A Fog Of Data

posted on March 27, 2019

A new taxpayer-funded study manipulates data to confuse firearmownership with mortality rates

recent “study” published in the journal Pediatrics is yet another classic case of liberal, anti-gun academia picking and choosing data to use in a campaign to influence policymakers and convince doctors to scare parents. Titled “Family Firearm Ownership and Firearm-Related Mortality Among Young Children: 1976-2016,” it is shameless stuff—but it’s all too common. And the “researchers” on a mission to save people from themselves know that they will not be called out for their bias by the national media, which condone it with a lazy wink and smile.

It’s a never-ending cycle of garbage, dropped from academic ivory towers, that threatens our God-given freedom. In this instance, we—American taxpayers—paid for it courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.

Fair-minded folks might wonder, why don’t we use taxpayer dollars to celebrate the fact that firearm-related accidental deaths in America are at all-time lows (including among children), while the number of guns in private hands is at an all-time high? We are talking numbers here, not rate.

The population has grown by more than 200 million since firearm accident data first began to be collected. The number of guns in the hands of private citizens has grown by at least 350 million. The stunningly safe and responsible behavior of America’s law-abiding gun owners should be the pride of our country. Oh yeah, our chances of being a violent crime victim, including being murdered, are at historic lows, too. The reason for the lack of celebration? It simply doesn’t fit the narrative generated by elitist billionaires, anti-gun groups and gun-ban promoting politicians.

In this case, the authors of the study don’t even attempt to hide their bias. They repeatedly claim that guns are nothing but a danger to children. They say guns at home should be kept unloaded and locked, with ammunition kept in a locked, separate location. In other words, guns should never be available in any way, shape or form for defense of self and family. Conveniently ignored are the parents who use guns to defend their children and themselves.

These admitted anti-gunners—again, paid by you and me—set out to show that an increase in handgun ownership among white gun-owning families with young children (considered to be ages 0-5 for their purposes) contributes to increased firearm-related mortality among this age group. They contend this is because handguns are more likely than long guns to be kept loaded and accessible for self-defense in the home. They also say young children are more capable of firing a handgun. Makes sense, right?

Their central claim is that general gun ownership by white families with young children dropped from 50 percent in 1976 to 45 percent in 2016, but that the handgun ownership rate among these families increased from 25 percent to 32 percent. Their numbers also show that the gun ownership rate for African-American families fell precipitously, from 38 percent to 6 percent, but more on that later.

All of this data comes from the supposed willingness of Americans to tell a complete stranger on the telephone the details of their firearm ownership practices. It’s called the General Social Survey (GSS). Is it any wonder that answers like, “Yep, we own a bunch of guns here,” have decreased over time, as actual federal gun bans have been enacted and talk of confiscation schemes have become routine, including on the front page of The New York Times and from the man formerly occupying the White House?

I know hundreds of gun owners, and it’s hard to imagine a single one who wouldn’t “pass” on this question in one way or another. There is a reason why most informed gun owners fear firearm registration. History, in this country and elsewhere around the world, proves it leads to confiscation and worse. Besides, how can anyone be sure the caller isn’t really a crafty burglar with the patience to wait until you leave for work to steal your guns?

Self-reported data, even in much less sensitive circumstances, has always been a problem for research accuracy, and the authors know that. But they don’t even mention it in their writing. They don’t want to acknowledge that their entire hypothesis comes crashing down if the gun ownership numbers are wrong—which they almost certainly are. The approximately 250 million firearms that have been added to the existing supply in the United States since 1976 aren’t just vanishing into thin air or being thrown into dumpsters, yet this is what their numbers would suggest.

In fact, the authors have a solution in search of a problem. They do admit that the “firearm-related child mortality rate has declined for decades” but that the decline has stagnated in recent years, due to supposed startling increases among the youngest age group (ages 0-4). They complain about this rate “almost doubling from 2006 to 2016.” This is where the cherry-picking gets bad, and a little simple research shows the extent of the authors’ deception.

Warning: It’s very, very bad. Looking back at 20 years of data, these anti-gun researchers chose to compare the fourth lowest number (63) to the absolute highest by a long shot (113). Their numbers make the reader believe that such fatalities increased by 79 percent.

However, if they had simply thrown darts at a list of years and those darts hit a single year on either side of the years they deliberately selected, the numbers would tell a much different story.

Why would the fatality rate for blacks be headed higher while handgun ownership numbers have plummeted? Wouldn’t this bring the entire hypothesis regarding the fatality rates for white children over this span into question?In 2007 (suspiciously, the year after the first study year), there were 85 fatalities. In 2015 (again, suspiciously the year before the last study year), there were 87. This is a whopping increase of two. By the way, the population of this age group is 20 million, and the mortality rate in 1976 was significantly higher than it is today. This sort of academic fraud should make us all ill. By cherry-picking the specific years they used to compare deaths, they exaggerated the increase in the number of child deaths by a not-so-modest 2,400 percent!

Of course, the media lapped it up without hesitation. After all, it’s what they believe they’ve known all along. United Press International wrote, “Firearms deaths among children between ages 1 and 4 have doubled as family handgun ownership has risen in the United States, according to a study ...”

Just like with other thoroughly discredited anti-gun studies, this one will live on forever in policymaking bodies across America. Senators and representatives will use it to “prove” that all guns must be made perfectly inaccessible in the home for the purposes of self-defense—in order to “save the children.” They’ll say saving just one life will be worth passing laws that make the world a much safer place for home invaders, rapists and murderers. Oh, the harm these so-called academics often do to us all!

Looking at the African-American population, anyone who believes the authors’ findings that increased rates of handgun ownership increase fatality rates among the extremely young would need only look at the comparable numbers for African-American children aged 0-4. While the data varies substantially from year-to-year, so it’s a little too “noisy” to make broad assumptions, there is a clear spike in the last few years.

But according to the authors’ GSS polling data, gun ownership among black families has fallen from 38 percent in 1976 to just 6 percent in 2016, with handgun ownership going from 15 percent to 6 percent. So why would the fatality rate for blacks be headed higher while handgun ownership numbers have plummeted? Wouldn’t this bring the entire hypothesis regarding the fatality rates for white children over this span into question?

The authors apparently didn’t care to trouble themselves with trying to find any of these answers. They had a story they liked, and they were sticking to it—no matter the evidence. I’m pretty sure I learned in junior high school that this is not how scientific research was supposed to work. Yet nothing was going to get in the way of their anti-gun crusade.

Other problems with this so-called study are too numerous to detail in an article this brief. The authors included variables that do not make sense, and excluded many more that any impartial researcher would have viewed as essential. For instance, they didn’t consider the source of the firearm, the relationship of the child to the killer or the location of the death. Just consider: If the death was caused by a random bullet fired by a gang member a half-mile from the child’s home, do the family’s firearm ownership practices really have any bearing? The authors would work to find a wildly creative way to answer “yes,” but the rest of us know they do not.

If trouble comes, these inappropriately influenced families will be at the mercy of an all-too-often-delayed 911 call. They will be reliant on the government for their protection—and that’s what the activists in academia and the press really want.

Darren LaSorte lobbied with NRA-ILA for nearly 14 years and now lives and works in Dallas. His passions are shooting, hunting and self-defense training.


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