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CDC Gun Research Backfires on Obama

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  August 27th, 2013 207

(Photo by The Associated Press)

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, President Obama issued a list of Executive Orders. Notably among them, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was given $10 million to research gun violence.

“Year after year, those who oppose even modest gun-safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it,” Obama said on Jan. 16.

As a result, a 1996 Congressional ban on research by the CDC “to advocate or promote gun control” was lifted. Finally, anti-gun proponents—and presumably the Obama Administration—thought gun owners and the NRA would be met with irrefutable scientific evidence to support why guns make Americans less safe.

Mainstream media outlets praised the order to lift the ban and lambasted the NRA and Congress for having put it in place.

It was the “Executive Order the NRA Should Fear the Most,” according to The Atlantic.

The CDC ban on gun research “caused lasting damage,” reported ABC News.

Salon said the ban was part of the NRA’s “war on gun science.”

And CBS News lamented that the NRA “stymied” CDC research.

Most mainstream journalists argued the NRA’s opposition to CDC gun research demonstrated its fear of being contradicted by science; few—if any—cited why the NRA may have had legitimate concerns. The culture of the CDC at the time could hardly be described as lacking bias on firearms.

“We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes,” Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who oversaw CDC gun research, told The Washington Post in 1994. “Now [smoking] is dirty, deadly and banned.”

Does Rosenberg sound like a man who should be trusted to conduct taxpayer-funded studies on guns?

Rosenberg’s statement coincided with a CDC study by Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay, who argued guns in the home are 43 times more likely to be used to kill a family member than an intruder. The study had serious flaws; namely, it skewed the ratio by failing to consider defensive uses of firearms in which the intruder wasn’t killed. It has since been refuted by several studies, including one by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, indicating Americans use guns for self-defense 2.5 million times annually. However, the damage had been done—the “43 times” myth is perhaps gun-control advocates’ most commonly cited argument, and a lot of people still believe it to this day.

So, the NRA and Congress took action. But with the ban lifted, what does the CDC’s first major gun research in 17 years reveal? Not exactly what Obama and anti-gun advocates expected. In fact, you might say Obama’s plan backfired.

Here are some key findings from the CDC report, “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence,” released in June:

1. Armed citizens are less likely to be injured by an attacker:
“Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

2. Defensive uses of guns are common:
“Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year…in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.”

3. Mass shootings and accidental firearm deaths account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths, and both are declining:
“The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths. Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.” The report also notes, “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”

4. “Interventions” (i.e, gun control) such as background checks, so-called assault rifle bans and gun-free zones produce “mixed” results:
“Whether gun restrictions reduce firearm-related violence is an unresolved issue.” The report could not conclude whether “passage of right-to-carry laws decrease or increase violence crime.”

5. Gun buyback/turn-in programs are “ineffective” in reducing crime:
“There is empirical evidence that gun turn in programs are ineffective, as noted in the 2005 NRC study Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. For example, in 2009, an estimated 310 million guns were available to civilians in the United States (Krouse, 2012), but gun buy-back programs typically recover less than 1,000 guns (NRC, 2005). On the local level, buy-backs may increase awareness of firearm violence. However, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, guns recovered in the buy-back were not the same guns as those most often used in homicides and suicides (Kuhn et al., 2002).”

6. Stolen guns and retail/gun show purchases account for very little crime:
“More recent prisoner surveys suggest that stolen guns account for only a small percentage of guns used by convicted criminals. … According to a 1997 survey of inmates, approximately 70 percent of the guns used or possess by criminals at the time of their arrest came from family or friends, drug dealers, street purchases, or the underground market.”

7. The vast majority of gun-related deaths are not homicides, but suicides:
“Between the years 2000-2010 firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearms related violence in the United States.”

Why No One Has Heard This
Given the CDC’s prior track record on guns, you may be surprised by the extent with which the new research refutes some of the anti-gun movement’s deepest convictions.

What are opponents of the Second Amendment doing about the new data? Perhaps predictably, they’re ignoring it. President Obama, Michael Bloomberg and the Brady Campaign remain silent. Most suspicious of all, the various media outlets that so eagerly anticipated the CDC research are looking the other way as well. One must wonder how media coverage of the CDC report may have differed, had the research more closely fit an anti-gun narrative.

Even worse, the few mainstream journalists who did report the CDC’s findings chose to cherry-pick from the data. Most, like NBC News, reported exclusively on the finding that gun suicides are up. Largely lost in that discussion is the fact that the overall rate of suicide—regardless of whether a gun is involved or not—is also up.

Others seized upon the CDC’s finding that, “The U.S. rate of firearm-related homicide is higher than that of any other industrialized country: 19.5 times higher than the rates in other high-income countries.” However, as noted by the Las Vegas Guardian Express, if figures are excluded from such anti-gun bastions as Illinois, California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., “The homicide rate in the United States would be in line with any other country.”

The CDC report is overall a blow to the Obama Administration’s unconstitutional agenda. It largely supports the Second Amendment, and contradicts common anti-gun arguments. Unfortunately, mainstream media failed to get the story they were hoping for, and their silence on the matter is a screaming illustration of their underlying agenda.

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