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How often do we have mass shootings in America?

Posted on February 23rd, 2016 in Gun Control by Robert Miller
Do we have a problem in America

Do we have a problem in America?

On December 2, 2015, the NYT ran a story about how often we have mass shootings in America.  Last year the worst killing spree was in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were killed and at least 17 were wounded. The FBI is now treating this case as an act of terrorism; it appears to be the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. As the Times points out it is virtually impossible to know whether mass shootings are trending upward or not because very little data is available. The FBI uses as its definition of a mass shooting, whether  a shooting incident in which of 4 or more people are dead or injured, not including the shooter. So guess what? Nearly every day we have one or more mass shootings. Databases that keep track of this gun violence can be found at shootingtracker.com and gunviolencearchive.org. So far this year (2016) we have had 30 mass shootings; in 2014 we had 281 mass shootings; in 2015 we had 330 mass shootings. I see at least a trend emerging.

Americans are armed to the teeth

Americans are armed to the teeth

Last year the number of people dying from gunshot violence was 13,381 and the number injured was 26,971. The number of children ages 0-11 who died from gun violence was 693; the number of teens age 12-17 who died from gun violence was 2,690.

The reason ISIS doesn’t plan on shooting Americans in America is because we do  such a good job of it ourselves. Why should they come over and risk their lives when we do a much better job of murdering our own citizens.


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The CDC and the gun control lobby

Posted on December 26th, 2015 in Gun Control by Robert Miller
AR 15 Rifle

AR 15 Rifle

In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine, published research done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), on the hazards of gun ownership. The article was entitled “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home.”

In the Introduction to that research, the authors pointed out that

  1. Homicide claims the lives of approximately 24,000 Americans each year, making it the 11th leading cause of death among all age groups, the 2nd leading cause of death among all people 15 to 24 years old, and the leading cause of death among male African Americans 15 to 34 years old1. Homicide rates declined in the United States during the early 1980s but rebounded thereafter2. One category of homicide that is particularly threatening to our sense of safety is homicide in the home.
  2. Unfortunately, the influence of individual and household characteristics on the risk of homicide in the home is poorly understood. Illicit-drug use, alcoholism, and domestic violence are widely believed to increase the risk of homicide, but the relative importance of these factors is unknown. Frequently cited options to improve home security include the installation of electronic security systems, burglar bars, and reinforced security doors. The effectiveness of these protective measures is unclear, however.
  3. Many people also keep firearms (particularly handguns) in the home for personal protection. One recent survey determined that handgun owners are twice as likely as owners of long guns to report “protection from crime” as their single most important reason for keeping a gun in the home3. It is possible, however, that the risks of keeping a firearm in the home may outweigh the potential benefits4.
  4. To clarify these issues, we conducted a population-based case-control study to determine the strength of the association between a variety of potential risk factors and the incidence of homicide in the home.

You can appreciate that the research effort carried out by the CDC was done carefully and without prejudice. The full report can be viewed here. The essence of this report was as follows: There were 1860 homicides in the three counties during the study period [Counties examined included, Shelby County, Tennessee; King County, Washington; and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, are the most populous counties in their respective states. The population of King County is predominantly white and enjoys a relatively high standard of living. In contrast, 44 percent of the population of Shelby County and 25 percent of the population of Cuyahoga County are African American. Fifteen percent of the households in Shelby County and 11 percent in Cuyahoga County live below the poverty level, as compared with 5 percent in King County5-7]. Twenty three .9 percent were committed in the home of the victim and it was these cases that the study emphasized.

In the discussion the report begins with:

  1. Although firearms are often kept in homes for personal protection, this study shows that the practice is counterproductive. Our data indicate that keeping a gun in the home is independently associated with an increase in the risk of homicide in the home. The use of illicit drugs and a history of physical fights in the home are also important risk factors. Efforts to increase home security have largely focused on preventing unwanted entry, but the greatest threat to the lives of household members appears to come from within.
  2. We restricted our study to homicides that occurred in the home of the victim, because these events can be most plausibly linked to specific individual and household characteristics. If, for example, the ready availability of a gun increases the risk of homicide, this effect should be most noticeable in the immediate environment where the gun is kept. Although our case definition excluded the rare instances in which a nonresident intruder was killed by a homeowner, our methodology was capable of demonstrating significant protective effects of gun ownership as readily as any evidence of increased risk.

In essence the study pointed out that rather than confer protection, the presence of guns in the home posed a significant risk factor the homeowner who ran the risk of being killed by a relative or at least someone that the homeowner knew. The purpose of this blog is not to summarize to any great detail the level of analysis carried out in the study, but to characterize what happened after this study appeared.

Congressional Reaction to the CDC Study

From the American Psychological Association website:

The 1993 NEJM article received considerable media attention, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded by campaigning for the elimination of the center that had funded the study, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention. The center itself survived, but Congress included language in the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill (PDF, 2.4MB) for Fiscal Year 1997 that “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.”  Referred to as the Dickey amendment after its author, former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), this language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence. However, Congress also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget — the amount the CDC had invested in firearm injury research the previous year — and earmarked the funds for prevention of traumatic brain injury. Dr. Kellerman [author] stated in a December 2012 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up.”

At the time APA advocated in support of firearm-related injury research, and APA released the following statement when the Dickey amendment was adopted:

  • Research on the prevention of firearm-related injury, supported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and coordinated within CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), has come under attack from Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee initially rejected Rep. Dickey’s attempt to eliminate the $2.6 million dedicated to CDC firearm-injury research. However, Mr. Dickey prevailed in the full Appropriations Committee. The Dickey amendment would transfer the $2.6 million to regional health education centers. This research has attracted a powerful and wealthy opponent — the NRA. The NRA has taken the position that firearm-related injury research at the CDC amounts to ‘antigun’ political advocacy and has also attacked the quality of this research. However, research proposals submitted to CDC are subject to a peer review process that follows standard practices. APA’s Public Policy Office (PPO) has distributed accurate information to Congress on the nature of CDC-supported firearm-injury research and is advocating against the Dickey amendment.

Right after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first grade students were  killed, along with six adults, President Obama signed an executive order that gave the CDC permission to resume research on gun issues related to gun ownership. But Congress refused to provide resources for funding this kind of research. In the meantime the Huffington Post has an article in which Jay Dickey, the author of the bill banning the CDC from doing research; he regrets his decision and states “I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, told the Huffington Post in an interview. “I have regrets.” Meantime the NRA has no regrets and each time there is a new shooting weapons sales go up, further endangering those that bought them.

So there we have it, the NRA prevents us from even doing research on weapons which endanger our lives. What other country would tolerate this?




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