Sunday, March 11, 2018

NRA Meetings Reduce Injuries with Guns: An Obvious Reason

A study written about in Scientific American found that during NRA conventions, injuries with guns drop.

I read the headline and thought, that makes perfect sense. With the NRA making national headlines, more people are thinking about the safe handling of firearms, people have become sensitized about guns and accidents, even briefly, and they are making less mistakes.

In addition, people who are considering crimes become sensitized to the danger of armed victims, and likely postpone or change their criminal behavior, if only momentarily.  Most gun injuries are intentional and related to criminal behavior. According to the study, 20% of all injuries involving guns are accidental.

The effect should be concentrated in areas where the meeting is held, because those areas receive the most publicity. In terms of crime, criminals would know there were likely to be more armed victims in town during an NRA annual meeting.

There are good reasons to believe highly publicized events change public behavior, at least for short periods.

The authors of the study used peculiar, strained, reasoning.  They made several assumptions.

First - If NRA members were in the NRA meeting, they were not handling guns. But NRA allows members to carry defensive firearms at the annual meetings.

Second - if the NRA members have very low rates of gun accidents, there would be no change in the number of gun injuries. NRA members who attend the annual meeting are only .1% of gun owners.

The authors speculated that less people would be going target shooting or hunting on days of the NRA meeting. From
If guns were perfectly safe in the hands of trained NRA members, Jena and 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. “The main implication is that guns carry inherent risk even among individuals who we might consider to be skilled and experienced in the use of firearms.” Importantly, they did not find any corresponding drop in firearm crime rates on convention days, which suggests NRA meeting attendees are not responsible for a large proportion of U.S. gun crimes—just gun injuries, many of which may be accidental. In 2015 the U.S. logged nearly 85,000 firearm injuries, of which 17,000 were unintentional.

NRA members, who attend the NRA meeting, even a record levels of 80,000, are about .1% of gun owners.  Thus if attending the meeting reduced firearms use, it would be only a trivial amount of firearms owners. The 20% drop in injury rates point to a much larger phenomena, which would be consistent with a sensitization of the population to the importance of gun safety from the media attention given to the NRA annual meeting.

The authors postulate that a lowering of gun usage brought about the reduction in gun injuries. It is more likely the sensitization of people to gun safety brought about better gun handling and lower levels of crime because of the perceptions of possible armed victims.

I have heard anecdotal accounts of crime dropping in the cities where NRA annual meetings are held. A study of crime in NRA cities during their annual meeting would be interesting.  The authors noted an insignificant decrease in firearms crime nationally. The numbers might have been significant locally.

Because the authors used the pool of insured people for their study, it is unclear if the sample is representative of the national population.

The authors did not indicate how much of the reduction of injuries was from unintentional injuries or from intentional injuries, such as those from crime.

Everything in life has risk attached to it. Getting out of bed is risky. Staying in bed is risky.  Eating is risky. Not eating is risky. Exercising is risky. Not exercising is risky. The only time risk has ended, is when you are dead.

Everything that has utility carries a risk. If you separate out only the risk, and ignore the utility, nothing is safe. If you only look at injuries and deaths that occur in hospitals, we would outlaw hospitals.

This is the common flaw in medical studies that consider guns. They look only at risk, and not at utility.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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