Have you heard the latest breaking news?
“A study pokes holes in the idea that experienced firearm users are less likely to injure themselves.”
“To see gun injury drop, hold an NRA Meeting.”
“Gun injuries fall during NRA conventions.”
A Harvard doctor and a Columbia grad student published a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine in March that found gun injuries drop 20 percent during the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits.
If guns were perfectly safe in the hands of trained NRA members, Anupam Jena and Andrew Olenski reasoned, they should have found no differences between gun injury rates on convention days versus other days. Yet injury rates were, on average, 20 percent lower on meeting days. “We believe this is due to brief reductions in gun use during the dates of these meetings,” Jena says.
In other words, the researchers are using NRA’s focus on safety and training as part of a natural experiment. They believe that Annual Meetings attendees—all of them NRA members committed to safety, training and responsible firearms ownership—abstaining from using firearms reduces the number of firearm-related injuries.
Start with their premise: that firearm injury would decline during a period of firearm abstinence—the Annual Meetings. The researchers obviously have not attended an Annual Meetings or read much about the event; if they had, they would know that there is no prohibition on carrying firearms at the Annual Meetings. NRA actively schedules the Annual Meetings in cities and venues that respect the right to keep and bear arms.
So, we’ve established that the people at Annual Meetings may be armed. What about the magnitude of the crowd size? About 80,000 people attend in a given year. There are about 100 million or so gun owners in the country, so the researchers are claiming that less than one-tenth of one percent of firearm owners are responsible for a 20 percent drop in the firearm related injury rate nationwide. Whatever nonsense they conducted with the data and their methods, this finding flies in the face of common sense and logic. It would be laughable if it were not so completely absurd.
The authors suggest that there is a trickle-down effect of sorts. They believe that going to a shooting range, hunting, plinking or carrying a firearm for self-defense doesn’t occur during the Annual Meetings. Again, this is absurd.
But even beyond common sense, the methodology used by these researchers is very unusual. Instead of publicly available injury data from reliable government sources, they use a proprietary database of emergency department visits and hospitalizations among privately insured patients. Guess what? This means not everyone in the country. Not even close.
Oh, and one last point. Which “injuries” counted for these researchers? You’d think that it applied exclusively to true firearm-related accidents, but you’d be wrong. In addition to accidents, they included legal intervention and terrorism. If legal intervention sounds like self-defense to you, it does to us too, as that phrase is commonly used in this way. It is hard to tell because the authors are not forthcoming about why they included these injury codes in the analysis, so we can only guess. And why injuries from terrorism were included, again, is anyone’s guess.