David Robert Grimes has the unmitigated temerity to consider evidence for claims that guns make us safer.
Academics such as John Lott and Gary Kleck have long claimed that more firearms reduce crime. But is this really the case? Stripped of machismo bluster, this is at heart a testable claim that merely requires sturdy epidemiological analysis. And this was precisely what Prof Charles Branas and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania examined in their 2009 paper investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault. They compared 677 cases in which people were injured in a shooting incident with 684 people living in the same area that had not suffered a gun injury. The researchers matched these “controls” for age, race and gender. They found that those with firearms were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot than those who did not carry, utterly belying this oft repeated mantra.
Yes but that’s all those other people. That’s statistics. I am different. If I had a gun I would use it the right way and never get overconfident or belligerent and never accidentally shoot my foot off. By the same token, if I opened a restaurant, it would succeed, and if I
gambled invested in the stock market, I would make millions, and if I smoked, I would get healthier.
This result is not particularly unexpected. Prof David Hemenway of Harvard school of public health has published numerous academic investigations in this area and found that such claims are rooted far more in myth than fact. While defensive gun use may occasionally occur successfully, it is rare and very much the exception – it doesn’t change the fact that actually owning and using a firearm hugely increases the risk of being shot. This is a finding supported by numerous other studies in health policy, including several articles in the New England Journal of Medicine. Arguments to the contrary are not rooted in reality; the Branas study also found that for individuals who had time to resist and counter in a gun assault, the odds of actually being shot actually increased to 5.45 fold relative to an individual not carrying.
Well…the thing to do then is just make sure that the people who can affect the legislation are hindered from finding out about all these pesky studies.
Until the 1990s, research into gun violence wasn’t a threat to the gun lobby, because it essentially didn’t exist. Most policymakers and public-health specialists viewed gun injuries simply as accidents that couldn’t be prevented.
But a group of CDC researchers disagreed, viewing gun injuries instead as predictable and preventable—and seeing a desperate need for rigorous research into how reduce them.
“We said, there’s two injuries that are the leading cause of death in the U.S. right now: cars and guns,” recalled Mark Rosenberg, who helped establish the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), in part to study gun violence. “We spend hundreds of millions on cars, we spend nothing on guns.”
And so, the NCIPC began collecting data on gun violence, as well as funding outside research on the subject, including the two studies led by Kellermann. “It was producing very, very helpful information,” said Rosenberg.
But in doing so, thanks in part to the Kellerman studies, the agency provoked the ire of the gun lobby. After Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, lawmakers allied with the NRA zeroed in on the NCIPC. “There was an immediate push not just to stop gun research, but to terminate the entire center,” Kellermann recounted.
Shoot that god damn messenger, eh?
Ultimately, NCIPC survived, but in 1996, Rep. Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican and the NRA’s point man in Congress, engineered an effort to cut $2.6 million from its budget—exactly the amount it had spent on gun violence research the previous year. (The funding was later restored by the Senate, but earmarked for traumatic brain injury, ensuring it couldn’t be used for gun violence work.) And the following sentence was added to the law funding CDC: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
No stinkin’ research for them. Shut it down.
Shaming, isn’t it.