DEATH BY GUN: BUT IT'S NOT WHAT YOU MAY BE THINKING
The use of illicit drugs and a history of physical fights in the home are important risk factors for homicide in the home. Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.
During the study period, 1860 homicides occurred in the three counties, 444 of them (23.9 percent) in the home of the victim. After excluding 24 cases for various reasons, we interviewed proxy respondents for 93 percent of the victims. Controls were identified for 99 percent of these, yielding 388 matched pairs. As compared with the controls, the victims more often lived alone or rented their residence. Also, case households more commonly contained an illicit-drug user, a person with prior arrests, or someone who had been hit or hurt in a fight in the home. After controlling for these characteristics, we found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide (adjusted odds ratio, 2.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.6 to 4.4). Virtually all of this risk involved homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.
"Conclusions" and "Results" from a 1993 study by Arthur Kellerman and published in the New England Journal of Medicine
This is what the NRA doesn’t want you to see. This is why NRA strong-armed Congress into passing the Dickey amendment in 1996 banning the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting research into gun violence. This is why the ban is still in place today, 22 years later. Now, back then, in 1996, the NRA was promoting guns as a means of self-protection; i.e. defending yourself, your family and loved ones from that midnight intruder breaking into your home or the robber on the street as you walked home from a midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at your local theater.
Sometime after the passage of the Dickey Amendment in 1996, the NRA changed tactics and promoted unlimited gun ownership based on Constitutional Freedoms, i.e. upholding the dicta of the Second Amendment but neglecting that opening phrase… “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …” that precedes “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" as if this is throwaway phrase that was somehow a Constitutional Convention typographical error. (I guess it would have been called a slip-of-the-ink-quill-pen error back in 1787.)
And you can readily see why. It’s anyone’s guess what an additional two decades of CDC research into gun violence and death might have resulted in if such research had been undertaken. But turn, for a moment, to automobile deaths about which a great deal of both public and private research has been undertaken. In 1993, there were 40,150 deaths, a rate of 15.575 per 100,000 people. The population of the United States was 258,000,000. In 2013 there were 32,700 auto related deaths, a decline of some eight percent. During that period the population of the U.S. had climbed to 313,000,000 an increase of 20 percent. Pretty remarkable drop in automobile deaths, right?
Interestingly, between 1993 and 2013 vehicle miles travelled increased from 2.3 billion to 2.9 billion while fatalities per million miles travelled decreased from 1.75 in 1993 to 1.1 in 2013. So in 20 years there has been a marked decline in auto related fatalities despite the fact that the population has increased and vehicle miles travelled have increased. It doesn’t really take any sort of genius intellect to understand why there has been such a significant decline in auto deaths: 1n 1983 the wearing of seat belts was made mandatory for front seat passengers; in 1989 seat belt usage was made mandatory for children age 14 and under; the late 1980’s and early 1990’s saw the introduction of Antilock Braking Systems which are standard today; headrests were introduced; front end crumple zones; collapsible steering columns; airbags; traction control – there are a host of innovations that have made driving safer and reduced automobile fatalities over the years. And none of these innovations dropped from the sky. They were all a result of research and development into making cars safer. It’s as simple as this.
Now, here are the innovations to reduce gun deaths as a result of two decades of R&D into gun safety:
0. That’s right. None. Undo. Nada.
And consider this: CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000, from 1996 to 2013, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the advocacy group founded by Michael Bloomberg. The 1996 for Fiscal Year 1997 stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Referred to as the Dickey amendment after its author, former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), this language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence. However, Congress also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget — the amount the CDC had invested in firearm injury research the previous year — and earmarked the funds for prevention of traumatic brain injury. Dr. Kellerman – author of the “Conclusion” and “Results” noted above - stated in a December 2012 article in the , “Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency's funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up.”
Back in the 1990’s, the American Psychological Association advocated in support of firearm-related injury research, and APA released the following statement when the Dickey amendment was adopted:
Research on the prevention of firearm-related injury, supported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and coordinated within CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), has come under attack from Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The House Labor Appropriations Subcommittee initially rejected Rep. Dickey's attempt to eliminate the $2.6 million dedicated to CDC firearm-injury research. However, Mr. Dickey prevailed in the full Appropriations Committee. The Dickey amendment would transfer the $2.6 million to regional health education centers. This research has attracted a powerful and wealthy opponent — the NRA. The NRA has taken the position that firearm-related injury research at the CDC amounts to 'antigun' political advocacy and has also attacked the quality of this research. However, research proposals submitted to CDC are subject to a peer review process that follows standard practices. APA's Public Policy Office (PPO) has distributed accurate information to Congress on the nature of CDC-supported firearm-injury research and is advocating against the Dickey amendment.
There’s no mystery about why there hasn’t been any research into making guns safer and reducing gun deaths. Because the NRA doesn’t want any. And when the last research was done those folks determined that if there was a gun in your home you were in far more danger of being killed or injured than if you lived in a home that had no gun. How Shocking!
Homicides since 1993 have declined as has the general rate of serious crime in the country. In 1993 there were 23,180 gun murders. In 2012 that total was 12,756 a reduction or nearly 50%. That’s the good news although the reasons for the decline remain largely unknown. Un-researched, let’s say.
But gun suicides far outnumber gun homicides. In 1993 there were 39,595 gun suicides. By 2000 this figure had declined to 28,663 but since then the number has steadily increased to 32,163 by 2011. In 2010 the gun suicide rate was 6.3 per 1000,000 compared to the gun homicide rate of 3.6 per 100,000. More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in a recent issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.
“Suicide by firearm is far more common than homicide,” says Garen J. Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. “Over the past 30 years, firearm suicides have exceeded homicides even when homicide rates were at their highest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, since 2006, the gap between the two has been widening, with firearm homicides decreasing and suicides increasing.”
One would think that this horrific situation would be one that the Centers For Disease Control would be conducting research about, since deaths from all suicides – those by guns and other means (gun suicides being the biggest component) - outnumber those who die in car accidents. And just think how research into automobile safety and the innovations that research spawned over the past two decades has resulted in a marked decline in automobile related deaths. But, of course, you would wrong if you thought that this pretty significant public health issue – death by guns – would spark intense CDC research. Because of the NRA no one in the government is willing to conduct such research. Don’t forget, the CDC is the same Federal Agency – along with the National Institutes of Health - that (belatedly, it’s true) conducted research into finding the cause of HIV-AIDS, alerted the country to the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement, handled the EBOLA crisis, every year researches the strain of flu virus about to attack us, and a whole host of other public health and safety issues.