Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There Is Research And Then There Is Junk Research

The Violence Policy Center released a report today that analyzed and compared firearm and motor vehicle related deaths for the year 2009 on a state-by-state basis. They found that in ten states firearm related deaths outnumbered  deaths caused by motor vehicles. These states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Americans are reaping the benefits of smart safety regulation of motor vehicles. The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third own firearms. It is also important to consider that motor vehicles--unlike guns--are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy. It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product.”
As a result of their study, the Violence Policy Center has proposed a number of regulations, bans, restrictions, and enforcement actions.
Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as “junk guns” and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.

America is reaping the benefits of decades of successful injury prevention strategies on its highways, but continues to pay an unacceptable, yet equally preventable, price in lives lost every year to gun violence.
There is only one little problem with their study and recommendations. They have aggregated all deaths from the use of a firearm - homicides, legal interventions (police shootings), suicides, and accidents - into what they call gun violence. In each of the ten states listed, suicides comprise the vast majority of firearm-related deaths. Homicides and legal interventions comprise only a fraction of the firearms-related deaths. This ranges from a low of 14% in Utah to a high of 46% in Michigan.

If you look at their recommendations, they do nothing to reduce suicide. Does it really matter to a person who is intent on committing suicide that they can't use "junk" guns (sic) or a "assault  weapon" (sic) or that there are restrictions on concealed carry? We all know the answer is an unequivocal no.

Suicide is a sad thing. It is painful for those left behind who are left wondering why. It is hard on the law enforcement, EMT, and medical personnel who have to deal with the aftermath. And it is extremely sad that someone has given up all hope of living and decided to take their own life.

If the Violence Policy Center really wanted to propose something useful, they would push for more suicide hotlines. They would advocate for putting mental health treatment on par with other healthcare and not have it treated as a second class illness. They would conduct research into the root causes of suicide.

If VPC really wanted to look at the numbers, it would find that there were more suicides - 36,909 - than deaths from motor vehicles and only about half of those were committed with a firearm. Moreover, deaths from suffocation (hanging) and poisoning outnumbered homicides by almost 4,000 deaths.

VPC doesn't really want to propose useful solutions nor do they really want to look at the numbers. They do junk research to promote their gun prohibitionist agenda and to continue getting money from the deep pockets of organizations like the Joyce Foundation. It is actually rather pathetic.

UPDATE: Sebastian has more on just how dependent VPC has become on that grant money. Support from donations now comprise less than 20% of their total revenues and you can guess where they get the rest of the money. Moreover, 55% of their budget goes to support the salaries of just Josh Sugarmann and Kristen Rand.


  1. The United States has already reduced fatal gun accidents by an incredible 95 percent, on a per capita basis, since 1932.

    We have done an astonishingly good job.

  2. Facts:

    The US suicide rate was 11.8 per 100000 for 2008.
    The fraction of US suicides by firearm was approximately 57%.
    The French rate of suicide was 16.8 per 100000 for 2008 - ownership of firearms is highly controlled by the government in France.
    The Japanese rate of suicide was 23.8 per 100000 for 2011 - Japan allows [effectively] no private ownership of firearms.

    Here is some related data for prior years...

    There are many ways to take your own life and it is disingenuous to suggest that Americans wouldn't figure out how to substitute another method if they really wanted to commit suicide. Then of course, we are talking about the VPC; truth is not a major concern for them. It's all about civilian disarmament. That's what they do. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster, but always with the same end. They want a government monopoly on firearms possession. We mere civilians cannot be trusted with them apparently, or we'll kill ourselves with them.

  3. Strangely, drunk driving fatalities in California correspond to restrictive gun laws. I don't understand why VPC failed to report this.

  4. Isn't all the federal regulation on cars designed to make them safer for the end user rather than control who gets access to types of cars?

    That's a hell of an apples and oranges comparison the antigunners are making here.