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Politifact Gun Suicide ‘Truth-O-Meter’ Needs Independent Calibration

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Article first appeared at Ammo Land.

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- “Mira Signer says state with highest gun ownership rates have highest suicide rates,” Politifact tells those relying on it for accurate assessments of high-profile, politically-charged claims. “[W]e rate Signer’s statement True.”

Who? What?

Signer is executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She was speaking at a “Coalition for Common Sense” gathering featuring Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly and “[a]bout a dozen community leaders and law-enforcement experts.” They were there to “help set strategies” for more infringements on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, especially registration-enabling “background checks.”

Signer derives her conclusions “in part” from a Brady Center “report.” While doubts about source objectivity are not in themselves proof of their claims being invalid (after all, just because a boy has falsely cried “Wolf!” doesn’t mean there is no wolf this time), they shouldn’t just be ignored, either. We can’t forget that, protestations of “common sense gun safety laws” notwithstanding, the Brady group’s founder was initially not so cryptic about the “common sense” goals he envisioned:

We’re going to have to take one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily — given the political realities — going to be very modest. . . . [W]e’ll have to start working again to strengthen that law, and then again to strengthen the next law, and maybe again and again. Right now, though, we’d be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal — total control of handguns in the United States — is going to take time. . . . The first problem is to slow down the number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. The final problem is to make possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition-except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors-totally illegal.

The Brady document in turn “is based on a series of studies by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center in Massachusetts.” Curiously, that’s part of the same School of Public Health from which then-dean Deborah Prothrow-Stith, proclaimed:

“My own view on gun control is simple. I hate guns — and can not imagine why anybody would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.”

Are we starting to see a pattern here? And it’s not exactly like the Politifact Truth-O-Meter hasn’t needed pounding before due to a needle stuck on “BS.” For some reason a Goldfinger quote comes to mind.

And we’re not done. The rest of the cited “authorities” also have motivations worth considering.

Of note is the Centers for Disease Control, where Mark Rosenberg, then-director of the National Center for Injury Prevention advocated:

“We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes. It used to be that smoking was a glamour symbol — cool, sexy, macho. Now it is dirty, deadly — and banned.”

“The CDC,” Politifact continues, has been “under congressional demands to stop researching gun issues…”

That in itself ought to bury the old Truth-O-Meter in the red, but it’s been a talking point parrotedby the citizen disarmament lobby and its media partners to great effect. Timothy Wheeler, MD, corrected the record for any who will listen:

Congress in fact simply directed the CDC to stop promoting gun control. To reasonable minds this is not at all controversial. Congress should ignore the tricksters and continue holding the CDC to its mission of objective research, not pushing for gun control.

Likewise, aside from also working for the Harvard gun-grabbers, David Hemenway is long on conclusions but short on sharing how he derived them. The New England Journal of Medicine, per the Foundation for Economic Education, “routinely excludes articles that dissent from its well-known, strident, and inflexible position of gun-control advocacy.” And as for Bindu Kalesan’s ludicrous claim that “[i]mplementing three state gun control laws at the federal level could reduce the rate of American gun deaths by more than 90%”:

[L]eading gun violence researchers have called that result “implausible,” and said the study’s design is so flawed that some of its findings are not believable.

And Columbia University? The place partnering with Michael Bloomberg to train “journalists” in the Everytown-preferred method for reporting on guns?

So much for the impartiality and credibility of the people Politifact is relying on to coax its Truth-O-Meter to register in the green. Which means, in the absence of expert analysis from researchers without a long history of self-interest-advancing citizen disarmament advocacy, those of us who are not statisticians must rely on that thing Mark and Gabby claim to represent, “common sense.”

First and foremost, the truism that correlation does not imply causation can’t be stressed enough. Gun ownership does not cause suicide, no matter how artfully readers are being led to that conclusion. For someone who has called “‘stigma-slinging’ one of the worst practices in American politics,” Signer’s triggering of this whole pile-on hardly seems consistent.

Other factors to consider:

Would you tell a pollster you own guns?  Maybe we should do a poll on that.

Rates are not the same as total numbers. Low population areas with fewer incidents can have significantly higher rates than high population areas with more incidents.

“[S]uicide rates, both overall and by firearm, are higher in areas where gun ownership is more widespread,” the Brady “report” claims. So now they’re implying correlation/causation between owning a gun and sticking your head in the oven or jumping off a bridge? Then why include them in their rates?

“Ownership” is a moral and legal term, and is not the same as “possession.” How are the totals skewed by aberrant societal segments? What happens to the rates/numbers if criminal/substance-abusing gun “possessors,” who have higher incidents of all kinds of violence, including suicide, are screened out? After all, they can’t, by law, be included as gun “owners.” Similarly, what conclusions can be drawn about police suicides, where studies from years past showed a rate over double that of the general population in some locales?

Oh, and explain “gun-free” Japan. Just to prove that’s not a fluke, explain why the U.S. isn’t even in the top 25 “Countries With The Most Suicides in The World.”

Then make sure you check out those countries’ “common sense” gun laws. Go ahead, do it. Right after you challenge Politifact to reset the Truth-O-Meter needle.

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