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Bloomberg Pays for the Same Anti-Gun Article (on Free Data) Twice

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Bloomberg Pays for the Same Anti-Gun Article (on Free Data) Twice

Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg Opinion took a brief analysis published by The Trace, juiced it up with some more direct “guns are bad” language, added a lengthy quote from yet another Bloomberg personality, and repackaged it as an op-ed. Does Bloomberg know he’s paying for the same article twice?

When you’re spending $464 million before you’re on a primary ballot in an attempt to buy the White House, you probably don’t notice or care.

Contrary to what Wilkinson claims, The NRA does not “hate” CDC data. We routinely cite this data and point out that it is freely available to the anti-gun researchers clamoring to spend tax dollars on anti-gun propaganda. We regularly link to it in articles and cite it in testimony. We also regularly remind readers that prominent anti-gun researchers have acknowledged that the CDC, FBI, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System), and countless other federal agencies have troves of useful data readily available for researchers, academics, and other interested parties at no charge (thanks, taxpayers!).

That’s part of the reason why so many firearm-related studies have been published in recent decades (as even the New York Times admitted). This data has been used by researchers in countless firearm related studies, so we’re not sure why Francis Wilkinson is writing as if he has made some great discovery. The CDC data in particular has been collected and made available every year. The online CDC WONDER Compressed Mortality File database provides data going back to 1968. 

He writes that “it amounts to a data-rich refutation of gun-lobby propaganda.” Ignore the irony of someone with “Bloomberg” in his byline talking about propaganda, there is nothing true or of value in that sentence. Wilkinson uses a very simple bivariate analysis in an attempt to claim that states with more gun restrictions have fewer total firearm-related deaths.

The data actually shows that combining homicide, suicide, accidents, and other mortality intents to get as large a number as possible does a disservice to everyone – particularly the dead. Francis, like the article in The Trace on which his op-ed is based, does precisely that. If a reader clicks to share the link on social media, the pre-made post reads “Guns now kill more Americans that car crashes, notes @fdwilkinson, though you won’t hear that from the NRA.” There is no reason to combine homicides, suicides, and other mortality intents.

Unless your goal is to promote gun control. Policy remedies to address suicide won’t help fight crime, and programs to fight crime won’t help with suicide. The two are just not similar. But that is precisely what Francis Wilkinson, Michael Bloomberg, and every other anti-gun outfit and politician in Bloomberg’s debt does. They want to – as Wilkinson does – compare “gun deaths” to fatal traffic accidents, despite fatal traffic accidents being entirely “accidents.”

Let’s look more closely at the newly released CDC mortality data for 2018, which is – again – readily available on the internet without charge (thanks to taxpayers). There were 39,740 firearm-related deaths in 2018 (which, of course, Wilkinson rounds up to 40k instead of using the actual number because every little bit helps the cause, right?). More than three in five (61.5%) were self-inflicted. That is a vastly different problem than the 35% that were fatal assaults (13,958). The remainder of cases were legal intervention (539 cases, 1.4% of all), incidents of undetermined intent (353, 0.9%), and unintentional incidents (458, 1.2%).

Let’s start at the end and work our way back. The year 2018 had the fewest fatal firearms accidents since at least 1968. This, by the way, is an example of the NRA utilizing the CDC data.

As Francis Wilkinson did note, suicides have increased and comprise an increasing percentage of all firearm-related deaths. Wilkinson and The Trace do not mention that homicides decreased 4% from 2017 to 2018 and reached the lowest level since 2015. Both articles move from “total gun deaths” to the increase in suicides back to “total gun deaths.” Neither mentions the decrease in fatal accidents or homicides. They focus exclusively on numbers that support the anti-gun Bloomberg agenda and try to make it seem like guns are to blame for the increase.

Early on in his piece, before he quotes the Bloomberg Professor of American Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Policy (for his article on Bloomberg Opinion) at length, Wilkinson tries to cluster the states with the highest and lowest total number of firearm-related deaths, continuing the disservice of combining homicide and suicide. The Trace did the same thing. Wyoming is listed by Wilkinson in the “NRA states” group with the highest per-capita firearms fatalities. The CDC reports 121 total firearm-related deaths in Wyoming in 2018.

One hundred and eight of those deaths were suicides (108). Thirteen were homicides. Does using that total “firearm-related deaths” number seem disingenuous to anyone else? 

Lastly, Wilkinson (and The Trace) disclosed that $25 million has been advocated to “study” gun safety and that “It’s not a lot of money, given the scale of death and injury.” Of course, this does not include other relevant grants for the study of crime, social problems that contribute to crime, mental illness, and/or suicide. The people who want to curtail your rights also want you to believe that only a study whose title explicitly mentions guns could possibly impact crime or suicide.

Misusing data, blurring the necessary distinctions between intents, and willfully ignoring anything that does not advance your cause; what else would you expect from Bloomberg?  

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