The Last Time Science Looked At Gun Violence

Harvard studies. They’re old. This is the kind of stuff that was coming out when the NRA got its minions in the Republican Party to put the kabosh on research into guns, gun crimes and gun safety. Hopefully we’ll be getting some new data now that Obama signed an executive order lifting that ban. But Congress still holds the purse strings, and we all know who’s in charge over there. Plus, after a 20-year funding drought, there just isn’t anyone doing that kind of research anymore. And there’s been a concerted effort to quash any research outside the CDC, too.

Here’s what they don’t want you to know:

We use epidemiological theory to explain why the “false positive” problem for rare events can lead to large overestimates of the incidence of rare diseases or rare phenomena such as self-defense gun use. We then try to validate the claims of many millions of annual self-defense uses against available evidence. We find that the claim of many millions of annual self-defense gun uses by American citizens is invalid.

And …

Using data from a national random-digit-dial telephone survey conducted under the direction of the Harvard Injury Control Center, we examined the extent and nature of offensive gun use. We found that firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense. All reported cases of criminal gun use, as well as many of the so-called self-defense gun uses, appear to be socially undesirable.

And ….

Using data from a national random-digit-dial telephone survey conducted under the direction of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, we investigated how and when guns are used in the home. We found that guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns.

And ….

Using data from surveys of detainees in six jails from around the nation, we worked with a prison physician to determine whether criminals seek hospital medical care when they are shot. Criminals almost always go to the hospital when they are shot. To believe fully the claims of millions of self-defense gun uses each year would mean believing that decent law-abiding citizens shot hundreds of thousands of criminals. But the data from emergency departments belie this claim, unless hundreds of thousands of wounded criminals are afraid to seek medical care. But virtually all criminals who have been shot went to the hospital, and can describe in detail what happened there.

The lead author on these Harvard studies is David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health. He was interviewed by ABC New about his work in 2013 and the news was grim. He said:

The act of inserting a single gun question into a survey has become increasingly difficult for Hemenway over the years, he said. For instance, when he asked to include whether families owned guns in a survey that had questions about how many alcoholic beverages people drank and how many cigarettes they smoked, he was turned down.

“If you want to know the simplest things, we don’t know,” he said. “We’re not sure even what percent of houses have guns.”

Sure. Because what we don’t know won’t hurt us. And allowing the NRA to control the debate means they can flood the narrative with their own cooked books:

[Dr. Arthur] Kellermann said he’s watched as bumper stickers and slogans replaced statistics and facts over the past two decades. In the last week, a YouTube video of a 15-year-old Maryland girl’s pro-gun speech attracted more than 2.3 million views. She cited statistics, but it’s not clear where they came from.

Oh, I think we know where they came from.

1 Comment

Filed under gun control, gun violence, Guns

One response to “The Last Time Science Looked At Gun Violence

  1. GregH

    The University of Chicago’s General Social Survey is the best current measure of the rate of gun ownership….and the news for gun makers is pretty bad. Since 1973 at 47% the rate of household gun ownership has pretty much steadily declined until it stands at 31% in 2014. http://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/GSS_Trends%20in%20Gun%20Ownership_US_1972-2014.pdf