There’s a report circulating around the internet about correlations between assault victims and gun ownership among those who make emergency room visits, and it seems that the authors of those articles are jumping to some startling conclusions without actually reading and understanding the source report (available here). So let’s take a peek at what’s being written compared to what the report actually says . . .
First things first, a word about the way the study was run. This study is the result of observation of a single emergency room in a high crime area of Michigan (Flint). Let me repeat that.
This study was based on observations of a single hospital in a high crime area.
That alone should set off alarm bells for anyone trying to apply this data anywhere outside of Flint. Also, while the sample size of 689 patients may seem large to the non-stats-minded individuals, keep in mind that our own survey here at TTAG has already had over 1,000 responses in less than 24 hours. And I’m still not happy with the sample size.
Also raising red flags: the study considers anyone 24 years old and under to be a “youth.” This is in line with previous propaganda pieces by the NY Times in which they included older “kids” in order to pad their stats. As we noted in that article, it’s not the actual “children” (under 18) that are being involved in firearms related homicides, but by associating the word “children” with the 19- to 24-year-olds, it creates the desired emotional response for their deaths that the study is looking to generate. It’s trying to make you think that 12 year olds are running around with AR-15s and being assaulted on a regular basis, which is not the case at all even according to this biased study.
So, what do the results say?
Among assault-injured youth, 23.1% (n = 159) reported firearm possession (Table 1) in the past 6 months. Among those with firearms, 41.5% (n = 66) reported carrying outside the home in the past 6 months. Of participants with firearms, 67.3% were seen for peer related violence and 14.5% for intimate partner–related violence; 3.4% reported threatening someone with a firearm during the altercation that prompted the visit. Of those with firearms, 4 (2.5%) reported an ED mental health visit within the past year.
So, for the given population (which, again, is very small), the conclusion is that 1 in 4 victims of assault own guns. What about their age, though?
Of those with firearms, 14.5% (n = 23) were younger than 18 and 32.1% (n = 51) have children.
Aha. So, it’s NOT the younger assault victims that are owning guns. In fact, of the 689 survey participants, only 23 were gun-toting minors (read: gang members). So the title being used for these articles, that 1 in 4 “youths” in the ER for assault have guns, would be inaccurate. If I weren’t trying to tone back the rhetoric a bit, I might even go so far as to call it yellow journalism.
The study then goes on to use these ~150 gun owning ER denizens to paint all gun owners in a poor light.
Participants with firearms noted more overall violent experiences in the previous 6 months (Table 1). They were also noted to have higher rates of group fighting (44.0% vs 25.3%, P , .001) and gang membership (9.4% vs 0.9%, P , .001), although only 2.9% (n = 20) of the overall sample (n = 689) endorsed gang membership. Participants with firearms were also more likely the victim or the aggressor in firearm-related violence in the past 6 months (Table 1).
Past 6-month binge drinking and illicit drug use were positively associated with firearm possession.
Notice how, even though these responses are the extreme minority (less than 10%), they are presented as if they are the prevailing opinion among the surveyed gun owners? By specifically calling them out in their negative connotation the study appears to be trying to get the reader to come away with the impression that the minority opinion is the true opinion, and by extension all gun owners are drunk and belligerent.
The study also fell into the same old bias, re-labeling semi-automatic weapons as machine guns. Or, at the very least, putting them in the same category.
Among the assault-injured youth in our sample (Table 2), respondents were noted to possess high levels of rapid fire weapons with 17.6% (n = 28) of youth noting ownership of automatic or semiautomatic weapons […]. Of these youth with automatic/semiautomatic weapons, 32.1% (n = 9) endorsed the view that “revenge was a good thing,” 14.3% (n = 4) reported that they carried a gun “to scare someone” or “to get back at someone,” and 1 of these participants had a mental health visit within the past year at the site ED.
So, by extension, all semi-auto firearm owners are lunatics out for revenge, looking to use their guns to scare people, and mentally ill. Even though the numbers indicate the exact opposite (that people with those opinions are in the clear minority) by presenting it in this light the study seems to be trying to condition the reader to believe the stated opinions and ignore the numbers.
For anyone who passed high school statistics and possesses half a brain, the immediate response to reading the study’s protocols would be to chunk it in the trash. It’s about as useful as a critical review to Max Reger. And yet, because it appears to paint gun owners in a negative light, the usual suspects will be jumping all over it. Nevermind that it actually shows that, even among those who steal guns in a high crime area, they still abhor revenge and violence, because of the way the report was worded it will be presented as further evidence of the malevolence of gun owners.
If only there was a way to reach through the internet and apply a dope smack to deserving journalists . . .