This is How You Muddy Firearms Research Data to Push an Anti-Gun Narrative

gun violence data manipulation narrative

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By Elizabeth McGuigan

What happens when a virulent anti-gun activist gets ahold of a journal’s entire October issue? We get headlines like: Study: U.S. Gun Deaths Surge, Except for Two States With Restrictive Gun Laws, just days after headlines such as: Homicides, other violent crime fell again in 2018, new FBI data shows and FBI: Southern States See Largest Drop in Violent Crime.

What’s the real story here? Did researchers unearth better crime data than the FBI?

Data Tells

Turns out that it doesn’t take much to see how the study’s authors manage to make the news. They simply included suicides in with homicide data.

Suicides are tragically rising nationwide over recent years. However, homicides have been on the decline. Since suicides are two-thirds of all firearm-related deaths in a given year, combining the two shows a net increase.

The state-specific data wasn’t available online, apart from the sweeping conclusions and a carefully worded methodology that included adjusting the dates until the data fit the pre-conceived narrative. But we do know that suicide rates tend to be higher in rural areas with more risk factors including social isolation, lack of access to healthcare, unemployment and poverty.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the study found higher rates in these areas. What is a surprise is the authors’ weak and unsubstantiated attempt to connect this with gun control laws in more urban states.

Conflating Isn’t the Cure

There’s no question that the increase in suicide rates is a crisis that must be addressed. The firearms and ammunition industry has partnered with groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for this reason. But to come up with ways to help, it’s important to focus on the actual issue, and not misleadingly lump together suicides with a separate – though also terrible – problem of homicides.

Our industry knows there are different ways to help address each concern. Even the study’s authors agree. In the final line of the entire misleading report, they write: “The epidemiology of firearm violence is complex and varies based on the mechanism of death, demographic group under study, and regionally specific culture, making a one-size-fits-all solution inappropriate.”

At least they got one thing right.

 

Elizabeth McGuigan is Director of Legislative and Policy Research at the National Shooting Sports Foundation. 

comments

  1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    So, which journal was / is it that was suborned for October? I would like to read the source article for myself?

    1. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

      Try googling. The journal is of all things “Health Affairs”. If someone on the right published such bassackwards misuse of statistics there would be calls for exile. There should be something similar to the American Bar Association to discipline fallacious journalists operated by an out agency of civilians.

      1. avatar GomeznSA says:

        Timothy – NOT busting your chops but if an oversight group that you propose was just as ‘effective’ as the CONgress ethics committee (see Mad Maxie) or the AMA board for doctors (how many hundreds of thousands of deaths via ‘medical errors’ annually) it would be a waste of time.
        There certainly should be some legitimate way to rein in out of control ‘journalists’ but I sure don’t know what will work. Naming and shaming them and pointing out their biases and promotion of fake stories (like the one alluded to in the article) sure hasn’t been working.

      2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        I did search for the article and publishing journal.

        My thought was that the journal name should have appeared in the TTAG write-up as background information so that people could read the original and, if they wanted to, contact the editorial staff of the journal to voice their opinion of the decidedly biased stance of the author.

        I find it interesting that their dedicated Blog presents opinion as unassailable fact.

        It is difficult for me to accept most “health professionals” writing outside of their expertise…only when doctors and “health professionals” seriously address and implement remedies for their own incompetence and the related cover-ups occurring within their profession(s) then they may earn a modicum of respect for their “considered” opinions. Until such time, they remain a secretive Guild of highly trained tradesmen with the ability to bury their mistakes.

        1. avatar MyName says:

          “It is difficult for me to accept most “health professionals” writing outside of their expertise…”

          This has annoyed me about M.D.s for a long time. I, too, am a doctor, (Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering) and I, too, am a published author in several professional journals. My articles, however, are focused on my areas of expertise. Imagine the response I would get if I tried to get something published in “Archeology Today”. Or, if I tried to publish my discovery of an ancient Mayan civilization found during a weekend trip to Banff, Canada in the International Journal of Production Research.

          I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in the company of a self-aggrandizing M.D. who thinks the fact that they know how to treat a kidney stone entitles them to insert themselves into any and all conversations on any and all topics.

        2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Agreed!

          Fortunately my GP and DDS are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment. I have referred them to shooting buddies who grew tired of fielding non-medical, out-of-scope questions from their current “practitioners”.

          We are, ultimately, responsible for our own care…demand more from the people you hire to provide those services. If they ask out of scope questions…tell them. Remember, you are not under oath and are not obligated, under penalty, to answer all their questions.

        3. avatar EndDangerEd says:

          That’s why Medical “Doctors” are “practicing”. Though there ARE good Docs in all areas of the nation there are far too many that THINK that expertise in one area automatically makes them experts in all areas. To easily distinguish one from another just ask them about rates of fire and effective ranges, for a few different arms. Most will have NO CLUE and when they mention “Assault weapons” just ask about Knob Creek… Right? Maybe throw in the M134 minigun. Oh My!

    2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      This is a piss-poor article. That she would write something like this and not bother to mention the actual source is embarrassingly slipshod writing. That Mr. Editor Dan would go ahead and publish something like this is condescending to his readership.

  2. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    By now everyone should expect that any thing pushed by the media and all other factions of the left wing gun control apparatus will be bent around to support gun control. They have no interest in finding solutions to real problems unless it furthers their agenda, number one of which is disarming law abiding citizens.

    Nothing they push does anything to reduce crime.

    Posting this article is of no benefit to us, nothing new, same ol same ol….
    Why waste our time?

  3. avatar Biatec says:

    They never have good data or very good arguments either. You can explain to them and show them that gun ownership and crime do not correlate.

    I had this guy who kept telling me “Europeans have lower homicide rates” As if it was proof it had to do with gun control. I pointed out countries that added heavy gun control and how they were already declining in homicides.

    Correlation does not mean causation. He just repeated his stuff a few more times. The ones I get to admit it often just say they don’t care if it works or not they don’t think I should have more than a shotgun.

    Ooh also does anyone have the homicide rates in Australia before like 1989? I was looking and it seems to only cut off there I was unable to find good stats in general for their country. Maybe I was using not the best keywords or something.

    The Australian stats seem extremely doctor red for what the government there provides.

  4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Just wait until the commies figure out that animals also die when shot by guns. That ‘gun deaths’ number will really go through the roof then.

    1. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

      Shhh 🤫 !

  5. avatar Crzuo1981 says:

    THOMAS C. FROHLICH AND JOHN HARRINGTON | 24/7 WALL STREET | 2:12 pm EST February 21, 2018
    As of 2016 California had the highest rates of firearm homicides. That matters. They also had the 3rd highest rate of suicide. It’s not for lack of infringements on the 2nd, they’ve tried that approach, but it isn’t working. They should try something else, lest the politicians become more dangerous to the population than the very criminals that perform these despicable acts of murder.

    1. avatar SGT Preston says:

      In California, I fear, the truth is already that politicians are more dangerous than the criminals, primarily, I think, because most of the politicians ARE criminals in one way or another.

    2. avatar MyName says:

      No animal I’ve shot has died from being hit by a bullet – they all died from massive blood loss shortly thereafter.

  6. avatar CliffG says:

    Quick: Which country has the lowest suicide rate in the world? Syria. Highest? Belgium. That is according to the official WHO statistics. Now, please write a cogent thesis on why those countries have the lowest and the highest. I’ll wait. Meanwhile our suicide rates are the same as they were in 1969. They are up over the last 20 years, but at the same time that gun use for suicide has declined. I will say this about suicide risk: if you know a 52 year old white male, unemployed and not married, with a history of physical/mental disabilities and substance abuse, you do have a prime candidate for suicide. Beyond that, who knows?

  7. avatar EWTHeckman says:

    Showing once again that though figures don’t lie, liars do figure.

  8. avatar enuf says:

    Health Affairs, October 2019, “Violence & Health”
    https://www.healthaffairs.org/toc/hlthaff/current

    You can read the editor’s commentary:
    https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01118

    After that only abstracts of articles are available to non-paying visitors. To read an article is $15.99 for one month. Annual access is $59.99.

    1. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

      I know that publishers of journals have “families to feed,” etc., but that is why they have advertisers and, well if you read any of the professional and scientific journals to which I subscribe, advertisers and advertisers. If you are going to publish “ground breaking” studies, then not only is peer review mandatory, but so is complete transparency, which is not achieved by charging a fee to read the relevant articles.
      Reminds me of when recently some bogus “researcher” announced that he had decrypted the Voynich manuscript, but none of his published work was available without paying a fee. Eventually enough he was discovered a fraud and a lengthy list of retractions ensued fro publishers.

  9. avatar Fred Lead says:

    Pretty much every gun control argument relies on overly broad data so their narrative can be inserted into the gaps.

    The most common metric is “40,000 gun deaths a year”. This is used to argue AR-15s need to be banned, despite AR-15s being responsible for less than 0.75% of those deaths. That figure is used more broadly to say everyday people misuse guns for no good reason despite more than 75% of murderers have a criminal record averaging 6 years and can’t legally touch a gun and the majority of victims are also criminals. It’s also small pockets of 5% of counties that account for about 70% of all homicides in the US.

    The myth is that guns are the problem, that the risk is evenly distributed and random, and that you should be distrustful of your neighbor. The truth is common sense; criminals commit crimes with illegal guns against other criminals in gang territories. That doesn’t sell ads, rile up the base, or get gun control passed, though. It’s a double-edged sword, though. People are so safe they don’t believe firearms have utility in order to be able to inappropriately argue guns only make us unsafe. When people feel truly unsafe many actually turn to firearms. If the media narrative were true gun ownership would increase and anti-gun sentiment would die down somewhat. It’s this tightrope act gun control must walk between giving evidence and hiding the greater truth behind their bullet points that is always so fascinating and confounding.

    1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

      +1…you pretty much nailed the issue in a couple of well-written paragraphs.

  10. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

    When I read the original AP release, I was thinking, “ok so you’re drawing very tenuous, really imaginary, connections to NY and CA anti2A laws.” But really? Why would I believe this unless it could also tie in the same types of unconstitutional laws in IL, NJ, MA, etc. Something is clearly “rotten in Denmark” (just an idiomatic phrase, no actual offense intended towards any Danes).
    A prominent physicist once told me that there are 3 types of lies; lies, danm lies and statistics. (I’m sure he got that from somewhere).

    1. avatar UpInArms says:

      Benjamin Disraeli

    2. avatar EndDangerEd says:

      There actually IS something rotten in Denmark, and Sweden, and most of the EU… They are being deported in large numbers. If memory serves of over +7,000 in Sweden less than 10% HAVE JOBS and Swedes are sick of “Giving them everything” while they do nothing but cause trouble… Rape is up, security is Down. Same all over the EU especially in Germany, where civilians are buying pistols at a rate that is alarming the Bundeswehr.

  11. avatar Fancy Nancy Perogi says:

    In the interest of preventing gun deaths, we’re going to encourage people to jump off the Golden Gate bridge.

    1. avatar EndDangerEd says:

      If they hit ships, causing damage or death they CAN be charged…. it IS California after all. Be a hoot if they also get charged with not showing up in court for their arraignment. IDIOTS!

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