The scientists at the Center for Disease Control have shown their prejudice against firearms ownership once again. This time, it’s with selection bias and word manipulation.
Scientists are supposed to evaluate factual information to arrive at testable theories about objective reality. For that reason, scientists are supposed to be aware of (and guard against) selection bias.
Like most humans, scientists are more likely to both include data that bolsters their pre-conceptions and exclude data that refutes their theories. It takes self-discipline and self-examination to avoid doing these things.
The CDC, however, has committed both of these selection bias errors in their National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). Through the selection of what to study and how to define violence, the CDC has manipulated the NVDRS data in support of one political side.
Consider the choice of words and the study issue first.
Violence is morally neutral, like gravity. Violent acts can be good, bad, or neutral. A thunderstorm is violent. It is morally neutral. Defense of self or the nation can be violent. It is morally good. Aggression against individuals or groups can be violent, and tends to be morally bad.
Some people consider suicide to be a bad, violent act, although the primary victim and perpetrator are the same. Others consider suicide to be gentle, non-violent, and good, when sanctioned by the state in the form of “assisted” suicide.
The CDC selects certain violent actions, which may be good, bad, or neutral, and lumps them all together in one category, violent deaths, with the implication that violence is always bad. Lumping some violent acts together lumps the good, the bad, the ugly, all together in a mishmash. Other violent acts are excluded based on value judgments. The numbers are used to promote the political values of one side.
Even worse, the CDC arbitrarily includes unintentional firearm deaths in the violent death count. They exclude unintentional deaths in vehicles, drowning, with poisons and other causes.
If a fatal gun accident is violent, so is a plane crash, a fatal car accident, a fatal poisoning accident, and a fatal drowning accident.
The CDC even acknowledges this bias. From cdc.gov:
NVDRS defines a death due to violence as “a death resulting from the intentional use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or against a group or community.” NVDRS collects information about homicides, suicides, deaths by legal intervention-excluding executions-and deaths of undetermined intent. In addition, information about unintentional firearm injury deaths (i.e., the individual did not intend to discharge the firearm) is collected, although these deaths are not considered violent deaths by the above definition.
In other words, the CDC treats firearms accidents, and only firearms accidents, differently from all other accidents. According to the CDC, unintentional firearms deaths are “violent,” whereas no other kind of unintentional death is considered “violent.”
Why are unintentional firearms deaths included? Because the CDC wanted them included. Why are unintentional motor vehicle deaths, drownings, and poisoning excluded? Because the CDC wanted to exclude them.
While not perfect, the rates of death in the 27 NVDRS states is close to the rates of death in the United States as a whole, as recorded in the CDC WISQARS data base. The “violent death rate” in the 27 NVDRS states is calculated at 19.67 per 100,000 population, age adjusted.
The rate of death, including all age adjusted firearm-related deaths, is 9.90 per 100,000 population. The rate in the entire United States in the CDC WISQARS database for the same year, 2015, age adjusted, is 11.03, about 11% higher.
The rate of unintended deaths per 100,000 by poisoning (14.92),transportation (11.95 ), falling (10.40), drowning (1.10), and fire/burns (.76) in the WISQARS data for the entire United States add up to 39.13 deaths per 100,00 population, age adjusted. 39.13 dwarfs the entire “violent death” list put together by the CDC NVDRS of 19.67.
The unintentional death rate by firearm for 2015 is .15 per 100,000 population, age adjusted, in the United States. That is about 0.4% of the total unintentional death rate.
That number is virtually lost in the noise of other unintentional deaths. So, to make it look bigger, the CDC groups those accidental deaths in with “violent” deaths, concluding that firearms-related deaths make up 50.3% of violent deaths.
I do not expect the CDC to reform their partisan definition of violent deaths. The CDC excludes most unintentional deaths as violent deaths while including unintentional firearms deaths. They have done this deliberately.
It is selection bias, and it shows the wisdom of forbidding the CDC from using tax dollars to produce firearm related political propaganda.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.