Our old friends at CNN are at it again (still). This time they’re breathlessly yet loudly pronouncing the results of a study posted in JAMA Pediatrics. The report title is innocuous enough; State Gun Law Environment and Youth Gun Carrying in the United States. CNN takes the idea and runs with it. They headline their take Stricter state gun laws keep firearms out of hands of youth complete with a two-minute video featuring “The Loneliest Club” [click on the link to watch]. That would be a group of 40 people who have lost loved ones to CGUs (Criminal Gun Uses). As far as I can tell the video has nothing to do with either the study or the story, but hey, you gotta tug those heartstrings somehow! Anyway, the article opens up thusly . . .
Teens who live in states with less restrictive gun laws may be more likely to carry guns, according to a study. They’re able to access them because more adults in those states own guns, researchers said.
Okay, I can buy that; responsible gun owners teach their kids about responsible gun use. Ipso facto when you have more responsible gun owners in a state, more kids are being taught gun safety, more kids are being introduced to various kinds of sport shooting, and therefore more kids have carried a gun in the past month (the criterion the study uses). This being CNN, however, more guns can’t be good. Guns are bad! Therefore more of them is more bad; right? Maybe not. According to the (eighth paragraph of the) article:
Although the study did not address whether fewer teenagers carrying guns could lead to less youth gun violence and death, it is a “reasonable conclusion,” Xuan said.
Wait, aren’t you supposed to have, I dunno, facts and evidence and maybe even correlation and causation before you reach conclusions? (You know it’s bad when even the intellectually-dishonest Everytown/Bloomberg bought-and-paid-for pseudo-scientists can’t bring themselves to make their claims without weasel-wordery.) So what facts and evidence does the “study” offer Unsurprisingly to those of us who are familiar with what the antis’ consider “scientific rigor” the answer is lots of facts and not much evidence.
I can hear someone in the back of the room saying “Umm what?!? Facts are evidence, aren’t they?” Au contraire! Facts and information supporting or opposing the validity of a proposition are evidence; unrelated facts spewed out across a page are obfuscation, not evidence. For example, the introductory paragraph of the study starts out:
From 1999 to 2013, an average of some 15 000 teenagers 12 to 19 years old died annually in the United States. The 3 leading causes of death among teenagers were unintentional injuries (45%), homicide (14%), and suicide (13%).
Okay, these are facts (but you should be really careful whenever someone starts talking about averages: remember the statistician who drowned crossing a river because it only averaged three feet deep). Here’s some more . . .
Among these fatal youth injuries, most homicides were gun-related (83%), and about half of suicides involved a gun (45%).
Factual yes, but completely irrelevant to the question the study raises. This is how facts can be used to obscure instead of illuminate. And the final line is a beautiful example of a tautology, or circular reasoning:
When adolescents resolve their interpersonal conflicts with guns, serious or fatal injuries are likely consequences.
If people shoot each other, people get hurt, q.e.d. Which again is completely irrelevant to whether “loose” gun laws lead to more teen carry; the authors have not shown that more teen carry leads to teens resolving their differences with guns. Drs. Xuan and Hemenway want us to conclude that fewer teenagers carrying guns could lead to less youth gun violence and death. But they don’t offer any evidence to support this “reasonable conclusion.”
Getting back to the study’s first line and averages …
I went to the CDC to double-check X&H’s numbers and discovered that from 1999 – 2013 the average annual death rate of “teens” 12 – 19 was actually only 10,806. (I’ll let that slide, because I want to show what happens when you “average” your results.) Those are the real numbers of teen deaths versus X&H’s “average.” Here is how permit-to-carry laws changed from 1999 to 2013 (images courtesy of RadicalGunNuttery.com)
So let’s say it all together, shall we? Correlation does not equal causation, especially when there isn’t even any bloody correlation! ‘Nuff said?
Returning to the video; most of the statements were pure schmaltz with cries to “do something.” One member of the Club was calling for ye olde universal background checks. So I did a little research on the individuals named in the video, and where their loved ones’ were shot:
– Erica Lafferty: Mother killed at Sandy Hook – the killer murdered his mother to obtain the weapons he used
– Lucy McBath: Son killed by idiot with a CCW at a Florida gas station for playing his music too loud – the killer passed (or would have) background check
– Richard Martinez: Son killed in Isla Vista (stabbing and shooting) murder spree – the killer passed multiple background checks
– Pamela Bosley: Son killed outside Chicago church – the killer was never caught, but IL had UBCs at the time
– Rev. Sharon Risher: Mother and cousins killed at Emanuel AME – the killer passed a background check
– Anne Haynes: Husband shot – the man recently indicted for that killing and two others purportedly had his girlfriend buy the guns
– Colin Goddard: Professional victim who parlayed being a VA Tech bullet receptacle into a paying gig at the Brady Bunch, later jumping ship to Everytown, and as we all know – VA Tech killer passed two background checks
– Andy Parker: Father of reporter murdered on live TV – according to this New York Times story the killer passed a background check
So not a single one of the killings we are supposed to get all weepy over would have been prevented, nor the killer even inconvenienced even if we had so-called Universal Background Checks. Go figure. Someone should.