FAKE NEWS: How the Media Spread Misinformation And Bogus Statistics About Guns

NBC Fake News Gun New England Journal of Medicine

curtesy nbcnews.com

By Damion Bevacqua, Esq

There is an NBC News article getting quite a bit of attention today. The attention is probably due to the headline  – GUNS KILL TWICE AS MANY KIDS AS CANCER DOES, NEW STUDY SHOWS – for an article published on the NBC News website, under their “Health News” section. The subhead wasn’t much better – “’The United States is clearly not effectively protecting its children’, the journal’s editor writes.”

The NBC News article was based on a report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and although it contains a number of troubling statistics, my brother noticed one that was really surprising…

The U.S. simply has more guns around than other countries do, the researchers noted. “One in three U.S. homes with youth under 18 years of age has a firearm, with 43 percent of homes reporting that the firearm is kept unlocked and loaded, which increases the risk of firearm injuries,” they wrote. (emphasis added)

I’m hardly a firearms storage expert, but nearly half of all gun owners keep a loaded gun lying around the house? That seemed…inaccurate. However, what really caught my attention was that NBC was using a direct quote from the NEJM article.

You may already be familiar with the sensationalism of scholarly articles – journalists have long had a habit of taking some minor data point and turning it into the latest nightmare that is coming to kill your children. There may even be a trend towards scholarly journals showing a bias towards sensational, attention-grabbing articles and studies. John Oliver did a pretty good takedown of this phenomenon a few years ago.

The NBC article seemed as though it might fall into the second category. NBC used a direct quote from the article as well as quotes from the editor of the NEJM. So, I signed up for the New England Journal of Medicine and took a look at the actual article.

First, I found that NBC News did correctly quote the NEJM article. Here’s the full quote from the NEJM:

One in three U.S. homes with youth under 18 years of age has a firearm, with 43% of homes reporting that the firearm is kept unlocked and loaded, which increases the risk of firearm injuries.29

Again, that seems like a pretty crazy statistic, but what’s nice about the NEJM article is that it is fully cited. The NEJM authors weren’t doing any research on firearm storage practices, so their reference to firearm storage came from a study published in the American Journal of Public Health back in 2000. That study is freely available online, so I went ahead and took a look at that study as well.

This is from the abstract of the AJPH article:

Among homes with children and firearms, 43% had at least 1 unlocked firearm (i.e., not in a locked place and not locked with a trigger lock or other locking mechanism). Overall, 9% kept firearms unlocked and loaded, and 4% kept them unlocked, unloaded, and stored with ammunition; thus, a total of 13% of the homes with children and firearms—1.4 million homes with 2.6 million children—stored firearms in a manner most accessible to children.

The article did not say that 43 percent of gun owners with children have a loaded, unlocked gun lying around their house. The correct number (from this study) is nine percent…13%, at most, if you include unlocked guns stored with ammunition.

That’s a pretty big difference. The number NBC is trumpeting is more than three or four times the actual statistic.

This is how crazy statistics get spread around the country. Very few people are going to sign up for the New England Journal of Medicine to read the original article, and even fewer people are going to go to the trouble of checking the citations in that article.

Therefore, we may have just witnessed the birth of a new statistic that will be picked up by gun control advocates and anti-gun politicians – “According to the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly HALF of gun owners WITH CHILDREN keep an unlocked, LOADED FIREARM in their home!”

 

Damion Bevacqua, Esq. is an attorney practicing law in Pennsylvania and can be reached at [email protected]

comments

  1. avatar Chadwick says:

    Fake news media… 60% of the time they are 100% fake news.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Except that Abraham Lincoln said that 80% of the stuff on the internet was fake.
      And we all know he “could not tell a lie”.

      1. avatar MLee says:

        Well to be fair, all that was around when Lincoln was president was AOL!

    2. avatar Dude says:

      “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” -Mark Twain

    3. avatar Flying Fish says:

      I think you reversed your numbers. With a p-value >0.05.

  2. avatar Yarbles says:

    You mean the Medical Community is LYING to us? Not JUST killing us with their ineffective and dangerous vaccines and drugs that only treat symptoms of illness?

    And the MSM is expanding those lies?

    Say it ain’t so.

    Good article and good research done, BTW.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      How many anti-vaxers are on this site? Vaccines help us develop immunity to disease. They prevent the spread of disease. And they have effectively eradicated diseases that would cripple or kill millions just a century ago, like smallpox and polio. People like Jonas Salk are national heroes.

      1. avatar ExPharmaGuy says:

        How many diseases result from “eliminating” one by vaccination, through the use of highly toxic adjuvants like aluminum?

        1. avatar FightFireJay says:

          Zero. Don’t believe me? Name just one.

        2. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

          A term like “highly toxic” is virtually meaningless. The fundamental principle of toxicology is that the dosage makes the toxin. Really, there exists such a condition as water toxicity. Shall we ban water and all beverages, medicines, foods, and other ingested, absorbed, or inhaled substances that contain or may contain water? Of course, not. That would be asinine.

          Same thing with aluminum. Yes, it can be toxic. Also true is that only trace amounts are used in vaccines as an adjuvant, meaning a substance that enhances the body’s immune response to an antigen. The amount used in vaccines is low and if you follow the prescribed vaccine schedules it is not readily absorbed by the body. Good grief, it’s been used since the 1930s and folks are the better for it ever since. Where are the massive body counts from aluminum poisoning? Hmmm?

          If you’re that afraid of aluminum, then skip your vaccines (it’s used in major ones like DTaP, Tdap, and Hep A and B, among others), and take your chances. Just know that you’re not escaping those trace amounts of aluminum that you irrationally fear. You see, aluminum is one of the most common metals found in nature and is present in air, food, and water. Oh, but you wanted to ban water, or something? How about banning air, now, too?

          Your problem is a general negativity bias. Some people, make that many people, if not most, just want to feel important as though they’re on the inside and most others are idiots on the outside of knowledge. So they harp on every danger imaginable–most of them imaginary–in order to pose as the “lone voice of reason, railing against the impenetrable wall of ignorance that shields society from the truth.”

          Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it; but must you do it here?

        3. avatar UnPC Aussie says:

          I agree! Completely toxic! At work this morning I had a soft drink in an aluminium can and I died 3 times before lunch.

          However I did notice that I didn’t have polio and I haven’t seen a case of smallpox in my career…

        4. avatar Big Bill says:

          “How about banning air, now, too?”

          Oh, heavens no!
          We’re going to tax that.

        5. avatar Pg2 says:

          Injected aluminum has never been tested for safety. Never. Not once. The dupes and trolls will try to make meaningless statements of ingested aluminum, not ingested, and ignore the fact that aluminum is a known neurotoxin.

        6. avatar Pg2 says:

          Jonathan, so water and and oxygen are toxic, but untested vaccines containing known carcinogens and neurotoxins are safe…we get it. Your income depends on this repeating this bullshit.

      2. avatar Mark N. says:

        I agree. To add to your comment, studies have shown that the North American indigenous peoples dies mostly from diseases imported by sailors and settlers from Europe, diseases for which they had no natural immunities because those diseases did not exist here until the White Man came. These included small pox, rubella, and “the plague.” Millions upon millions of people died. Further, when the Taliban decided that polio vaccines were a form of brainwashing and started killing off volunteers vaccinating children, the rate of polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan tripled.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          Because “inshallah”, or it is God’s will!

      3. avatar Pg2 says:

        Jason, sometimes it really is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

    2. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Oh shit. Now you gone done it.

  3. avatar GeorgiaBob says:

    The US ranks 81 out of 198 nations in the world in homicide rate (per 100,000) and over 63% of those homicides are gang/drug related murders occurring in urban areas.

    According to several studies, US children are safer than children in the UK, any place in Africa, any nation in the Middle East, most of South America, or anywhere in Southeast Asia.

    When ALL weapons are included, the homicide rate in the UK is actually higher than the homicide rate in the US.

    Deaths of children in the USA, by falling off ladders, medical malpractice, automobile accident, domestic abuse, drowning and fire EACH exceed the number of deaths involving a firearm.

    The claim that “guns kill more kids than cancer” is a lie. The lies in the original story exceed the facts reported.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      It really depends on how you define “children”. Few people under 20 die of cancer, because cancer takes so long to develop (usually). Many teenagers die from firearms injuries, because of the turf wars between drug gangs. Like most articles about kids dying from gunshots, this article conflates children under 13 with teenagers and gang violence with accidental shootings (then throws in the bit about unlocked guns) to make it seem like millions of six year olds are shooting themselves with guns they find in the hall closet, or taking a gun to school to kill their classmates.

      Also, motor vehicle accident deaths topped gunshot wounds by a wide margin according to the study. BAN CARS!!!!!!

      1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

        I think that the age that they are using to define ” children” was somewhere around 26.

  4. avatar LarryinTX says:

    I had loaded and unlocked firearms laying around the house for around 5-10 years before my first son was born, and I still do today, when he is 47. So what? Meanwhile, he could play with them as much as he liked, just had to ask, and he knew from day one that if he found a gun, that gun was LOADED, leave it alone. He was firing my Detective Special .38 Spl when he was 4. So what? Factoid I would like to question is, WTF makes you think that results in more accidents, or whatever that crap was which had zero evidence except “everybody knows” type crap?

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I second the comment from LarryinTX.

      Pretty much everyone that I know who owns one or more firearms has at least one of them loaded and available (not locked up) in the home at all times. Personally, I would think it is quite likely that MORE than 43% of homes (that have firearms) have loaded firearms that are not locked up.

      As yet another anecdotal data point, my father kept a loaded .38 Special revolver available at all times on the high shelf in his closet — at least from the time that I was in fourth grade I believe. It was not a problem. Just like Larry’s situation, if my sibling or I wanted to handle it or go shooting, all we had to do was ask. The nice thing about shooting it: it was no longer a “forbidden fruit” and we KNEW that it was serious business — nothing to mess around with by ourselves.

      Of course we should ensure that children who are too young to be responsible with firearms cannot access a loaded firearm. Storing a loaded firearm up on a high shelf and out of view is an incredibly effective way to ensure that young children will never access them.

    2. avatar Ed Schrade says:

      Raise 2 children with ” guns laying around the house ” as they say. Our children were taught to leave them alone and they did. When they were old enough, we taught them how to use them. If one of our children was going to have other friends over to visit then we would secure them. No one died of gun shot wounds or cancer. Maybe it’s a rural Texas way of raising children ?

  5. avatar Kman says:

    What are their definitions?
    Child = 25?
    Locked place is what EXACTLY? Closet, safe, locker, filing cabinet?

    I do not trust most establishments. They typically share a common agenda and a zeal allowing them to embellish and outright lie to suit their goals.
    Authentic honesty is on life support.

    1. avatar California Richard says:

      I was thinking the same thing. These people use the term “teenager” (13-19) and “child” interchangably. That also happens to be the high end demographic age range for violent behavior and low end demographic age range for people dying of cancer. The headline might as well read “Scientist say cancer kills old people more often than violent gun crime”…. well… no crap! Its common sense. Also, America has one of the lowest child cancer rates in the world. https://www.acco.org/global-childhood-cancer-statistics/

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        thirtyteen is thing for these twits

  6. avatar SurfGW says:

    While the correction to the article is accurate, any parent who stores guns unlocked is irresponsible and providing access to a minor whether or not there is Ammo lying nearby. The NEJM raises a valid concern about locking up firearms in households with minors under 25z

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Any parent who leaves car keys around a 16 year old minor is irresponsible.

      Sounds even dumber when you substitute other dangerous tools, doesn’t it?

    2. avatar FtheD says:

      Any adult with a tub and a non swimmer in the house is an irresponsible person. What is stopping them from filling up the tub and drowning themselves??

      You sir contribute to the problem. Not the solution!!

  7. avatar Texican says:

    If the leftist media said the sky was blue I’d have to go take a look for myself! As it is, once I’ve determined a source is leftist I automatically assume they are lying or repeating some other leftist’s lies!

  8. avatar FedUp says:

    You mean a scholarly piece in NEJM contains outright lies that got right past peer review?

    In other words, business as usual for NEJM and Lancet.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I highly recommend that people make at least a monthly pass through the articles at the Retraction Watch blog:

      https://retractionwatch.com

      There is a crisis in peer-reviewed science journals. The number of retracted papers is going up, up, up and many of the retracted papers are in the field of medication studies. Another area of study where many papers are retracted is social psychology and social sciences in general – where you’ll see studies of gun control policies and the like.

      There is also a large issue of reproducibility in scientific papers.

  9. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Is anyone seriously surprised by the fake news agenda coming from National Broadcast Communists ..

  10. avatar BluesMike says:

    I wonder how many were unlocked and loaded (or not loaded) because they were on-body carry in the house?

  11. avatar Markd says:

    OK NEMJ let’s look at some other facts that are far more telling using the US Census information and FBI data.
    According to the information on court cases there are over 1 million medical malpractice injury per year in the United States that is per year! Of those cases 25% result in the death of the patient. The collected information further indicates that 5% of those deaths by malpractice are children under the age of 18. Which aside from no real information I started putting some very real numbers to that.
    There are 250,000 ANNUAL malpractice deaths per year! Vs 17,250 murders of all kind in the US
    There are 12,500 ANNUAL malpractice deaths per year of children under the age of 18 per year
    Vs 26 school shootings resulting in the death of children under the age of 18 this year. What the HECK does this mean?
    If we use the NEJM example of just looking at numbers you are 1400% more likely to die by medical malpractice than being murdered!
    Further if we keep using MATH and NUMBERS as our friend, children 69444% more likely to die by medical malpractice than in a school shooting!
    BOTTOM line children are safer in downtown Compton than the local doctor’s office, adults are 140x safer in front of a gun than the medical profession.
    NOW we know why the NEJM is putting out false information to cover the real information! DOCTORS ARE KILLING PEOPLE!

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Here’s the IOM (Institute of Medicine) 2000 report that really kicked over the bee’s nest on iatrogenic injury and death in the US medical system. NB that his is a large .pdf file – over 2 MB.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225182/pdf/Bookshelf_NBK225182.pdf

      The way I’ve had senior medical people describe deaths due to medication errors is “imagine a fairly large passenger airliner crashed into the ground every day. That’s medication errors alone in the US medical system.”

      1. avatar Mike B in WI says:

        DG, “iatrogenic,” now THAT is a great Word of the Day! It is only 11:15 here and I have learned something.

        Thank you

  12. avatar Pmac says:

    I kept at least a half dozen firearms loaded around my house as my children grew up. Even after the divorce. They continued to live with me. John and Katherine knew where each one was and still do. I took away the forbidden fruit of, ‘Never touch!’ by telling them, ‘Anytime you want to see one let me know. I’ll show it to you.’ No problems. Friends? First time over I pointed out the car in the driveway with the odd paint job and the funny flashing lights on top. Explained the rule and that if they were caught violating it their parents could meet me at my office to pick them up. Again, no problems. Massage Ayoob wrote a book about gun proofing your children. If you have any. Buy it and read it.

  13. avatar Pmac says:

    Massad. Sorry Mass. Stupid spell check.

  14. avatar Wayne says:

    Big Pharma kills more than all the others. Guns, cars, knives and golf clubs. Anything being done about that?

    1. avatar Pg2 says:

      Yep, they’re trying to double down on mandatory vaccines.

  15. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    As bad as the media is today (and they are bad), I have to tell you folks that you have much, much better ability to respond to the press’ mendacity and outright lies than we had in the late 80’s and early 90’s, when the push for the “ban on assault weapons” was building steam.

    Today, you have easy, low/no cost access to public information such as the UCR online. 30 years ago, you had to order the UCR in paper form. When I would get into a debate with some hack reporter making claims about homicides by gun, etc, I would reference the UCR, and the reporter(s) would often say “What is that? What are you citing? I don’t believe your numbers…” and I’d sometimes have to haul my copy of the UCR down to the newspaper office and show the SOB what I was talking about. Many reporters had NO idea that there was such a document.

    Same deal with some papers from academic journals studying crime, criminal motivations, etc.

    Today, you can just flip them a URL and tell them to click on it. You can set up a blog or tear apart their article online and then point people at it. It is much easier today to go up against someone who buys their ink by the barrel than 30 years ago – not because journalists are any smarter (they’re not – they’re actually more ignorant today than they’ve ever been), but because the ‘net effectively gives you the ability to take on someone else’s printing press.

  16. avatar 556SBR says:

    I think the NRA and Russia are behind this misinformation and bogus statistics.

  17. avatar GS650G says:

    They look at it as simple activism. If guns are banned or restricted further they did a good deed. And if disarmed people are crime victims well if it bleeds it leads too.

  18. avatar Shiffrod says:

    I’m no expert but I have it on good authority that unloaded and locked firearms are not effective defensive tools. Like many people here, I grew up with guns in the house that weren’t locked up. Never got a wild hair to go looking for them or play with them because my dad told me about them and why I shouldn’t. Like many of you, he also said I could see any of them as long as I asked.

    Had to deal with a lot of bullying being a bookish white kid at majority black schools and never once considered using one to solve any of my problems. Funny how that works.

  19. avatar Imayeti says:

    You should have waited till the AJPH quotes the NEJM, thus coming full circle. You just know it’s inevitable!

  20. avatar Geoff says:

    Unfortunately, they seem to be correct about childhood cancer vs. gun deaths.
    https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children/key-statistics.html
    1180 under 15 from cancer. Could be higher if 16 and 17 year olds included.
    https://record.umich.edu/articles/research-website-focuses-childhood-firearm-deaths-injuries
    Approx. 2800 a year from firearms.
    But approx. 4480 from auto accidents.
    And they don’t break out the firearm deaths by cause. i.e., homicide and accidental.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      You’re citing cancer death numbers for ages under 15 but gun death numbers for under 19. Cancer is rare in children and gang-related homicide deaths are high in the teenage years. Total accidental gun deaths each year in the U.S. (any age) are generally around 600 and there have been a few years in the last 15 at just over 300. Many of these are actually suicides that families choose to call accidents (“shot himself while cleaning his gun” etc).

      I have an idea! Let’s compare joint replacement surgery rates among children to gun deaths next. Wow, what do you know? Kids don’t get a lot of hip replacements either. Golly.

  21. avatar neiowa says:

    “One in three U.S. homes with youth under 18 years of age has a firearm, with 43 percent of homes reporting that the firearm is kept unlocked and loaded”

    So 2/3 of American Homes are untotally prepared to defend themselves against criminals or an out of control government. Most of the remainder might have to request a timeout in order to prepare themselves.

    Got it. SAD

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