about which strategies they should follow and promote?  This is the data which the GVP claims is evidence-based, as opposed to the gun-rights gang who don’t care about evidence at all? I wrote about this issue last week but I’m writing about it again because I simply cannot accept the idea that gun-violence research is flying along so blind.

I only wish that some organization with more authority than me can find a way to set this straight. We owe it to the 125,000 people shot each year by guns, even if we really don’t know what that number means.

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