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In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) made an error in the number of fatal firearms accidents they reported that occurred in 2014. It was so large that it was obvious.

The number of fatal firearm accidents had been falling significantly, but in 2014, they suddenly and inexplicably jumped by over 25%. Most of the increase was in one state, Tennessee. Dr. John Lott noticed the error in January of 2016, and brought it to the attention of the CDC.


In January 2016, Dr. John Lott contacted the CDC to alert them to a mistake in their numbers for 2014 on accidental gun deaths. The total was clearly a 100 larger than it actually was (the error arose because of mistakes in Tennessee’s data, and the mistake was so large it noticeably impacted the national number accidental deaths that year, raising the reported number from 486 to 586). Finally, in October 2016, the CDC acknowledged their error, but they never corrected the data on the website. This error is so large that it noticeably affects even five-year averages in accidental gun deaths. Unfortunately, since they never made the corrections, others are making mistakes when they use the data.

Now even reputable organizations such as the National Safety Council are using the erroneous data and drawing incorrect conclusions. Their new report “Injury Facts — 2017 Edition” shows that the number of fatal firearm accidents fell from 586 in 2014 to 489 in 2015 — a 17% drop. In fact, there was a slight 0.6% increase from 486 to 489. New headlines incorrectly claim that “Accidental shootings at all-time low of 489, gun sales highest ever,” when in fact 2014 was the lowest year on record and the numbers went up very slightly in 2015.

While the CDC acknowledged the error, they failed to correct it. Finally, in 2018 — two and a half years after being notified — they have corrected the mistake, but the error was even greater than originally thought. Instead of inflating the number of fatal firearm accidents by 100, the total was erroneously increased by 125.

It’s not clear how the error occurred or why it took the CDC more than two years to correct the total. Very likely, the reason was bureaucratic inertia.

In October of 2016, CDC put out a notice that the 2014 data was bad. Users of the data were forewarned that the numbers were unreliable. In a large bureaucracy, it takes time to check and recheck everything. No one wants to admit an error in an organization whose major stock in trade is its credibility.

That the correction crossed the boundary of a presidential election is intriguing. It’s not proof of institutional bias, but it may be an indicator. President Obama was resolutely against an armed population. President Trump has openly supported Second Amendment freedoms.

The CDC has been chastised by Congress for institutional bias against an armed population before. The CDC buried data — or at minimum, didn’t promote it — that supported claims of large numbers of defensive gun uses.

Selection bias is one of the most difficult things for researchers to fight. People tend to see information they agree with and ignore information they disagree with.

Researchers and bureaucrats are people, too. Inside the CDC, there seems to be a bias against data that supports the advantages of an armed population.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

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  1. “… the totally was erroneously increased by 125.”

    Should be “…the total was…”

    Good article; glad to know the CDC error was corrected.

    • the whole point of this “study” is political….thus rendering its conclusions invalid…

      • The whole point is actually figuring out why people died. Breaking out gun deaths might be political, but the point of these reports is to figure out why people in the US are dying so someone else can do something about it. In this case, mainly try to get people to exercise and stop eating twinkies all day, which will help the biggest causes of death. Accidental gun deaths are tragic, but a minor footnote in the scope of the report. Even all “gun deaths” (read suicides and homicides) aren’t in the top causes of death. That the Dems worry more about guns than the rest of the list just shows their neuroses.

  2. Maybe I’m out of the loop but I’m confused while also not being surprised of the inaccuracy. What um, why is the center for disease control in charge of tracking statistics for negligant firearm accidents? That’s not exactly part of their jurisdiction, or it shouldn’t be. Are these numbers reported to them, mandatory? Optional? It’s more appropriate for the department of justice and/or the atf, even state/local law enforcement has more information to offer than the cdc. Some more context (and past history) would definitely help.

    • I have always assumed it is because there really isn’t a better place for it. It isn’t a criminal issue, but *could* be a public health issue.

      I do agree though that criminal uses of firearms are not the CDCs business.

    • Probably two-fold. The Dems usually want guns treated like tobacco, the companies sued and constrained until the price spikes and supply diminishes (or disappears altogether), people are illegally selling single rounds of 9mm on the street in New York City for those who need a range fix, and you can’t have indoor ranges. Or something similar. Treating guns like a public health issue gives them more leverage.

      And the CDC tracks death statistics in general, check their site out. They break guns out, but do the same for a lot of things (falls, cars, specific diseases, all sorts of ways), so while it may be used for a specific purpose (gun controllers delight), some of it’s not out of place (though accidental gun deaths are the smallest number in their table of deaths from selected causes in the final death data for 2015, it’s only slightly behind deaths by legal intervention). Take a look at the National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 66 Number 6 Table 6. Someone’s got to track causes of death, and the vast majority are disease related, so I guess the CDC got the task.

      • Pretty sure they double count, as well, such as a smoker who is shot to death, causing him to crash his car is counted in three categories. Saying, the total numbers add up to more people than actually died. Another way to say that is, their data are meaningless.

        • I believe they address this, it’s the final cause of death on the death certificate (so whatever the mortician decides killed the guy, in your case probably gunshots, but who knows). It’s supposed to be pretty accurate…but heck, I’m not going to try to get their death certificate data to find out.

  3. Sounds like to me that the statistical “accident” was likely not an accident at all. Just like a while back the East Anglican University in the UK was caught red handed fudging “global warming” data to prove that it was happening when it later on was proven to not be.

    • Eh, these are round numbers added to a value that is really small on the scale of the report. I suspect this is more a case for Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

  4. “President Obama was resolutely against an armed population. President Trump has openly supported Second Amendment freedoms.”

    Obama did very little in terms of substance against gun owners (not that he wasn’t vocal against them), while Trump has “openly supported” as well as openly condemned second amendment freedoms. Continuing to fabricate some fairy-tale that Trump is helping out the People of the Gun is doing us no favors. Whatever happened to the gun advisory committee that Trump assembled at the time of his election?

    I understand that presidential powers are limited, so we can’t hold him directly accountable for a failure to enact nationwide concealed carry reciprocity (if we even want it) or the SHUSH act, but Trump could dedicate a couple tweets towards expanding gun rights, rather than wanting to restrict bump stocks, or homemade guns. Get people to harass their congressmen to get these things done… but no. Trump doesn’t care, or is hostile to gunowners in minor ways.

    • “Whatever happened to the gun advisory committee that Trump assembled at the time of his election?”
      ^YES. THIS !!!
      Time for TTAG to prove itself after the change in ownership and step up and look into this for the POTG.
      At least put in a call/request to have St. John of Boch give us all an update.
      (And I like John, my comment isn’t /sarc/. His work and dedication to/for the 2A is exemplary.)

    • “Obama did very little in terms of substance against gun owners”

      Yeah, the Machin-Toomey “Universal” Background Check Bill, the Assault Weapons Ban and the Magazine Size Limitation Bills that that Obama tried to cram through the Senate in 2013 were totally non-substantive.

      “All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said afterwards. But hey, you love him all you want. To me, he was human detritus.

    • Obama did very little in terms of substance against gun owners (not that he wasn’t vocal against them), while Trump has “openly supported” as well as openly condemned second amendment freedoms.

      Nonsense and complete bull.

      We just went from the most Anti Second Amendment president in history to the most PRO-second Amendment president in at least 150 years.

      Obama nominated three SCOTUS justices who are totally opposed to even Heller, meaning that had he gotten his third nomination through, Heller would have been trimmed to nothing, and any US jurisdiction could, with 51% of its legislature could ban even five shot revolvers, break action shotguns and and bolt action rifles.

      Not to mention that Obama’s other 360 federal court nominees, about 320 appointed, are some of the most profoundly anti-second amendment people there are. We know from former Obama officials that Bloomberg’s gun ban lobby got in the process and vetted every one of 360 federal bench nominees.

      Obama also continually, on a near a dozen occasions pressed his preference for the Australian system — which is mass confiscation of the most common firearms – forced confiscation for legal owners of for example revolvers. And a regime where the government reserved the right to confiscate any and all firearms.

      His administration appointed cabinet, sub cabinet and agency underlings’ decisions and rulings reducing second amendment rights with at least 44 seperate regulatory changes all would have been vetted by Obama’s white house.

      The .556 855 ammunition attempted regulatory change is instructive, since the real issue was not the availability of some surplus ammo, but the BATFE asserting precedent that any rifle ammo that could conceivably be fired from a pistol had to go under pistol ammo prohibitions even if there were only three pistols someone made for that caliber anywhere in the US.

      If Obama had had majorities and had his way we would have had profound loses of second amendment rights.

      Trump has appointed 55 second Amendment rights supporting federal judge and another 75 or so are in process between nomination and confirmation. The major grassroots national second amendment civil rights/liberties group, the NRA, has certainly had the ability to advise on that. And his administration relaxed over 60 gun control regulations and has not caved on a single serious issue.

      Trump publicly muses on a LOT of subjects. That is his style. In washington where NO professional swampdweller actually says what he is thinking, it looks like he is shooting his mouth off. but actually this is just human intellectual honesty. It is the sign of an open mind. So the fk what if he mused about gun access considerations with the mentally ill. It is clear when he thought it out and weighed the issue of adjudication he came down on the right side. His musing are not different than a lot of gun owners or second amendment supporters right after an event. None of us want guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill, but in the end this is an issue that requires adjudication as dangerous.

      Indeed one could say like a martial artist faced with a huge opponent coming right at the second Amendment after LV and Parkland, Trump essentially diverted HUGE efforts to attack gun rights, by saying, “yeah lets look at this”, and then in the end o not much at all. It is a strategy the NRA has effectively used of late, and which is driving the gun control nutz crazy by which frustrated HUGE efforts by the gun control lobby: appear to bend and then as soon as the public outcry, media frenzy and massive Astroturf fade — do nothing of substance against gun rights.

      I suggest you go look at Calguns forums. Scores of laws that all the forum members there said could not possibly be upheld by the courts have been upheld by Obama’s court appointees — who don’t even make legal arguments except as thin cover — they just say: “fk the second amendment, fk Heller.”

      • His judicial appointments are certainly an issue for the POTG, and certainly conflicts with my statement that nothing substantive was done, I will cede that point. It’s a significant oversight on my behalf, and is honestly the only reason I voted for Trump (not that there were any better options), who has so far done well on the Supreme court side anyways.

        My point is that executive action-wise and in terms of actual legislation passed, Obama’s “accomplishments” are pretty minimal in regards to gun control. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have done much more if it was possible, however it obviously wasn’t that much of a priority for him (if someone was able to get healthcare ‘reform’ passed with a Democrat majority in both houses, they should have been able to force through gun control as well if they actually cared).

        I’m registered non-partisan. I certainly can’t support practically any Democrat in my experience, however I can do no better than hold my nose and vote for Republicans either. In my state of Nevada the party has been overwhelmed with the influx of Californians, as such “the party left me”. I am, however, bothered by the general feeling of “republicans are good for guns, democrats are bad for guns” when the reality is that “Republicans are largely status-quo for guns, Democrats are bad for guns”. If more people held their “in the bag” Republican representatives feet to the fire more regularly, perhaps we’d actually get some restoration of rights. Scheduled destruction of FFL bound books to prevent back-door gun registration, Removal of suppressors and short barrels from the NFA registry, repeal of the unconstitutional Hughes Amendment, pie-in-the-sky dreams of NFA repeal in it’s entirety, and potentially Nationwide Carry (although anything short of permitless constitutional carry I would have major reservations about).

        My point isn’t so much that Obama wasn’t bad for guns, and that Trump isn’t good for guns, it’s more that as bad as people paint Obama’s terms for gun-owners, nothing major got done (short of judicial appointments). Sure Obama went crazy with federally owned lands which may have placed additional restrictions on where we shoot, directed the BATF to close the “NFA Trust loophole”, and other annoyances. Trump on the other hand came into office with a wave of “with control over both houses of congress and the presidency, this will be the most pro-gun period in recent history”, while in reality nothing is being done nationally, and for the most part little positive is coming out of Trump’s mouth or tweets regarding 2A rights.

        I’m genuinely curious about the status of the gun rights coalition that Trump put together in the early days, since it’s not obvious they even exist at this point. I’m tired of the “bigger fish to fry” excuses… Republicans have control over both houses and the presidency, it’s time to put up or shut up. Single-issue voters need to ensure POSITIVE MOMENTUM is maintained on their single issue, otherwise you’re just being used and given empty promises for your vote. Make them earn it…

    • Dubya was responsible for us getting CC in Texas, so we assumed he would be wonderful as Prez. Dindunuffin. Texas was a clear way to get elected Gov, and he kept his word, but didn’t GAS otherwise. Trump has already been VASTLY better than Bush. And all he needs to do from here is one more SCOTUS justice with a majority in the Senate (so Dems can be ignored), and the rest will take care of itself.

    • Fast and Furious was HIS schtick. nd based on that debacle, the false stats generated when one of HIS guns was recovered in Mexico, abetted by sleight of hand in the numbers reporting game, ended up with mandatory reporting of anhyone who purchased five or more of certain classes of rifles within any of the border states.
      He also, the wretch, had one of his handpicked goons ink the UN Treaty on Small Arms, and ballyhooed much about his “success’ in “getting this done”. He also failed to mention that the Senate and States never ratified it, thus rendering it ineffective, but he carried on as if it were. His goons also went nutz over the 3-D printed guns and the free distribution of data useful in prodicing them. That was HIS administration’s game. It was onlyh recently concluded. He spoke strongly against the concept of natiional right to carry legislation, when in reality we DO HAVE that right already, but have ceded it back to the states because HIS JUDGES refuse to uphold their sworn oaths of office.

      Nah,the kinyun did much tolimit our right to arms. Don’t be fooled.
      HISBATF also went to war on quite a number of FFL’s, falsely charging them with “crimes” when it was HIS agents did the lying… the Reed or Reece family of New Mexico were destroyed by the kinyun’s BATF.

  5. A difference of 125 in accidental gun related deaths won’t change anyone’s mind. But we need to have a solid link to the CDC studies showing 2.5m+ DGUs. Not just a link to a story talking about another article about a hidden study. Need the source!

  6. They’re slipping. They managed to suppress their own inconvenient DGU data for what, 15 years? This they put right out on the interwebz, and stalled the correction for only 2 years.

    • Even that 2.5 million DGU is likely low. In 2013 a relative of mine puller her firearm in a parking garage on an assailant. Held him for police. He had two prior assaults he had committed but for which there was no established suspect. He is now serving 28 years. But her DGU did not just prevent the crime against her, but certainly also subsequent attacks on other women in future. We know that the huge majoriyt of crime is repeat crime. Interviews with inmates indicate between 5-30 crimes committed (depending on type of crime) without apprehension, before the crime that results in an arrest and conviction. None of the estimates includes the future crimes prevented by the DGU and over a decade you can bet a significant, probably well over a million DGU do result in arrests, resulting in millions of repeat crimes being prevented that are not counted

  7. Made an “ERROR”? LOL LOL LOL
    Progressive government activism PROPAGANDA. Ooops, got caught. Wonder who got the promotion, bonus, or a pat on the back for sneaking in BS lies?
    May have go back and retake the Hillery American people subversion class.

  8. All fools who wish for a ‘One World Gum’mnt’ are aware that while citizens can defend them selves from communist crumbs, their wish will not be realized. So the ‘C(ommunist)D(dumba**) C(cooks) department lies to aid them. As Schrooge so aptly put it, Bah Humbug.

  9. Does anyone really care about black lives? Go after the gangs, go after people who illegally have weapons, get more police into high crime areas, get more jobs into the area, fire the libs who are running Chicago, and quit blaming poverty, Trump, guns, the hot weather, and all the other B.S.

  10. These are the people who belong in prison: violent people (especially those who commit violent crimes with weapons and cops killers), people who sell HARD drugs and NOT MJ, career criminals, serious crimes against the government, and people who commit crimes every time they get out of prison. Go easy on first-time offenders unless their crimes are serious. Small-times thieves should be be forced to get a job, pay back penalties and court costs, and have and pay for a bracelet so they can be monitored and have a curfew (this should also apply to those who write back checks). I have worked in prisons and many people do NOT belong there. Prison is too easy on people . . . it should be miserable! They have hours of free time, too much freedom of movement, and there is too much gang activity. Plus, why to we buy them weights so they can get huge and be more dangerous. By the way, let’s fry these people who have been on death row for more than 5 years. Why do some people sit on death row for over 20 years. Pedophiles should be put to death too along with people who are serving “Natural Life” or life without the possibility of parole. I am all for mandatory sentencing for certain serious crime, especially for those who have a history of criminality.

  11. Just going by the given graphic. Not only does it show accidental firearm deaths decreasing by 125, but it shows population decreased by 293,600.

  12. This is a lie,
    “President Obama was resolutely against an armed population. President Trump has openly supported Second Amendment freedoms.”
    And no, I don’t care about Obama’s “Non-Binding Resolution”, which is what an “Executive “Action”” is.
    Trump has already restricted more 2A rights than Obama did during his entire two terms.
    Obama signed legislation to remove two inane restrictions; transporting firearms as checked baggage on trains, and allowing legally owned firearms into National Parks. Which were restricted under Bush 2 and Reagan, respectively.

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