MSNBC "report" deceives on child suicides and self defense

I don’t know or care who Michele Richinick is as a person. I do care that she’s a reporter for MSNBC that seems intent on deceiving the American people to push a political agenda.

Rickinick’s story Guns + impulsive teenagers = tragedy is an attempt to use anecdotes of child suicide with firearms and a patently dishonest picture of firearms usage to suggest that guns should not be in homes with children, as the poll at the end of the article makes clear.

msnbc poll

Rickinick and MSNBC are entitled to their own opinions… but they aren’t entitled to their own facts, and that is where “Guns + impulsive teenagers = tragedy” falls apart, as the author deceptively cherry-picks data that supports her thesis, while ignoring a well-known, highly-cited, award-winning body of work that undermines her premise. After citing two anecdotal cases of child suicide with unsecured firearms,  the author asserts:

The Graham and Burgess families are not alone. What the gun lobby doesn’t tell you – and the statistics do – is that most gun owners are not the heroes of their own stories: they are the victims.

Individuals or families might buy guns for hunting or self-protection. But firearms are more likely to be used in suicides, criminal assaults, homicides, and unintentional shooting deaths and injuries than in self-defense.

Oh, really?

To support her contention, she cites a number of studies, starting with a small NIH study conducted in Philadelphia over three years which came to the conclusion that “guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. ”

The study’s authors only claim that defensive gun uses in urban areas may be low, but Rickinick extrapolates that to the entire nation, stating, “People in possession of a gun were more than four times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession of a firearm.” Her unsupported assertion—that the entire United States is just Philadelphia (one of the most violent cities in the nation) writ large—is laughable on its face, and fails to mention that the typically gang- and drug-related shootings in Philadelphia are attempted homicides, not suicides.

The other studies cites by Rickinick—NASP’s Youth Gun Violence Fact Sheet (which she instead claims comes from the Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, which tells you how much the author cares about accuracy), a CDC fatal injury report, and the APA’s Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents—were likewise cherry-picked by the author.

Completely ignored by Rickinick and MSNBC are the numerous studies that show firearms are used far more often for self defense than “suicides, criminal assaults, homicides, and unintentional shooting deaths and injuries.”

In reality, defensive gun uses range from a possible high of 1-2.5 million uses per year (criminologists Gary Kleck & Mar  Gertz), to a low of 100,000 per year (health policy/gun control advocate David Hemenway), with the most recent data concluding that using guns in self defense lowers the risk of injury in violent crime.

The Center of Disease Control further shows that firearm death rates for children from accidents, homicides, and suicides is on a long and consistent decline.

Of course, these are merely facts, and are therefore not relevant at MSNBC.