If It Saves Only One Life

“If it saves only one life” is a frequent refrain from those who would control and/or prohibit guns. What if we applied this logic to other things in our lives. Jack Spirko who hosts the wildly popular The Surivival Podcast did just that recently. He applied it to stairs and staircases.

Since the gun prohibitionists and their media allies like Diane Sawyer of ABC News love to use and misuse statistics, let’s look at the stats that Jack has compiled.

First some statistics, falling down stairs on average

  • Kills over 1,300 people per year – (source)
  • Over 1 million people are injured per year in stairway falls – (source)
  • Nearly 100,000 children a year are injured enough by stairway falls to require hospitalization – (source)
  • Young children and the elderly are the most victimized by falls – (source)

Let’s take those numbers over a decade we get…

  • 13,000 deaths that never had to happen
  • 10,000,000 plus hospital visits that never had to happen
  • 1,000,000 children hospitalized for serious injury that never had to happen
  • An unfair and disproportionate group of victims who are small kids or older adults that need protection

I am one of those 1 million victims of stairway falls. I broke not just one but two bones in my leg due to a stairway fall. It has not only been painful but it has been costly in terms of lost economic productivity as my broken leg has hindered me in meeting with clients in their homes. If my hosts had only installed an elevator instead of a staircase, I wouldn’t have broken my leg. Or so the logic goes since it was their fault because they owned a staircase and not my responsibility to pay attention when using that staircase.

So what does Jack propose?

Let’s start with what we can all agree on, the madness must stop. So, at a minimum, we have to ban the building of any new stairs for general use. All new constructions will have stairs only for emergency evacuations, there will be licensed trained professionals that can use them for other needs and who will direct us untrained types down them if necessary. That is right, if you need to use your stairs dial 911 and professionals will come to your aid.

Jack’s logic is impeccable if you buy into the argument that saving just one life is worth it. And while we are at it, let’s not forget buckets, kiddie pools, and scissors. They have all caused the death of children one way or another.

Jack has also produced a video in which he makes his argument for stairway prohibition.

No Research Like Misleading Research

When it comes to recommending studies on firearms dealers, regulation, and gun sales to journalists, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School is consistent. Consistently bad and consistently biased, that is.

When you see journal articles referenced that have been authored by the likes of Garen Wintemute of UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program , Daniel Webster of  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health, you know that they have an agenda and that agenda is anti-gun.

And then there is this:

Finally, media outlets such as the New York Times continue to investigate the various mechanisms by which guns are sold on the Internet, often with little oversight or rules in place (also see Wired magazine’s explainer on the issue).

Really? The New York Times? A paper that has never seen a restrictive gun law that it didn’t like unless it was a more restrictive one? As to little oversight and no rules for Internet sales of firearms, these “investigations” totally ignore Federal law that mandates interstate sales must go through a FFL and get a NICS check.

Never let it be said that facts got in the way of promoting an anti-gun agenda at Harvard.

Note To Demand Action – We Aren’t That Gullible

Demand Action to End Gun Violence (sic) is a project of Mayor Bloomberg and his Illegal Mayors. This week they have been tweeting a “breaking” message about a new 50-state “analysis of gun violence”.

I’d like to believe that no one would be so gullible as to believe this “analysis” was unbiased and accurate. The sad reality is that this report from the Center from American Progress, a “progressive” research and advocacy group, has been picked up by a number of media outlets including MSNBC. I guess given the record of the media running with sham stories I shouldn’t be surprised.

The first indication that this is a biased report is who wrote it. The authors – Arkadi Gerney, Chelsea Parsons, and Charles Posner – all have links to either Bloomberg or Obama. Gerney preceded Mark Glaze as the executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Parsons was general counsel to the New York City
criminal justice coordinator prior to coming to the Center for American Progress. Finally, Posner worked for a Democratic polling group and Organizing for America prior to coming to CAP. To think that any of these authors would put out a report on guns that could pass the smell test is ludicrous.

The second indication that this report is a sham is the reliance on data and ranking from groups such as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Violence Policy Center, and MAIG. While they do use some data that is valid, how they twist is not.

Finally, you need only read the “recommendations” to understand that this “analysis” was not at finding the truth but to promote advocacy for more gun control. They want universal background checks, a definition of “dangerous people” that goes far beyond felons and the mentally ill, a ban on “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines”, and stronger laws against trafficking.

 This report is proof positive that the old saw that “figures lie and liars figure” is true.

Junk Research Is Still Junk Research

Mayor Bloomberg and his Illegal Mayors are touting a story about a “study” that ostensibly shows states with the most gun control have fewer “gun-related deaths”.

The story in USA Today highlights a study put out by Dr. Eric Fleegler, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard University. Part of the study team was notoriously anti-gun David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health. The study used data from the CDC’s Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) database and from the Brady Campaign. Yes, you read that right, the Brady Campaign. They included both homicides and suicides in their population of “firearms-related deaths”. 

As hard as they tried, they only found an “association” and not any causal relationship between firearms laws and the deaths.

The study also found that laws requiring universal background checks and permits to purchase firearms were most clearly associated with decreasing rates of gun-related homicides and suicides.

Despite the findings, researchers did not establish a cause and effect relationship between guns and deaths. Rather, they could only establish an association.

You know your research has a problem when even Garen Wintemute criticizes it.

That failure illustrates the limits of the study, said Garen Wintemute, an emergency physician and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

“Policy makers can really draw no conclusion from this study,” Wintemute said, explaining that the study doesn’t provide critical answers to which laws work and why.

And what is the answer that both Wintemute and the authors of the Boston Children’s Hospital study push? More money to do anti-gun research. There was a reason that Congress limited the CDC’s budget on firearms research and junk research was at the heart of it.

NRA Responds To VPC’s Misleading Research

While it may be giving the Violence Policy Center more attention than it deserves, I think the NRA-ILA had to respond to the misleading research regarding “gun deaths” versus deaths by motor vehicle. As Tom Gresham continually points out about his Truth Squad project, a lie left unchallenged becomes the truth for many people. The NRA-ILA’s post on the subject entitled “Dust Off the Old Stuff–VPC Tries to Revive ‘Guns and Cars’ and ‘Consumer Products’ Nonsense” was published on Friday.

In the 1990s, it was common for anti-gun activists to predict that firearm-related deaths–suicides, murders, self-defense shootings by private citizens, shootings by law enforcement officers, and accidents combined–would soon outnumber motor vehicle accident deaths.

It was also common for them to demand that the design and manufacture of firearms be subject to the Consumer Products Safety Commission or the Bureu (sic) of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Their goal was to get handguns banned by setting standards higher than any handgun manufacturer could achieve, at least at a price the market would bear. For example, in 2000, the Violence Policy Center said “Congress should vest the Department of the Treasury [to which BATF belonged at the time] with strong authority to regulate the design, manufacture, and distribution of firearms. Such authority should include the ability to remove from the market firearms that pose a serious threat to public health and safety. . . . Products such as three-wheel ATVs and lawn darts had related death rates microscopic in comparison to handguns, but were nevertheless banned.”

To anti-gun activists’ dismay, the closest that motor vehicle accidents came to accounting for fewer deaths than all five categories of firearm-related deaths combined was in 1993, when firearm-related deaths hit an all-time high, one year after motor vehicle accident deaths fell to their lowest point since 1962. But even then, motor vehicle accidents accounted for 2,298 more deaths than all categories of firearm-related deaths combined.

Fast forward to the present. This week, the VPC claimed that in 2009, firearm-related deaths outnumbered motor vehicle accident deaths in 10 states. It said, “Motor vehicle deaths are on the decline as the result of a successful decades-long public health-based injury prevention strategy that includes safety-related changes to vehicles and highway design informed by comprehensive data collection and analysis. Meanwhile, firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by the federal government for health and safety.”

That’s baloney, of course. The reason that anti-gun activists dropped their “cars and guns” propaganda more than a decade ago is that after 1993, motor vehicle accident deaths began increasing sharply, despite massive government regulation of vehicles, drivers and roads, while deaths involving firearms began decreasing. So great did the disparity between the two trends eventually become, that by 2004 there were 15,364 more motor vehicle accident deaths than all firearm-related deaths combined.

VPC knows that, but it brought up “cars and guns” this week anyway, for a couple of reasons.

First, cranking out “analyses” that insult the intelligence of a fence post is what the Joyce Foundation pays the VPC to do.

Second, with people driving less–due in large part to the lack of jobs and high gasoline prices–deaths from motor vehicle accidents dropped from 43,945 in 2007 (the year before the economic recession began) to 36,216 in 2009 (the last year for which national data have been reported). In the 10 states on VPC’s list, decreases ranged from 6.1 percent in Colorado to 37.6 percent in Nevada.

Nationally, firearm-related deaths remained fairly steady, at 31,224 in 2007 and 31,347 in 2009, with decreases in homicides and accidents. But firearm and non-firearm suicides, each of which accounts for half of suicides, both increased from 2007 to 2009. Suicides account for nearly 60 percent of firearm-related deaths, and between 2007 and 2009 firearm suicides increased in nine of the 10 states on VPC’s list.

Of course, it’s pointless to compare vehicle accident statistics to those for the aggregate of five categories of firearm-related deaths. There’s little similarity between motor vehicle accidents and firearm accidents, and none whatsoever between vehicle accidents and firearm suicides and homicides. For example, more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide suffer from depression, other mental disorders, and/or a substance-abuse disorder. Other risk factors for suicide include a prior suicide attempt or a family history of mental disorder, substance abuse, suicide or family violence. There is also evidence suggesting that suicides can be instigated by news media coverage of suicides and by exposure to suicide themes in literature and entertainment. By contrast, risk factors for motor vehicle accidents include excessive speed, fatigue, poor eyesight and ambient conditions limiting visibility, travelling in darkness and bad weather, mechanically unsound vehicles, and defects in road design and maintenance.

Since we’re on the subject of motor vehicle accidents, let’s all remember to be especially safe on the roads over the Memorial Day Weekend. Next week, with the holiday behind us, there will be plenty of time to remember how full of beans anti-gun activists can be.

NRA-ILA’s John Frazier Fisks Car Deaths Vs. Gun Deaths Report

John Frazer, NRA-ILA Director of Research & Information, spoke with Cam Edwards yesterday about the report from the Violence Policy Center that purported that “gun deaths” outnumbered those from motor vehicle in some ten states. He notes that accidental deaths are at a low which was not reported.

As to the non-critical reports in many media outlets around the country, he suggests pointing out the fallacies in the report in letters to the editor or comments on the site.

Expect A Coordinated Campaign

The Violence Policy Center report that compared “gun deaths” with deaths by motor vehicle is, as I pointed out yesterday, misleading. However, that hasn’t stopped their friends in the media and the gun control community along with gullible local media from picking up the story.

A quick Google search shows a slew of stories on the report especially from the ten states where so-called gun deaths exceed deaths by motor vehicles. Most of the local media reporting about it do not have the time nor the smarts to question it. They just report it as the gospel truth because it is coming from an organization that is supposedly dedicated to studying violence.

Then you have stories like the one by Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press. Mr. Dickerson is the Editorial Page Editor. While he should know better I don’t think he wants to delve into the numbers. He’d rather use it to push his agenda.

But don’t expect the from-my-cold-dead-hands crowd to embrace the center’s conclusion that the disparity has everything to do with federal regulation — extensive and wildly successful in the case of motor vehicles, and virtually non-existent in the case of firearms.

Like I said, expect a coordinated campaign of puffball stories along with tut-tutting editorials and earnest letters to the editors about how we have to do something.

There Is Research And Then There Is Junk Research

The Violence Policy Center released a report today that analyzed and compared firearm and motor vehicle related deaths for the year 2009 on a state-by-state basis. They found that in ten states firearm related deaths outnumbered  deaths caused by motor vehicles. These states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Americans are reaping the benefits of smart safety regulation of motor vehicles. The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third own firearms. It is also important to consider that motor vehicles–unlike guns–are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy. It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product.”

As a result of their study, the Violence Policy Center has proposed a number of regulations, bans, restrictions, and enforcement actions.

Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as “junk guns” and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.

America is reaping the benefits of decades of successful injury prevention strategies on its highways, but continues to pay an unacceptable, yet equally preventable, price in lives lost every year to gun violence.

There is only one little problem with their study and recommendations. They have aggregated all deaths from the use of a firearm – homicides, legal interventions (police shootings), suicides, and accidents – into what they call gun violence. In each of the ten states listed, suicides comprise the vast majority of firearm-related deaths. Homicides and legal interventions comprise only a fraction of the firearms-related deaths. This ranges from a low of 14% in Utah to a high of 46% in Michigan.

If you look at their recommendations, they do nothing to reduce suicide. Does it really matter to a person who is intent on committing suicide that they can’t use “junk” guns (sic) or a “assault  weapon” (sic) or that there are restrictions on concealed carry? We all know the answer is an unequivocal no.

Suicide is a sad thing. It is painful for those left behind who are left wondering why. It is hard on the law enforcement, EMT, and medical personnel who have to deal with the aftermath. And it is extremely sad that someone has given up all hope of living and decided to take their own life.

If the Violence Policy Center really wanted to propose something useful, they would push for more suicide hotlines. They would advocate for putting mental health treatment on par with other healthcare and not have it treated as a second class illness. They would conduct research into the root causes of suicide.

If VPC really wanted to look at the numbers, it would find that there were more suicides – 36,909 – than deaths from motor vehicles and only about half of those were committed with a firearm. Moreover, deaths from suffocation (hanging) and poisoning outnumbered homicides by almost 4,000 deaths.

VPC doesn’t really want to propose useful solutions nor do they really want to look at the numbers. They do junk research to promote their gun prohibitionist agenda and to continue getting money from the deep pockets of organizations like the Joyce Foundation. It is actually rather pathetic.

UPDATE: Sebastian has more on just how dependent VPC has become on that grant money. Support from donations now comprise less than 20% of their total revenues and you can guess where they get the rest of the money. Moreover, 55% of their budget goes to support the salaries of just Josh Sugarmann and Kristen Rand.