The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, attacked an academic study on gunshot injuries to children by conspiratorially suggesting that the study was part of a “kids and anti-gun hype” movement to ban firearms. NRA News host Cam Edwards further dismissed teenage victims of gun violence by falsely stating that they are culpable for their injuries because of their supposed involvement in criminal activity.
The NRA is notorious for blocking scientific research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. During the 1990s, the gun rights organization successfully lobbied for legislation that prevented the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in practice, from researching gun violence. While the legislation -- which prohibited CDC funding “to advocate or promote gun control” -- did not technically ban research on firearms, it was widely acknowledged in practice to have a chilling effect on the CDC's research priorities. The Obama administration advocated for $10 million in funding for the CDC to study gun violence in January, noting that “research on gun violence is not advocacy.”
An October 18 interview on NRA News demonstrated how the gun lobby handles scientific studies when they are actually forced to confront them. During that segment, Edwards hosted Dr. Timothy Wheeler, founder and director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), to attack a study in the November edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
DRGO often attacks research conducted by AAP, accusing the organization of being “motivated by deep-seated prejudice against gun owners.” The organization told NBC News that its “mission is to expose the poor medical scholarship -- and the anti-gun bias behind it -- held out as truth by organized medicine and medical journalism.” DRGO is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation, a group that recently caused controversy by announcing plans -- since altered -- to hold a “Guns Save Lives Day” on the one-year anniversary of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
During his appearance, Wheeler, along with Edwards, suggested that the Pediatrics study -- which chronicled nearly 30,000 gun fatalities and 155,000 serious gunshot wounds in children between 2001 and 2010 -- was part of an effort to “hype” child gun injury in order to ban firearms.
According to Wheeler, the study represented what he termed “kids and anti-gun hype” and was “designed to shock readers into mentally associating guns with the death of children,” even though he claims it does not contain any “revelations or any new findings.” Edwards concurred, stating that the study “is not about gun safety, this is about getting rid of guns.”
The study, which does not call for banning guns, but rather concludes that "[p]ublic health, injury prevention, and health policy solutions are needed to reduce gunshot injuries in children," does offer new information about gunshot injuries in children. As the study notes, “There have been few population-based studies of children with gunshot injuries over the past decade. Similarly, gun research integrating the role of 9-1-1 emergency services has been limited. Our study involved both of these important elements.”
Among the study's important findings is, “Although gunshot injuries accounted for only 1% of injured children, they were associated with more than 20% of deaths after injury.”
By examining almost 50,000 injured children who required an emergency medical response, including 505 gunshot wounds, the study determined that “those injured by gunshot had the highest proportion of serious injuries, ... major surgery, ... in-hospital mortality, ... and costs.” Wheeler dismissed this conclusion, stating, “this so-called scientific article says, 'of all the ways children can be injured, gunshot wounds are one of the worst,' that's basically all it says.” He continued by claiming that the article did not intend to “bring out any new scientific knowledge” but only to further “anti-gun hype.”
Edwards and Wheeler also falsely suggested that many teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 were responsible for their own shootings because they believe these victims were involved in criminal activity. In fact, FBI and CDC statistics clearly indicate that the vast majority of individuals who are shot are victims of crime not criminals themselves.
Addressing gunshot wounds for ages 15 to 19, Wheeler said that those injuries represent “a way different demographic than the concept of the innocent child that” the study “like[s] to project here.” Edwards claimed a “healthy percentage” of those teenagers shot were wounded because they themselves were committing a crime with a gun:
EDWARDS: Half of that demographic then, and certainly not every one of those cases would be an individual who was involved in criminal activity, but let's say a healthy percentage of that are going to be people who were not behaving irresponsibly with a firearm, they are behaving illegally with a gun.
WHEELER: That's right, and the authors sort of mention that in passing, with as little bit as they could get away with. They said that they did not determine intent in any of the gunshot injuries that they studied. The 500-some-odd gunshot injuries, which is code for basically they don't know how many of these gun shot injuries were crimes committed by gangbangers.
EDWARDS: Uh-huh. Well listen Dr. Wheeler, I am sure we have not seen the last of the spinning of studies to try to present an anti-gun case here.
In reality, legal intervention where an individual is justifiably shot while committing a crime is uncommon and the vast majority of people wounded by gunfire are victims of crime. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, there were 8,855 criminal firearm homicides in the United States in 2012. That same year, police were responsible for 409 justifiable homicides and private citizens were responsible for 258 justifiable homicides.
The CDC, which uses different methods to collect fatal injury reports, identified 344 firearms-related justifiable homicides in 2010 compared to 11,078 criminal gun homicides that year. The CDC also collects non-fatal injury data, finding 440 justified non-fatal shootings in 2011 compared to 55,544 non-fatal gunshot wounds from assault.
While the incidence of defensive gun use is so rare that it is difficult to measure, research conducted by Dr. David Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that as a ratio, "[g]uns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense."
That NRA News would attack research on the causes of gun violence among the youth population is no surprise. In May, when accidental shootings involving children became a much discussed topic after a 5-year-old fatally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle designed to be used by children, NRA News attacked media for covering the tragedy. During the May 6 edition of Cam & Company, Edwards claimed the coverage was a “campaign of shame” with the “mass media” seeking to “hold themselves up as our betters.”
The NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has attacked President Obama's call for more gun violence research and claimed that “gun control supporters in the public health field” are “jockeying for position at the feeding trough.” In an October 18 op-ed, NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre claimed -- even though Congress would have to provide the $10 million in funding -- that the Obama administration restored “the CDC's junk-science agenda” and offered the paranoid suggestion that the CDC will “demand for collection of personal, private information on all law-abiding firearm owners and our guns.”