The logical contortions that antis have to undergo to hold on to their dogma never cease to amaze me. Let’s look at the latest “study” the antis are trumpeting. It looks at changes in the firearm-related suicide rate in Connecticut after they passed a permit to purchase law and in Missouri after they repealed their PTP law . . .

Emerging from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health ,the lead author of the study is Cassandra (and isn’t that one helluva given name for an anti-gun fabulist researcher!) Crifasi PhD, MPH, “an injury epidemiologist focused on policies, procedures, and practices that improve safety and prevent injury.” The headline breathlessly proclaims Suicide-By-Firearm Rates Shift in Two States After Changes in State Gun Laws and it starts off with:

A new study examining changes in gun policy in two states finds that handgun purchaser licensing requirements influence suicide rates.

Okay, so what method did the authors use to reach their conclusion?

We used synthetic control modeling as the primary method to estimate policy effects.

Whatinthehellis “synthetic control modeling” you ask? Excellent question; I had to do some digging on this one myself. Basically what Cassie and her peeps did was to use a dozen or so “factors previously associated with suicide rates” to look for states which were demographically similar to their test states (CT and MO). According to an economist friend of mine (PhD from the U of MN’s Carlson School of Management) this technique is extremely useful when you already know what you want your study to prove, because cherry picking which states to use as controls is somewhat subjective. You just do data runs with different control groups until you get the results you want and then declare that your “synthetic control” is substantially similar to your experimental group.

Not, of course, that I am in any way shape or form intimating that Cassie and/or her crew engaged in any sort of academic fraud or chicanery. Perish the thought.

Anyway, on to their findings:

Researchers estimate that Connecticut’s 1995 law requiring individuals to obtain a permit or license to purchase a handgun after passing a background check was associated with a 15.4 percent reduction in firearm suicide rates

But . . . when we skip down a few paragraphs we find that Cassie “cautions the findings do not indicate a clear causal relationship.” In fact, if we look at the graphs (see below):

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.19.42 AM

Solid line is Real Connecticut

we discover that passing a permit to purchase law made non-firearm suicides increase in both real and synthetic Connecticut. Hmmm, substitution effect anyone? Perhaps if we could look at data from a larger sample, one that has a significantly larger population than Connecticut or Missouri (or even Connecticut and Missouri) and one doesn’t involve systematic lies I mean “synthetic controls”, someplace where say in 1977 they passed truly draconian gun control, someplace like Canada perhaps? As Dave Kopel points out in his The Failure of Canadian Gun Control:

Suicides involving firearms fell noticeably after 1978, reversing the previous trend. The overall suicide rate, however, did not drop …

And there’s the rub; antis around the world jumped up and down yelling and screaming about how successful these laws were because of the drop in firearm related suicides while utterly ignoring the overall suicide rate. In fact, Cassie even admits it more fully when she states:

“When we examined whether there were changes in suicides committed by other means following the changes in the laws, there was some evidence that Connecticut experienced lower than expected rates of suicides by means other than firearms,” she says. “This suggests that factors other than handgun purchaser licensing may have contributed to the decline in suicides.”

In that case you might want to change the title of your “study” then, Cassie.

So having completely destroyed their own credibility in Connecticut what does Cassie’s posse have to say about Missouri?

… while Missouri’s repeal of its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007 was associated with a 16.1 percent increase in firearm suicide rates …

There was no significant change in suicide by other means following Missouri’s repeal of the law.

Now I freely admit that I am not a PhD, or MHP or even BS; I am more of an OFWG. I do not work for any of the myriad bought-and- Everytown paid-for Bloomberg sock puppets *AHEM* coalitions, campaigns, or centers who strive to ban guns across the board improve the Safety of Our Children; heck, I don’t even work for the Second Amendment Foundation any more (but that’s another blog entry). I am just a guy with a computer and access to the interwebz who has managed to track down some information sources over the years.

One of my favorite sources is the CDC’s WISQARS™ (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System site or, as they explain on their front page, “Your Source for US Injury Data”). Despite the CDC’s institutional anti-gun bias, they are scrupulous about the accuracy of this data providing an excellent resource for researchers of all stripes.

This brings us back to Missouri; in 1998 the CDC significantly changed the way deaths were coded, so I pulled MO’s data from 1999 to 2013 (the most recent year for which the data are available). Then, without processing, synthesizing, accurizing or even folding, spindling and/or mutilating said data I put together this table:

Untitled

 

Please note that in 2007 the rate of Gun Related Suicides (hereinafter to be referred to as GRSs) dropped for a year before starting to rise. Also please note that non-GRSs continued the generally upward trend that existed before the law was passed. Finally, look at the upward trending overall suicide rate for the whole country and note that MO’s overall rate shows a similar trend.

But now I have some data that will surely turn that frown upside-down! It turns out that when Missouri repealed their permit-to-purchase law we had a significant drop in the number of . . .

Untitled3

 

That’s right, from 2007 – 2013 the rate of accidental drownings dropped thirty-four point zero-two percent!

For the umpteenth time, correlation is not causation.

48 Responses to One More Time – Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

  1. Another reason colleges and universities are going to render themselves mostly useless in the near future. Useless degrees, overpaid and underworked faculty wasting time on political agendas………..oh, I mean “research”. A peasantry rebellion will come and those of us with productive degrees and work ethics will not defend the sheltered and spoiled like Cassandra as she falls from ivory tower.

    • Probably because we’ll be too busy defending ourselves as the ignorant masses target anyone who’s been even the least bit successful in their life. “If I can’t have it nobody can” and all that.

    • The university types have learned from Pol Pot and other despots that once the revolution comes the educated are the first layer of the mass graves.
      By focusing all “research” in a direction that supports the revolutionary ideology they are hoping to instead make up the final layer of the mass graves only after enjoying the spoils and abuses of their short time in power.

    • As a researcher in an academic institute I feel compelled to strike back against aimless anti-intellectual speech. Look at the quotes from the article. It looks like they did a very good job of not overstating what they found. I disagree with author of this post about the legitimacy of the title as well. The title says there was a drop after the law, not that a law caused a reduction. The article then goes on to examine different factors and never concluded (and cautioned against concluding) what this post appears to accuse it of–that the laws reduced suicide. Screw the press release. Also, synthetic control modeling can be a totally legitimate way of visualizing the effect of a change and look to be a standard way to examine effects of public policy changes. It is a useful tool and is not at all inherently misleading (nor is there any evidence that it was purposefully misused here). I don’t personally use it because I have the luxury of designing experiments with proper controls.

    • WA (and I suspect your state of OR; it is a bit harder to find Oregon’s stats) has a significantly higher than the national average drowning rate. We need to relax our gun laws immediately! If it saves just one child (or adult) from drowning it will all be worth it!

  2. So money was spent to reach the conclusion that making firearms harder to buy lowers the rate at which people use firearms to kill themselves.

    Uhm.. any 6 year old can figure that out.

    • But they can’t get the *money* for that deduction that she did! And Barry has apparently contracted for dozens more propaganda “studies” which “prove” what he says they should, let’s not be surprised.

  3. so next time Missouri requires a permit to purchase…….
    Pool safety gear should go on sale…….
    For the children………
    wouldn’t wish a kid to drown.

    would increasing firearm availability in Japan make rope salesmen go broke?
    Hmmmm interesting question……..

  4. I pulled the same CDC data when I saw this as well. There’s more to the story. If you do go back and get data back to 1990, you would find:
    Missouri (MO) also saw a drop in firearm related suicides around 1995. Or that both gun and non-gun suicides had already started increasing since 2003.

    While Connecticut’s (CT) gun suicide did go down (and stay down), the overall suicide by other methods went up. How much? by 2012, it was back in the same range as pre-1995 levels.

    It’s similar to when the released their “study” saying Missouri saw an increase of ~25% in gun-homicides after 2007, but fail to point out in the same report that the nearby state of Nebraska (with background checks for all handguns) saw a 30% increase at the same time.
    The price of rubber ducks did go down in CT, so maybe the authors were on to something after all.

  5. My correlation meter says that your 1999 to 2013 graph shows a great correlation between increased suicides and an increasingly desperate economy for all except the protected class and financial criminals. And that one may actually be causation.

  6. I’ve never agreed discussing firearms and suicide and the anti-firearm crowd is way out of line when they do. Suicide is as far from a gun issue as can be. I’ve had several friends and a relation resort to suicide. A firearm is often used to assure them there will be no mistakes. I had an Uncle who failed to kill himself with a firearm, and later did the car exhaust method. Suicide is a psychological issue, health. Some escape a terminal slow death illness, I’ve seen this too. The bottom line is, a suicidal person WILL commit one way or the other, sooner or later.

  7. I had two friends who committed suicide, one by jumping off a building and another by hanging himself. I’m sure that stricter handgun purchasing requirements would have saved them both.

    • The Nick Cage School of acting is responsible for more deaths then most acting schools. While I have no real statistics to prove my theory.
      Just watching any movie of his makes me want to die.

  8. Guns have nothing to do with it, it’s global warming, no debate, the science is settled, there are hockey sticks and everything, don’t be a denier.

    • Yep, whenever you hear, ‘science is settled’, understand you are being exposed to blatant propaganda. Science is never settled, it evolves.

      • Reminds me of the Left’s recent attempt at peddling ‘settled law’/Stare Decisis despite numerous examples (Dred Scott, etc.) proving that contention blatantly false. More proof that strenuous, fact based, refutation is the way to go.

  9. I want the 30 min I’ve wasted of my life back…

    So people with an agenda looking for facts to support their beliefs find nothing, and yet manage to twist them to best support their witchhunt, write and publish a paper and get tens/hundreds of thousands of people to waste their time and effort into reading garbage and debunking it? Please do the World a favor and next time write, “We didn’t find *****”.

  10. Even if their study was correct, and guns = suicides, I don’t care. Not even in the slightest.

    Deciding when and how you want to check out is your business as long you do it quietly, and just check yourself out.

    If I had to choose my checkout procedure it would be some pills and a nice nap, but that’s just me.

    Or in different life circumstances: a handful of Viagra, mound of cocaine, multiple bottles of whiskey, and several hookers. Just run the engine at redline until it throws a rod or spins a bearing. Check please.

  11. On what planet is Missouri a statistically comparable state to Conneticut? If she wanted a legitimate comparison to be halfway believable why not compare Missouri and Illinois? Oh Illinois is a statist SH!THOLE that doesn’t fit into your cooked 8th grade statistical analysis? That’s what I thought.

  12. I had a friend who quit grad school after she was disenchanted with her “research”. Her work didn’t support the popular opinion of what was “better” and her advisor didn’t straight up tell her to lie, but insinuated she need to “find data” or change her work altogether to something that would get her grants. She was pursuing a degree in agriculture and if I remember correctly it was in regards to “organic farming” and despite everything she couldn’t get healthier or better yields with “organic” farming.

    Outside of professional degrees college is extremely political and is a complete money making scheme.

  13. Notice that in 2008 both the Nationwide and State Suicide Rates took a decided turn upwards, so it is obvious the Election of Barak Obama affected the suicide rate…this Study is severely flawed.

  14. I was going to click through to the original journal and let their editorial board know what a steaming pile of junk science they have published, but then I looked at the list of recent Preventative Medicine journal papers. Every one is a gun-grabbing pile of propaganda.

    Example: Strong gun laws are not enough: The need for improved enforcement of secondhand gun transfer laws in Massachusetts

    https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/browse/toc/1-s2.0-S0091743515X00107/null/journalIssue

    The whole point of this “research journal” is to create scientific-looking propaganda under the guise of peer-reviewed science so that the lapdogs of the MSM will gleefully print the “results” as if they are based in scientific reality. Sadly, this Orwellian perversion of real science is par for the course these days. Time after time we see “scientists” picking the conclusion that they wish to prove and then devising studies which verify their prejudices.

    • @Sean: A light bulb just went on over my head. The real solution is to ban these idiotic studies. The people doing these studies are wasting their lives. Therefore, their lives would be “saved” if this nonsense stopped. Or maybe they should do a study on this ? 😉

    • Be highly skeptical of any journal, scientific or otherwise. These journals have the same financial pressure as any other business entity, and it would be really naive to assume they don’t have strategies for improving cash-flow.

  15. Yep, better drive home that “correlation does not imply causation”, because otherwise, you have a soon to be $100 Billion/year vaccine industry that will have to come up with new spin to explain away the the most chronically ill(mentally and physically) generation of children this country has ever had..

  16. This is amusing. Does the tool change the action? If I were going to check out, I would either use a downer, or I would jump of something really, really, high.

    The reason knives are not usually used in suicides? Hari Kari is really not that popular.

  17. If the anti-gunners put as much effort into manning suicide prevention hot lines, or teaching people to swim, there should be satisfaction in helping those that what it. Thank you for your support and vote. Pass the word. mrpresident2016.com

  18. Did she bother to correct for the effect that people are 14.8% more likely to commit suicide from just the shame of being residents of Synthetic Connecticut?

  19. Given the ‘it’s NOT the user of the implement but the implement that’s responsible for_________’ mentality of the anti-2A cult/its allies, ponder how such ‘intellects’ would address rape……then (relentlessly) ask them using their own pseudo-reasoning (w/ a quick Lorena Bobbitt reference thrown in) & watch the reaction. I’ve done this before & the spastic gymnastics the cult/its allies undergo are genuinely hilarious (& VERY informative) to behold.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *