The advocates whined the stats make it too hard to pass gun control laws.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) removed its stats on defensive gun uses due to pressure from gun-control advocates, according to The Reload.
The advocates whined the stats make it too hard to pass gun control laws.
Defensive gun use is using a firearm to defend one’s life, someone else’s life, or property.
The Reload published 131 pages of emails about the “lobbying campaign” that ended with a private meeting.
Oh, look! Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is in the middle:
The lobbying campaign spanned months and culminated with a private meeting between CDC officials and three advocates last summer, a collection of emails obtained by The Reload show. Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.
“[T]hat 2.5 Million number needs to be killed, buried, dug up, killed again and buried again,” Mark Bryant, one of the attendees, wrote to CDC officials after their meeting. “It is highly misleading, is used out of context and I honestly believe it has zero value – even as an outlier point in honest DGU discussions.”
Bryant, who runs the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), argued Kleck’s estimate has been damaging to the political prospects of passing new gun restrictions and should be eliminated from the CDC’s website.
“[W]hile that very small study by Gary Kleck has been debunked repeatedly by everyone from all sides of this issue [even Kleck] it still remains canon by gun rights folks and their supporting politicians and is used as a blunt instrument against gun safety regulations every time there is a state or federal level hearing,” he wrote in the same email. “Put simply, in the time that study has been published as ‘a CDC Study’ gun violence prevention policy has ground to a halt, in no small part because of the misinformation that small study provided.”
That changed in 2021 after a virtual meeting:
“We are planning to update the fact sheet in early 2022 after the release of some new data,” Beth Reimels, Associate Director for Policy, Partnerships, and Strategic Communication at the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, said in one email to the three advocates on December 10th. “We will also make some edits to the content we discussed that I think will address the concerns you and other partners have raised.”
The CDC never reached out to the other side.
But internal discussions show employees were confused over the requests because the defensive gun use definition is straightforward. The CDC also told the advocates to bring studies that disprove Kleck’s research:
Even after the meeting was agreed to, some CDC officials expressed confusion about how there could be a problem with the agency’s description of defensive gun uses. James Mercy, another researcher in the Division of Violence Prevention, noted the description didn’t endorse any particular estimate and merely referred to a CDC-commissioned review of scholarship on the topic.
“I mean all we say on the fact sheet essentially is that you get different estimates of defensive gun use depending on the methods you use to measure it and then point to the National Academy report,” he wrote to Reimels. “Hard to argue against that. What do you think the concern is with this? Or is it something else?”
Mercy also expressed surprise that Bryant was associated with Newtown Action Alliance.
“A few of just met with the CEO of the Gun Violence Archive yesterday – Mark Bryant,” he wrote. “Odd that they would be connected to the Newtown Action Alliance!”
None of the emails in the batch explain the reason for making changes to defensive gun use. One page shows the possibility an explanation took place offline.
The CDC provided an answer to The Trace earlier this year:
Ultimately, the CDC did offer a justification for the change in its response to The Trace’s 2022 inquiry. The agency said it removed the range of DGU estimates and link to its review of research to offer clarity on the issue because the “very wide range” might “raise more questions than it answered.”
“Because estimates of defensive gun use vary depending on the questions asked, populations studied, timeframe, and other factors related to study design, and given the wide variability in previous estimates and the desire to keep the fact sheet short and succinct,” the agency told the publication, “it made the most sense to remove the numbers from the fact sheet and acknowledge that additional research is necessary to understand defensive gun use prevalence, frequency, circumstances, and outcomes.”
Kleck told The Reload that the CDC never contacted him before removing his study from the website. He described the move as “blatant censorship” and shows “the politicization of the agency.”
Kleck opined the removal because you need defensive gun use stats to understand the gun debate:
“The justification for keeping any defensive gun use estimates out in order to keep a fact sheet succinct, it’s just another way of saying we can’t afford to even put one sentence in about the most frequent violence-related use of firearms,” he told The Reload. “That the factsheet is not in any way harmed by including this fact.”
He argued the real purpose of removing the estimates and link to further reading on the topic would result in further confusion for people who visit the site–something he said was the goal of the advocates who lobbied for its deletion.
“You can’t understand any significant aspects of the gun-control debate once you eliminate defensive gun use,” he said. “It becomes inexplicable why so many Americans oppose otherwise perfectly reasonable gun-control measurements. It’s because they think it’s gonna lead to prohibition, and they won’t have a gun for self-defense.
“It’s not complicated.”
The Reload also dissects GVA’s attempts to undermine defensive gun use to fit its narrative and push gun control:
Bryant and GVA have gained notoriety for its count of “mass shootings” that uses a much broader definition, with any shooting where four or more victims are injured compared to the Associated Press definition of four or more killed. The difference in methodology results in a near-ten-fold difference in the number of identified “mass shootings.” GVA’s count, alongside its near-real-time tracking of shootings through media reports, has been widely cited by media outlets since it was launched in 2013.
Conversely, GVA uses the most conservative criteria for what constitutes a defensive gun use. Instead of attempting to capture any time a person legally uses a gun to defend themselves or others, it only counts incidents that make it into media reports or police reports (though it’s unclear how many police reports they have access to). The site’s methodology takes a strikingly dismissive tone towards any other potential defensive gun uses.
“Our policies do not take into account stories not reported, ‘I can’t believe this happened to me’ scenarios or extrapolations from surveys,” the methodology reads. “Our position is that if an incident is significant enough that a responsible gun owner fears for their life and determines a need to threaten lethal force it is significant enough to report to police so law enforcement can stop that perpetrator from harming someone else.”
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