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fivethirtyeight CDC gun injury estimate bogus statistics

FiveThirtyEight, the politics, opinion and sports analytics site, has looked at the numbers that Centers for Disease Control publishes regarding non-fatal gun injuries in the US. And what do you know…they’ve found that the CDC’s numbers are off. Way off.

To wit:

For journalists, researchers and the general public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention serves as an authoritative source of information about Americans’ health, including estimates of how many people are killed or injured by guns. The agency’s most recent figures include a worrying uptick: Between 2015 and 2016, the number of Americans nonfatally injured by a firearm jumped by 37 percent, rising from about 85,000 to more than 116,000. It was the largest single-year increase recorded in more than 15 years.

But the gun injury estimate is one of several categories of CDC data flagged with an asterisk indicating that, according to the agency’s own standards, it should be treated as “unstable and potentially unreliable.” In fact, the agency’s 2016 estimate of gun injuries is more uncertain than nearly every other type of injury it tracks. Even its estimates of BB gun injuries are more reliable than its calculations for the number of Americans wounded by actual guns.

An analysis performed by FiveThirtyEight and The Trace, a nonprofit news organization covering gun violence in America,1 found that the CDC’s report of a steady increase in nonfatal gun injuries is out of step with a downward trend we found using data from multiple independent public health and criminal justice databases. That casts doubt on the CDC’s figures and the narrative suggested by the way those numbers have changed over time.

Wait…The Trace participated in the study, too? Mayor Mike’s not going to be happy about his millions being used to affirm that gun injuries in the US have actually declined as both general gun ownership and the number of civilian firearms has drastically increased over the last decade.

That’s right. According to FiveThirtyEight, non-fatal firearms injuries aren’t increasing as the CDC would have you believe. In fact, they’re declining.

In response to a detailed list of questions and an analysis memo showing that there may be issues with its gun injury data, a CDC spokesperson said in an email that the scientists involved in gathering and analyzing the data “are confident that the sampling and estimation methods are appropriate.”

Good. At least they’re not trying to hang the discrepancy on the laughable “the gun lobby won’t let us study the data” horse hockey argument.

Among seven types of injury, the data sets reflected similar trends. Three types of injury — gunshots, drowning and cuts — showed statistically significant differences between the CDC and at least one of the other data sets, with the CDC diverging most dramatically from the other two when it came to gun injuries.

Huh. Wonder why that is. Maybe it has something to do with why Congress had the foresight to prohibit the CDC from using taxpayer dollars and their data to advocate for gun control laws in the first place.

fivethirtyeight gun injury data CDC discrepancy

After seeing the comparisons between the CDC’s data and other data sets, Linda DeGutis, a former director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, questioned whether the agency’s model for estimating the number of gunshot injuries nationwide is reliable.

“I don’t know when the last time was when someone took a look at the methodology,” she said. “A federal agency should be able to compare the data sets that are available to say, ‘Wait a minute, why are we seeing these discrepancies?’”

Yes. Yes they should. But it’s close enough for government work. Especially if that work confirms the biases of researchers who tend to view civilian gun ownership as a public health crisis.

So while FiveThirtyEight implies that part of the reason for the CDC’s bogus numbers could be traced back to the Dickey Amendment, there’s actually nothing stopping the CDC from changing its protocols and doing all of the research into “gun violence” it wants. The law simply states that the CDC can’t use its federally appropriated funds and research to “advocate or promote gun control.”

Given the CDC’s oft-cited statistics – numbers that FiveThirtyEight has helpfully exposed as plainly wrong — let’s raise a Friday afternoon adult beverage to the Dickey Amendment and hope that it remains firmly in place for a very long time to come.

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    • Draven, excellent eyesite …. I mean eyesight … lol … Man, I make a lot of mistakes like that. Sometimes just going too fast, don’t look things over, or not carefully enough. Good to be kept on our toes on these things! Spelling and grammar do matter!

  1. I like that the CDC posts statistics with an asterisk. How many people even check what it is there for? No, they jump on the big number, the increase, just as CDC intends to happen. Sort of like publishing a completely fake story, getting caught, and publishing a retraction — days later, when the main lie has already set into people’s heads, and the retraction won’t be seen. Retractions are often quite small, never to be seen. And the false information does its damage. In this case, the CDC is part and parcel of the agenda to disarm Americans.

    Excellent article. Thanks for sharing all this. Critically important details and facts.

    • No duh,that happens when a agency,the media are trying to push a agenda and don’t have truth and facts to back up their assertions,much the same as global cooling aka global warming aka climate change aka the weather.

    • 538 claims every election is going to be a (D) landslide, but this November they will be once again swept away by the Red Wave.

    • CDC = Corrupt Data Collection.

      Compiling Data that is Corrupted?

      That’s all I got…. You guys can do better in sure

  2. I find it strange that we’re double-checking the CDC with Nate Silver and 538. Nate Silver gets all of his other numbers wrong, why should he be right here? Hillary Clinton still has a 98% chance of winning the 2016 election, after all. /s

    Seriously, if you check out 538’s record, it’s pretty obvious they’re not qualified to crunch numbers in any form.

    That is not to say the CDC isn’t screwy. This is like CNN pointing out lies in the New York Times reporting. Both sources are worthless and should be thrown out.

      • Yeah, the 98 percent bullshit was the ‘New York Times’, you know, the “All the news that’s fit to print.” folks…

      • Mrpredictable – thats right. And people tend not to understand probabilities very well. 538 was simply calculating that in 30 cases out of 100 Trump would win the election. Its like a batter with a .300 batting average – the fact that he does or does not get a hit in any particular instance is rather irrelevent to the larger probabilities of him getting a hit just as Trump’s election is irrelevent to the general accuracy of 538’s probability calculations. To argue against 538’s probabilities you’d have to actually look at the data they were using and how they were using it. Outcome does not matter but rather process is what matters.

        Oh, and PS, I seem to recall Investors Business Daily’s polling had Trump winning from late August onwards.

  3. The CDC needs to be legally barred from studying non-diseases. The administrators who pushed collecting this garbage need to be fired and have all their publications pulled from circulation.

    I trust the CDC to study criminology about as much as I trust NASA to study pharmacology or CERN to study sociology. Anybody who trusts data published by people who are completely out of their area of expertise needs to have it explained to them in small words that an MD and a PhD are not equivalent, nor are they general degrees.

    • “I trust the CDC to study criminology about as much as I trust NASA to study pharmacology…”

      NASA actually has done a study on pharmacology, and for a valid reason – they suspected the radiation environment in low-earth orbit would degrade the pharmaceuticals kept aboard the ISS for medical emergencies.

      The end result was, NASA changes out all the ISS drugs annually…

      • NASA was probably smart enough to realize that actual pharmacologists would do that job better than physicists and mechanical engineers.

        Unlike the CDC, which has medical professionals applying models of microbial disease transmission to hunks of metal and plastic (do they not know how ridiculous that is, or do they know and just not care?).

        • Ing – I’ve noticed this tendency in STEM classes. They’ll teach the students to use various scientific tools, but not the limits of said tools. The rampent misuse of linear regressions in nutrition ‘science’ is only the most glaring of these instances. People in the medical field in general also seem to be totally unaware of any shortcomings or limits to various analytical tools – see the CDC or the WHO studies on medical outcomes to see horrific misuse of mathmatical tools.

          The NASA example is interesting. Engineers are practical people and in my experience physicists (and mathameticians in a much more scatterbrained way), much more than other scientists, seem to be aware that other fields of study, in which they might not be experts, actually exist within the world of science.

    • To be fair, there are SOME parts of the CDC that do good work. The problem is standard bureaucratic mission creep. Had they stuck to actual infectious disease studies, we might have cured a few more diseases by now.

      • There simply has to be someone in govt who can *order* CDC to stop diddling around with things which do not concern them, or start facing firings and budget cuts. But I sure don’t know who that would be, they seem to be independent. Perhaps cut their funds completely, let all the rich doctors pay for their research, THEN see how quick the BS is dropped.

  4. I mean, if you weren’t admitted to the hospital, and you aren’t dead, it wasn’t much of a gun injury, was it?

    • That’s kinda what I suspect – I imagine a number of folks don’t report some gunshot wounds and either self-treat or treat using veterinarian medicines.

      Hell, the mob families have doctors on ‘confidential’ contract, I imagine some Chicago gang members have similar ‘arrangements’…

  5. The CDC is a private, for-profit corporation working only on behalf of its shareholders and can be found on the official Dunn and Bradstreet directory. Perhaps the most egregious aspects of the CDC, while being a for-profit entity, are also consuming more than 12 billion dollars a year from taxpayers and squandering hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on Hollywood scripts, posh fitness clubs, amenities, parties and more. 10 million dollars worth of furniture for their 110 million dollar headquarters, 106 million dollar communication and visitor center complete with waterfalls, plasma TVs, and more. A $200,000 fitness center boasts $30,000 saunas, “quiet rooms” and “zero gravity chairs” that provide “mood-enhancing light shows” for CDC employees.

    An investigation by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that three key “scientists” who helped develop official swine flu policy for the World Health Organization (WHO), recommending that practically everyone be vaccinated, received cash payments from both Roche and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), two pharmaceutical giants that manufacture swine flu vaccines. These two companies, as reported by The Guardian in 2010, paid off policymakers in multiple countries, including in the U.S. at the CDC to write the WHO’s guidelines for swine flu that pushed dangerous swine flu vaccines on millions of people globally. With the help of the CDC and other corrupt agencies, these pharmaceutical corporations pocketed billions of dollars.

    *2007 US Congressional Investigation lead by Tom Coburn
    *2010 investigation by BMJ/BIJ

    • “The CDC is a private, for-profit corporation working only on behalf of its shareholders and can be found on the official Dunn and Bradstreet directory.”

      Got a link on that?

      You may be referring to the ‘CDC Foundation’.

      The ‘CDC Foundation’ is *not* the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’, which is a Federal agency under the ‘Department of Health and Human Services’.

      “What is the CDC Foundation’s relationship with CDC?

      The CDC Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges partnerships between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private-sector organizations. Classified as a 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation is the sole entity authorized by Congress to raise private funds in support of the mission and work of CDC. To ensure that the Foundation remains independent from CDC, its founding legislation prohibits the CDC director or other CDC employees from sitting on the Foundation board. However, Foundation leaders work closely with CDC leaders and scientists to ensure that the organization’s overall strategic direction and portfolio of programs and activities have the greatest possible impact for CDC and public health.”

  6. I’m not surprised that gun injuries have gone down despite more guns being sold and more people getting into guns for the first time. There is a lot more emphasis on basic safety than there used to be. I’ve been shooting for about 60 years and I don’t remember hearing of The Four Rules until I started reading TTAG a few years back. I was taught to shoot by my father, who had a vast experience with gunshot wounds, and I got the same basic principles as TFRs. Most of my training was on how not to have an accident. It is much better to have the principles clearly articulated in the form of The Four Rules. There also has been a proliferation of ranges, and people using them, with their own insistence on TFRs and their own house rules. Much more conducive to learning basic safety principles than ventilating a bunch of cans down by the river.

    • Nowhere NEAR as much fun as can ventilation, tho. Or simply assassinating distant waves at the seashore!

  7. Those people who chart the gun data and fudge it shouldn’t be too concerned about losing their jobs. I’m sure that if their laid off the “global warming” crowd can find a place for them in their cabal.

  8. About as credible as the CDCs egregiously exaggerated yearly flu fatalities in their quest to sell more vaccines based on fear and not in fact.

    • Pretty much what I figured. Anyone who has gotten their finger jacked by the trapdoor on an AK buttstock, pinched the heel of their hand while inserting a pistol magazine, slightly singed themselves picking up hot brass, or gotten a blister from the stupid nub on stock M16 pistol grips is now a statistic under ‘gunshot injuries.’

      • Saw a guy get blister on his hand from picking up a bullet once, working the pit at a 1000 yard range, bullet bounced off the cardboard target backing and was spinning wildly on the concrete walkway, guy picked it up despite several people screaming not to, probably still spinning 100,000 rpm or so and hugely hot. He put it down quickly.

  9. Non fatally injured, uh huh, that goes right along with more people using 9 mm , facts is facts

  10. For the CDC apologists:

    ‘The CDC funded a Harvard Pilgrim study whose purpose was to automate the reporting of vaccine injuries by programming known vaccine reactions into medical charts of patients experiencing certain reactions near the time of vaccination. The pilot study yielded a 2.6% possible adverse vaccine reactions, and after the 3 year study that produced results so potentially devastating to the CDC, the program was shut down’. This same Harvard Pilgrim study reported that “fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported.”
    Excerpts taken from “How to end the Autism Epidemic”, JB Handley.

  11. I thought the ‘D’ in CDC stood for disease. Since when did gun injuries become a disease? They should stick to their mandate, finding cures to control infectious diseases and leave the gun thing alone. By the way, aren’t these guys the ones that shipped infectious samples improperly? Typical government agency, pitiful oversight and rampant waste of taxpayer dollars.

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