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[ED: Those who push for gun control continually advocate for giving more money to the Centers of Disease Control for “gun violence” research. They claim the CDC is prevented from looking into firearms injury and homicide data by the NRA. Or Something. It simply isn’t true.

The Dickey Amendment simply prevents the CDC from using federal dollars to “advocate or promote gun control.” The CDC seems to have plenty of trouble getting their numbers right in the first place as this and other articles make clear.]

By Carl Bussjaeger

I’ve mentioned the problem with highly variable firearm homicides numbers in the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program vs. the CDC’s WISQARS systemS. For 2017, the UCR claims 10,982 firearms homicides, while the CDC says 14,542, a difference of 32%. Part of that is reporting.

The UCR is based on reported numbers from law enforcement agencies. But not all agencies report.

As for the CDC…

The CDC numbers are based on emergency department reports, using ICD-10 codes. But, like the FBI, they don’t…use data from every hospital. In fact, they pick only 60 hospitals and use their reports as a proxy for the entire country. It’s rather like Rasmussen pseudo-randomly surveying 1,000 people in hopes of picking a representative sample of all Americans, and extrapolating from there.

That’s a huge problem.

If more of the sample hospitals are in places like Chicago, St. Louis, or Baltimore, it skews the results. Those locations have a disproportionate number of firearms homicides compared to, say, Alamogordo, New Mexico. If you assume everywhere has a firearms homicide rate like Baltimore, you’re going to extrapolate an unrealistically high number. Maybe even 32% higher than what the FBI says.

Problem, right? I’ve barely started.

First, a 60 hospital sample is ridiculous when there are 6,210 hospitals in the US. Second, there is no good reason to do a 60 hospital sample. Or a 600 hospital sample.

To comply with the federal HIPAA law, since October 1, 2015, every HIPAA-covered entity — every hospital — in the nation reports every single gunshot wound, by ICD-10 code, to the government. All 6,210 of them. For Every. Single. Patient. ICD-10 is just the latest iteration. Before that, it was ICD-9, They have been collecting this data for years.

ICD-10 CDC gunshot data

The CDC doesn’t need to sample the data, then guess at the total number. The total number for every hospital in the country is already at their disposal. At most, they might have to make extremely minor adjustments for occasional coding errors. But since Medicare/Medicaid and insurance payments are based on the reported codes, the existing system already checks for coding errors. Damned few should slip past insurance companies who are dead-set on paying out the least they can.

In fact, the CDC has more data than just “gunshot injury” available to them. ICD-10 breaks it down by intent (accidental/self, accidental/other, suicide, homicide) and weapon (machinegun, rifle, shotgun, handgun, other). There is a separate code for each possible combination.

More codes if multiple weapons. More codes for where on the body the injury is. The admission data (which they get) includes age, race (with more choices than the six given in WISQARS), gender. They also have the hospital location for geographic distribution of injuries.

And it isn’t just fatal injuries, all those code options are there for nonfatal injuries, too.

With the available data, the CDC can sort for “white males, 18-24, shot in lower back, in Kalamazoo, fatal and non-fatal” and give you the exact numbers.

I’ve played with the WHO ICD database, and the available information is amazing.

So why isn’t the CDC simply using this raw data, instead of sampling and extrapolating? Is it too difficult to get the data for research purposes?

No. ICD is designed for researchers to use, by intent. That’s one of its main purposes. Medical people hate it because — to make any possible injury/illness in which a researcher might someday be interested — there are upwards of 150,000 different codes to choose from; want to know how many people are bitten by large dogs vs. small dogs? It’s there.

There’s only one reason for the CDC to forego using the entire database and cherry-pick a handful of “representative” hospitals.

Because the raw data doesn’t support the laws the victim-disarming gun controllers want.

The raw data would tell us who is getting shot. With what. What the victims’ demographic and geographic distribution is. Combined with the UCR, the data would tell law enforcement which criminals to target, and how. All the things the CDC pretends it can’t do.

The CDC has to lie about injury reports to rationalize targeting honest gun owners who don’t commit the crimes.

UPDATE: WISQARS Fatal and Nonfatal Injury reports come from differing datasets.

WISQARS Fatal is sourced from the NCHS Vital Statistics System, using ICD codes.

WISQARS Nonfatal is sourced from the NEISS All Injury Program run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

NEISS bases their estimate on the sampling I speak of. NCHS appears to use the full data, so WISQARS Fatal should be accurate.

This still leaves the question of why the available full dataset is not used for both. I suspect it is a matter of bureaucratic empire building – the CPSC started doing injury reports through their system a long time ago, and don’t want to relinquish it.


This article originally appeared at The Zelman Partisans and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. Well, what the flip! If their 60 hospitals are located in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C where 25 % of gun crimes take place, of course, the calculation will be skewed!!

    • and I’m willing to bet they *did* select for higher numbers, or at least deliberately eliminated ones whose numbers are too low.

  2. It is interesting to me that they have ALL of this data.

    I have been noticing for a long time that all of pro and anti-gun rhetoric revolves around how many people DIED. The statistics on how many were shot, regardless of outcome, is seldom reported as a separate data point.

  3. I find it hard to believe there are a little over 100 hospitals per state. Whats the definition of a hospital here?

  4. “Why is the CDC Lying To Us About Gunshot Data?”

    Because it fits the lefts agenda/narrative…

    “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

    Mark Twain

  5. The days of accountability will be worth waiting for. Sooner or later all governments and states fall, usually rotting away from within. “In a society where everyone is guilty, the only crime is getting caught”. -30-

  6. the LETTER AGENCYS ALL NEED TO BE SHUT DOWN. they are more into the repression of information than doing what they were supposed to do. the sqewing of the data is more harmful than informative. they do not want to tell the truth.the socialist / marxist bunch of crooked political hacks that run the agencys are wanting to see the united states as a communist run club of democrat political hacks.

  7. The CDC is terminally corrupt. Does anyone really expect true information/data from the CDC? If so, you’re asleep at the wheel.

  8. Ban hospitals, we’re all gonna die anyway, the sooner you get it over with the better off you are. ,,Oh ho that’s fatalistically funny.,,,If it keeps raining I’m going to be able to fish off the sidewalk.

  9. “Why is the CDC Lying To Us About Gunshot Data?”

    Because the CDC is a government agency, and the government is mostly run by Liberal bureaucrats who hate guns and hate us for owning them.

  10. The CDC is politicized like any other agency. They don’t bite the hand that feeds and will roll over for a biscuit.

    • Muh doggie will too. Croissants anyone? Why are the cops tearing my kitchen apart?
      I get it. “Croissant” is French, “doughnut” is American! My dog is a GERMAN! OMG! Did she eat the cops Stollen pastries? Will the CDC count this as a “measles outbreak”?

  11. Is there a way to get an FOIA request to force them to provide the actual data(for “firearm injury or death” in full) that we as taxpayers have paid for to be collected for our own good? Then MAYBE we can stop the manipulating and massaging of the numbers to fit what the gun-grabbers want it to say.

  12. So, our illustrious CDC has proved conclusively that gunshots are harmful to your health. Gee, who would have suspected? With another 10 years and an unlimited budget they may finally be able to prove that water causes drowning.

  13. Interesting article. Another issue that could conflate the data: Invariably, in order to cut down on coding/paperwork time, most doctors will use a NOS code, so gunshot wound, “not otherwise specified”.. which could include any type of gunshot wound, any visit (initial vs subsequent) and which would sometimes count the same patient who came in twice, say for follow up for pain meds, as two separate patients.

    For example, if I have an asthmatic come to me and then follow up in a week for a lung check I’ll use the same code for both visits to save time, and screw the bean counter researchers who don’t pay for my time, or babysit my kids while I do paperwork. So if you did a data dump by numbers I just saw two cases of asthma.

    And if you think my documentation is bad you should see the crap the ER pulls 🙂

    Having said that, ever since the AAP counted 24 year olds as pediatric victims of gun violence, I’ve pretty much ignored any establishment medical authority on their gun research. Biases gotta bias.

    • Ditto. A long time girl friend worked as a “coder”, processing codes for insurance purposes. There are frequent errors. The staff, either medical or administrative, are frequently over worked and have little knowledge or interest in getting the codes right. Sometimes, no one knows how that “patient” got shot.

  14. Just another creature of the Swamp. This is part of what our President has been speaking of. Non-elected bureaucrats making policy decision and regulations without consent of The People. We have no one to blame but ourselves. For decades this went on for the most part out of sight. Once the interweb came into existence and information became easier to obtain. People began to discover the what,where,how and who of the system. Unfortunately few took the time pay attention. Which emboldened the bureaucrats even more to continue to manipulate facts to achieve their goals. Now more people are beginning pay attention because they fear their Rights are in danger. Unfortunately the creature has grown so large that stopping it seems impossible but stop We must. This nation was founded because a bunch of bureaucrats supported by a king. Decided they could make laws,levee tax’s and confiscate our firearms. Without the People having any say in the matter. Now we face a bureaucracy that operates independently without not only the oversight of the People. In most cases it operates without the oversight of anyone beyond it’s own leadership. Congress has given over control to faceless people pushing their own agenda. All of this is the fault of each and every one of US. Our apathy has allowed this creature to grow into the monster many are beginning to see it for. Keep You Powder Dry.


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