More Medical Propaganda Disguised as a “Study” about Firearms and Risk

Doctors and Guns
Doctors and Guns

U.S.A.-( The American Journal of Medicine recently published a paper about deaths associated with firearms. The paper misleads in the first sentence of the abstract. The lie is in the unstated, false assumption. It is a subtle but important shift in causation.

The first sentence in the abstract is:

News media and policy makers frequently discuss deaths from firearms, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle accidents.

The shift in causation is done when the author inserts the word from before firearms and associates firearms with drug overdoses and motor vehicle accidents. The correct word would be with.

The correct usage would differ for each statistic. A corrected sentence would read thus:

News media and policymakers frequently discuss deaths committed with firearms, from drug overdoses, and from motor vehicle accidents.

Firearms are objects. Drug overdoses and motor vehicle accidents are actions. The author repeats the error by listing firearms as a “cause of death”.

The Center for Disease Control  (CDC) does not list “Firearms” as a cause of death. They list homicide, suicide, and unintentional Injury.

Inserting the word “from” defines firearms as the cause. It comes with the assumption: if there were no firearms, none of the deaths listed would have occurred.

That is a false assumption.

The rate of total suicides is little affected by a reduction of firearms; similarly, a reduction of firearms has little, if any, effect on homicides.

There may be an effect on fatal accidents. The numbers are so small, it is difficult to know if reducing the number of firearms would reduce the total rate of accidental deaths. It might, or it might not.

The rate of accidental deaths with firearms has been reduced a remarkable 94% in the last 85 years, which is why the current number is so small. We do not have a good number for how many privately owned firearms there were 85 years ago. The first reasonable estimate is from 1945. 91 of the 94% reduction in the rate of fatal firearm accidents has occurred since 1945.

The reduction has occurred while the per capita number of firearms has risen from .35 per capita in 1945 to 1.37 per capita in 2019. In 75 years, the number of firearms per capita in the United States has increased 390%.  There is little correlation with the number of guns and the number of fatal gun accidents.

By the end of 2020, there will be four times as many privately owned guns per capita in the United States as there was in 1945. The homicide rate is lower today than it was in 1945.

In 1945 the homicide rate was 5.7 per 100,000. In 1933 it was 9.7. In 1957, it was 4.0. In  1974, it was  9.8. In  1980, it was 10.2. In 1984, it was 7.9. In 1993, it was 9.8. By 2013, it was back down to 4.5.

The homicide rate has gone through wild swings, as the per capita number of firearms has steadily increased.

There is no correlation between the number of guns and the homicide rate.

An absolutist might claim if there were no guns, there would be no gun accidents. No rational person believes the number of firearms in society can be reduced to zero. Even with the draconian gun controls put in place in Australia in 1997, the number of private guns is now more than it was before the controls were put in place. To reduce guns to zero, you have to eliminate the potential of making them. Making guns at home is getting easier every year.

There were 444 million private firearms in the United States at the end of 2019. The population was 328.2 million.

In the results section of the abstract, the error is repeated. This is not a surprise. The error is the heart of the paper. Without the error, the reason for the article evaporates. From the results:

The lifetime risk of death from firearms, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle accidents was 0.93% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.92%-0.94%), 1.52% (95% CI, 1.51%-1.53%), and 0.92% (95% CI, 0.91%-0.93%), respectively.

To check the numbers in the paper, I performed much simpler mathematics.

I took the number of deaths associated with firearms from the CDC in 2018 (39,740) x the life expectancy from the closest year, 2017 (78.54). That yielded the deaths over the time span of the average life expectancy, or 3,119,590. As a percentage of the population, that is .95%, very close to what the study says. But the study only counted people below the age of 85. When you correct for that (in 2016, the percent  85 or over was 1.9%), 1.019 x .93 is .95%, so close as to be no difference.

This simple check shows the mathematics of the study are credible.

It is the conclusions of the study which are suspect. From the abstract:

CONCLUSIONS:The lifetime risk of death from firearms, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle accidents is substantial and varies greatly across demographic subgroups and states

The false assumption about causality is in the conclusion, as expected. There are two component messages which are implied.

One, the reduction of firearms in society reduces the risk of death. That is false.

Two, pushing the narrative that firearms cause death is desirable, for reasons of policy.

The two assumptions make the paper into a political statement, instead of a scientific one.

These assumptions only make sense if the author assumes firearms have no positive uses or contributions to society.  A hundred million Americans show they believe firearms have positive uses. They do so by owning firearms instead of selling them, giving them away, or destroying them.

In 2020, millions of Americans are buying firearms. It appears a new record will be set, with over 21 million firearms sold in 2020.

It is the heart of Progressive doctrine that the elite know better than the population, what is best for members of the public.  Restricting guns from those who value them, is a core progressive belief.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Dubi Loo

Figures don’t lie, liars figure

uncle dudley

Did I miss the figures on how many people are killed by doctors?


Would your argument/claim throughout your essay change if the first sentence read: “News media and policy makers frequently discuss deaths from shootings, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle accidents”? Just asking, not criticizing. I’m sympathetic to the point being made.