GENERIC MEDICAL COMMUNITY GUN STUDIES

3/1/2013

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Almost all antigun medical studies fall into two categories:  (1)those that are claimed to show that gun possession increases (by some factor) the risk of some gun related malady; and, (2)those that are claimed to show that some portion of households or gun owners store guns unsafely.  The latter of these is simplest, so we'll explain it first.

Storing guns loaded and/or unlocked

These studies are results of simple surveys.  In these surveys, a person at home gets a telephone call or a visit by a pollster (such as a census worker).  The person is asked if he/she lives at the site, if he/she is an adult, and if he/she is willing to answer questions.  If so, the pollster asks questions possibly about numerous things, but one question is something like "do you [or the household] have one or more firearms."

A large portion of gun owners deny that they own a gun.  If the person does admit it, some questions will follow about the kinds of guns and about whether or not a gun is currently loaded or unlocked.  There may be other types of questions as well.  The answers from a large number of people are then statistically analyzed.

The study report authors (and gun controllers) then represent their results as being about gun "storage," which is the state of a gun while it is not being used.  The authors ignore the fact that a gun used for home defense is actually in use when the gun owner is at home where the gun is.  The gun owner who uses a gun for home defense most probably unlocks and loads the gun when the owner arrives home.  The gun is not being unsafely stored.  The owner is using the gun and is controlling access to it by personal presence rather than by locking it.

The studies have some variations.  One concluded that the portion of households owning guns must be much lower than conventional wisdom suggests.  This was because the authors were oblivious that a large portion of their respondents lied to them by saying they didn't own guns.  Another found the amazing "fact" that people who had gun safety training were worse than others about storing guns unsafely.  The authors were totally confident of their findings because they were ignorant about gun use.  Didn't even consider the possibility that there may have been something wrong with their thinking.  They are doctors, so they are very smart and know better than common people what is best for common people.

See details about these studies at the unsafe storage page.

Guns increasing risk of death or injury

These studies involve using a method commonly used by the medical community for studies about diseases.  They are called "case-control" type studies.  The university doctors and med students collect information about people who have (or have had) a case of a specific disease, like measles.  The collected information includes demographic information and information about various factors the researchers think might be related to the risk of catching the disease.  These factors are called "risk factors."

The researchers also collect the same information from a group of people other than those known to have a case of the disease.  This group is the control group.  The control group can be people of the general population, without regard to whether or not the people have (or had) the disease.  Or, it can be people of the general population but excluding those who have the disease.

If the "case" group and the "control" group have different average values for a "risk factor," a measure of the correlation between the disease and risk factor can be computed using statistical techniques.

In the medical gun studies, the researchers treat some kind of death or injury by some kind(s) of gun as being "the disease."  And they treat some kinds of gun possession as being "risk factors."

So, they ask "case" people who are known to have been injured by gun - or people in the homes of people who have been killed by gun - the questions of the survey.  The questions include something like "was there a gun in the home."  The surveyed "case" people tend to be honest in their responses because they know that it is a matter of record that there was a gun in the home, and they know that the research is being funded and sponsored by a government that already knows whether or not there was a gun in the home where a person was killed or injured.

When the researchers ask the same questions of the "control" subjects, about 20 percent of the people in homes with guns say there is no gun in the home.  There are multiple reasons why people in homes with guns don't admit to gun possession when asked about this by strangers.  Chief among these is the fact that gun owners suspect that the information is likely to end up in the hands of a government that will eventually use the information to confiscate guns.

Because many gun owners deny the ownership, the researchers think they see that guns are more prevalent where people are hurt with guns.  This is the entire reason that the researchers end up with results that tend to blame guns for deaths and injuries.

Another problem with the studies relates to the term "risk factor."  It's unfortunate that the term is used in medical research. It would be more accurate to call the factors potential risk factors.  The problem is that, based on medical studies, people (including most doctors) refer to one thing or another increasing or decreasing the risk of having some medical problem.  Such statements in the English language mean that the "thing" has a causal relationship to the medical problem.  But the case-control studies are incapable of proving a cause-effect relationship.  The true significance of "risk" from the "risk factors" is that the so-called "risk factors" are predictive - not that they are causal.  They are a measure of correlation, not cause and effect.

See details about these studies here.

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