The University of Washington recently posted a study the school is undertaking. The study stems from an understanding that those who are wounded by a firearm are more likely to be shot again. The researchers are looking for a way to change that statistic, and it’s useful and important research, to be sure.
However, the post about it started very differently.
In 1993, a CDC study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that rather than conferring protection as many gun advocates suggest, “guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of being biased against guns, calling the recent increase in firearm violence research as “anti-gun propaganda.” The NRA proceeded to call for a complete shutdown of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The center remained standing but the NRA didn’t stop there and began lobbying Congress to end funding for gun violence studies. In 1996, the Dickey Amendment was born. Named after an Arkansas senator, the bill stated that no funds could be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”
While this provision was not a clear ban on all research, the $2.6 million that the CDC originally allotted to use toward firearm research was redirected to traumatic brain injury research instead, virtually halting almost all research being done on firearm violence on a federal level. (For context, a recent study puts the amount that the United States spends on treating gunshot wounds annually at $2.8 billion, 1,000 times the original amount of research funding.)
On top of a partial ban on research funding, gun violence research is further hampered by the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from releasing firearm trace data to members of the public, including those in academia. With minimal funding and data to work with, firearm injury research has become next to impossible.
Those are the first four paragraphs of a post about a study being conducted at UW. They also bear little relevance to the study itself.
In other words, this is pure bias on display.
However, the research is attempting to do something important, and it’s worth all of us to look at.
“Compared to other hospitalized patients, we found that those individuals who were shot and released from the hospital were 21 times more likely to get shot again,” Rowhani-Rahbar said.
From this, a clear need for a solution arose and Helping Individuals with Firearm Injuries, also known as HiFi, was created.
HiFi is an ongoing study conducted by UW researchers at Harborview Medical Center which aims to test the effectiveness of intervention on the overall well-being and health of gun violence victims.
Once an intervention participant is identified, researchers work with them to identify a goal in their life that will help them with their personal lives.
Rowhani-Rahbar stressed the autonomy patients have in making their decisions. Researchers don’t set goals for them, participants choose for themselves.
They note that it can be anything the patient wants, from learning to play the guitar to combating substance abuse. The researchers seem to claim that it’s all about helping people learn how to utilize community resources in the first place, which I guess they think will help them change their lives or something.
However, something is being suggested in this research that they’re not talking about at UW. In particular, an individual’s lifestyle choices have a major impact on whether or not they’re the victims of gun violence.
While many of us worry about the armed attacker wanting our wallet or worse, the truth is that most people who face violent encounters tend to be people who live violent lifestyles. In particular, gang members from the inner city streets.
It’s why there are high recidivism rates for gunshot wound victims. They’re living criminal lives that bring them into conflict with other violent criminals. When that happens, people get shot.
When these people return to the streets, they return to the same lifestyle. They often continue down the same path, so why should we be surprised if they end up with the same result yet again?
But not everyone who gets shot is necessarily a gangbanger. There are far too many people who get shot, sometimes multiple times, because they live in a bad neighborhood. They’re stuck living in a bad environment and can’t get out, but because violence is all around them, they’re eventually going to be impacted by it.
While this research certainly sounds interesting and I hope to read the results, it touches on something far more relevant: that lifestyle has a significant impact in your odds of being shot, and even UW’s biases couldn’t hide that fact.