The recently published study State Gun Law Environment and Youth Gun Carrying in the United States purports to prove that “more restrictive overall gun control policies are associated with a reduced likelihood of youth gun carrying.” The usual media suspects have decided that the study also proves that less restrictive gun control laws lead to more youth gun carrying, leading to more firearms-related teen suicides. A bit of a stretch, no? Our man Krafft fisked a CNN story built on this premise. It looks like npr.org got the memo from Mayor Bloomberg’s pseudo-journos at thetrace.com. NPR’s When Deciding To Live Means Avoiding Guns is similar to but far worse than CNN’s “teens should be around guns” anti-gun agitprop. Check it out . . .
When you’re managing a mental health issue, home’s not always a safe place.
I recently talked with a 23-year-old in Oakland, Calif., who says he’s worried about an upcoming visit to his aunt’s home on the East Coast. He’s afraid of what he might do to himself there.
“I know that in my aunt’s house there are three guns in the basement,” says the young man, who asked that NPR not use his name.
He goes back to visit his family once a year, he explains, and usually stays with the aunt who owns the guns. Knowing where those weapons are stored is a particular problem for him, he tells me — he’s tried to commit suicide nine times over the past 13 years.
“Having tools for suicide completion … makes it way more tempting to attempt or complete suicide,” he says.
Wait. The anonymous interviewee’s tried to commit suicide nine times and his access to his aunt’s firearms is a key variable? Aren’t there a whole bunch of “tools for suicide completion” competing for his attention, I dunno, everywhere? Bridges and gravity, for example. Pills. Do we really believe that his aunt is the only person he knows who has a gun? Or that he couldn’t obtain one somewhere else?
NPR’s Desmond Meagley [above] turns to another report to justify his anti-ballistic bias and then pivots to the health care side of the equation . . .
A recent research review from the University of California, San Francisco suggests he’s not the only person who feels this way: The analysis indicates that people who have access to firearms are about three times more likely to kill themselves than people who don’t have access to guns.
But what happens when you can’t control the fact that there’s a gun nearby?
Some states, like Missouri and Florida, have laws forbidding doctors to ask patients about gun access and ownership. But that’s not the case in California, where managed care provider Kaiser Permanente asks all teen patients about guns during their checkups, as part of its screening for potential health risks.
We’ve fisked that report back in the day; it’s another one of those cherry-picked data deals, where correlation equals causation. Anyway, Meagley’s contention that Missouri and Florida law prohibits doctors from asking patients about guns is a flat-out lie. Or, to be more charitable, lazy journalism.
If Meagley had bothered to read the text of those laws (e.g., Florida’s Privacy of Firearm Owners act), he’d know they ban doctors from enquiring about firearms “unless information is relevant to patient’s medical care or safety or safety of others.” In other words, doctors can ask patients at risk of suicide about firearms. They can also ask about guns when treating patients facing psychological issues that could lead to criminal acts.
To give us a better idea of how those conversations go, Dr. Lauren Hartman, who helped found Kaiser’s East Bay teen clinic, ran through the typical interview — with Youth Radio’s Kasey Saeturn playing the role of the patient:
Hartman: “So I see on the questionnaire you’ve checked ‘yes’ to having exposure to guns. Do you, your parents, or any of your friends have access to a gun?”
Hartman: “Where is the gun kept in your home?”
Saeturn: “Typically, like, on top of the closet.”
Hartman: “The gun isn’t locked up?”
That’s a red flag for the doctor, and a signal she needs to intervene.
That’s also a red flag for anyone who cares about journalistic ethics. If you’re trying to get to the truth of a story, asking your subjects to “role play” their work is borderline at best. Having a fellow journalist step in to play a role is beyond the pale. But that’s what you do when your report is based on emotion rather than facts. It’s also what you do when you believe that the ends justifies the means.
Which is why I’m not 100 percent sure that the central interviewee in this piece is authentic, either. Maybe NPR would like to look into that? Meanwhile, while it’s certainly true that gun owners should safely secure their firearms when they share their home with someone suffering from depression, guns aren’t the main problem, are they? By the same token, storing them safely isn’t much of a solution.
As for NPR’s Meagley, the budding journo would do well to remember the old adage “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail.” And stop being such a tool.