By Lee Williams
SAF Investigative Journalism Project
More than 1 million Americans were killed by firearms from 1990 to 2021, and firearm deaths increased markedly during the pandemic, according to a study published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association network titled: “Trends and Disparities in Firearm Fatalities in the United States, 1990-2021.”
Firearm deaths reached their lowest point in 2004, and then increased more than 45% by 2021 – a 28-year high – the study claims. Black males were most at risk for homicide, and white males over 70 had the highest suicide rates.
The authors analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and used “key statistics” from the anti-gun group Brady United.
Despite its flaws, such as a reliance on biased statistics and a lack of causal factors, the report has been embraced by the legacy media and has proliferated across the internet.
The authors’ conclusion was rather simple: “This study found marked disparities in firearm fatality rates by demographic group, which increased over the past decade. These findings suggest that public health approaches to reduce firearm violence should consider underlying demographic and geographic trends and differences by intent.”
The study’s lead author, Dr. Eric W. Fleegler of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics, has written numerous anti-gun studies and editorials. Gun-rights experts were quick to point out there was a lot missing from his most recent work.
“These figures are revealing for what the study doesn’t speak about – that is the sharp rise of deaths associated with the criminal misuse of firearms,” said National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Mark Oliva. “We see that firearm ownership rose steadily throughout the timeframe isolated by the study’s authors and deaths by firearms dropped through 2004, even as firearm ownership steadily grew. We have witnessed a marked increase of crime over the last several years, as has been reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. However, that wasn’t included in this this study’s findings.
“During that time of increased crime,” Oliva continued, “we have also witnessed ‘woke’ prosecutors that won’t hold criminals to account for their crimes, no-bail policies that have put criminals back onto the streets within hours of committing crimes and a denigration of law enforcement by election officials pushing policies to defund police. That was echoed just this weekend when Senator Chris Murphy threated to strip local law enforcement of federal funds unless they adopted his gun control agenda. Crime is law enforcement issue and must be addressed as such. There is no inoculation or remedial medication that prevents criminals from committing their heinous acts.”
Oliva is hardly the study’s only critic.
“Anti-gun outlets love to report that ‘gun deaths’ of whichever kind increase, let alone reach some new record relevant to other years,” said Robert B. Young, MD of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. “But the reason is the socially chaotic past 2 years, 2020-21, with COVID, BLM protests and riots, increasing crime with soft DA’s and police leaving the profession due to the disrespect those entail. Here’s a usually anti-gun doctor researcher, Fleegler, who’s trying to make a point that gun deaths over 32 years approach the great loss of life we’ve seen from COVID. The message is actually the reverse: compared to illnesses, especially COVID, gun deaths are relatively insignificant.”
Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, also pointed out that soft-on-crime policies, not guns, were responsible for the deaths, a fact missing from Fleegler’s report.
“Crime rates are soaring,” Hunter said. “We see that not only in news headlines, but also in neighborhoods where high crime and a lack of prosecutions has residents living in fear. Furthermore, law enforcement is hamstrung by policies that favor criminals. Anyone serious about combatting violence would advocate for prosecution of criminals. Adding another Biden or Bloomberg gun control law will not decrease the violence referenced in this study.”
“It should come as no surprise to anyone that people living in large metros that historically have been controlled by Democrats, who are legally prohibited from obtaining the best means to defend themselves are at risk for violence of any kind,” Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, observed.
Fleegler is a well-known anti-gun researcher. Last month, he taught a faculty seminar at the University of Michigan titled: “Pediatric Firearm Injuries – The Role of Policies and Pediatricians.”
According to his bio at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, Fleegler’s research has focused on “firearm injuries with a focus on epidemiology, risk factors and the role of legislation in reducing firearm fatalities.”
“His seminal research has been quoted by President Barack Obama and referenced by the Supreme Court as well as by numerous state legislatures. He is co-director of the Social Medicine course at Harvard Medical School and regularly lectures around the country,” his bio states.
In 2013, Fleegler published another murky and inconclusive JAMA study titled: “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States.” The study concluded that “A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually. As our study could not determine cause-and-effect relationships, further studies are necessary to define the nature of this association.”
Time Magazine cited Fleegler in a 2018 story titled “6 Real Ways We Can Reduce Gun Violence in America.” In the story, Fleegler castigated the 1996 Dicky Act, which stopped the CDC from using taxpayer dollars to promote gun control. “The effect of the Dickey Amendment was beyond chilling,” Fleegler is quoted as saying.
“There are thousands of studies waiting to be performed,” Fleegler said in the Time story. “But you can’t do them because of the money.”
No media outlet is too small for the good doctor to grant an interview. In 2015, Fleegler claimed gun-related injuries were driving up health care costs. “These are not just problems for an individual but also an incredible burden on our healthcare system,” he told a reporter for a high school newspaper for Santa Monica High School students.
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