NRA Researcher Makes Dubious Comparison To Downplay U.S. Firearm Related Death Rate


During a May 23 appearance on NRA News' Cam & Company, John Frazer, the research director for the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, attacked a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study while failing to acknowledge that the main premise of the study is true: gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in 10 states.

[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]

Using the most recently available data, VPC also demonstrated that nationwide motor vehicle deaths have declined over the last decade while gun related deaths ticked up during this period. VPC attributes this difference to successful regulation of motor vehicles and a lack of such regulation with regard to guns.

[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]

In response to the study, Frazer was forced to make the contrived argument that only fatal accidents involving firearms should be compared to accidental motor vehicle deaths. At no point during the interview did he acknowledge that in a number of states the total number of deaths as a result of firearm use exceeded deaths resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle or that the gap between the firearm and motor vehicle death rate is narrowing.

FRAZER: What [VPC] are talking about is a pure apples and oranges comparison. They are comparing total numbers across the board, which is a completely invalid comparison because obviously most vehicle deaths are accidents. So if they really want an aggregate comparison they should compare motor vehicle accidents to firearmsaccidents, and firearms accidents are at their lowest point in recorded history.

But an aggregate comparison is exactly what VPC did.

All causes of gun deaths were aggregated and compared to an aggregation of motor vehicle related deaths. This was done to make the point that a decrease in motor vehicle fatalities was correlated with increased governmental health and safety regulation, while no such drop occurred for firearms which are not regulated by the government for safety purposes. Frazer, on the other hand, is guilty of cherry picking amongst fatality data to try to downplay the human cost of gun violence. The fact remains that the rate of firearm death in the United States is eight times higher than our nation's economic counterparts.

Kristen Rand, legislative director at Violence Policy Center, also took umbrage with Frazer's characterization of the study, telling Media Matters:

The NRA's focus on gun "accidents" is a red herring since many motor vehicle crashes involve that same state of mind or behavior by a driver that results in a much broader category of gun death, e.g. intoxication, reckless driving, drunk driving. The NRA ignores the whole category of vehicular homicide and the fact that motor vehicle deaths include suicide which some studies suggest is significantly underreported. But the big picture is that we have been successful in reducing motor vehicle deaths by implementing myriad prevention strategies that take into account the injury-generating aspects of motor vehicles themselves plus the highways they are used on combined with strategies to prevent access to motor vehicles by certain categories of people, e.g. children, individuals with drunk driving convictions. In the 1950s the auto industry tried to place the blame solely on drivers. The gun debate is stuck in that time warp by putting all the blame on gun users.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Guns
Guns, National Rifle Association
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