Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Myth of Improving E/R Care Reducing Murder Rates

There is a myth very popular with the gun control crowd that the dramatic fall in murder rates since the 1980s is because E/R treatment has improved so much that gunshot wounds are less often fatal.  While I don't doubt that there have been improvements, the decline in violent crime rates is across all weapon types, and I can prove it.  I am planning to write an article dismissing this myth.  (There are gns that I want to buy with the proceeds from that article.) Now, I have yet to find the gun control nuts making this absurd claim in journals, but it appears so often in comments on news stories that I assume that they hear this from their wizards while skyclad in deep forests, dancing around the bonfire.  If you find such an example, please forward a link.


  1. My understanding was that the proportion of wounded to killed in the military had also climbed dramatically for the same reason.

    That made the claim about criminal shootings versus killings seem plausible. If you have stats, I will be very interested to see them.

  2. "After a steady decline through the 1990s, the annual number of homicides zigzagged before resuming a decline in 2007, falling from 16,929 that year to an estimated 14,722 in 2010, according to FBI crime data. At the same time, medical data and other surveys in the U.S. show a rising number of serious injuries from assaults with guns and knives. The estimated number of people wounded seriously enough by gunshots to require a hospital stay, rather than treatment and release, rose 47% to 30,759 in 2011 from 20,844 in 2001, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program. The CDC estimates showed the number of people injured in serious stabbings rose to 23,550 from 22,047 over the same period."

    - WSJ

  3. I think I saw this argument in one of Dave Grossman's books, On Violence. not sure of the exact title, not in my possession right now. will try to follow it up.

  4. If attempts go down too, then the reduction in deaths can't be waved away by crediting better care, but we can't expect close reasoning and logic from people who think their initial emotional response is reason enough to pass bad laws.

  5. I literally have an MA in this stuff (MA Psychology: focus on killology)

    In _On Combat_, Grossman says "REmember that the murder rate is being held down by medical technology but the rate at which our citizens are trying to harm and kill each other (the per capita aggrevated assault rate) is up five-fold since 1957...) (p 154)

    A later subsection is titled "Advances in Medical Lifesaving Technology"
    Aggravated assault is up "nearly fivefold" but the "murder rate has less than doubled. The reason for this disparity is the vast progress in medical technology since 1957, to include everything from mouth-to-mouth ressessutation, to the national 9-1-1 emergengy telephone system, to medical advances. Otherwise, murder would be going up at the rt of attempted murder."

    Later: Comparing WWII and Vietnam, "attempts to inflict bodily harm upon one another would result in death ten times more often."

    Is that the kind of stuff you're looking for? I can get you more, I think.

    (Send any follow up email to ja nine wonn a cott ((at)) ya hoo dot c om instead of the goole account I'm linked to. I try to reserve that for woek, bur I'm not on OpenID)

  6. "Little recognized is how fundamentally important the medical system is - and not just the enemy's weaponry - in determining whether or not someone dies. US homicide rates, for example, have dropped in recent years to levels unseen since the mid-1960s. Yet aggravated assaults, particularly with firearms, have more than tripled during that period. A key mitigating factor appears to be the trauma care provided: more people may be getting shot, but doctors are saving even more of them. Mortality from gun assaults has fallen from 16 percent in 1964 to 5 percent today." (p 52. _Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance_ by Atul Gawande).

    He then focuses on military casualties and death rates.

    from his footnotes: "The study that first examined the relationship between homicide rates and medical care is A. R. Harris, S. H. Thomas, G. A. Fisher, and D. J. Hirsch, "Murder and Medicine: The Lethality of Criminal Assault, 1960-1999," _Homicide Studies 6_ (2002): 128-66."

    That study doesn't have much on firearms. These seem to:

    Murder and Medicine: The Lethality of Criminal Assault 1960-1999. Homicide Studies May 2002 6: 128-166.

    Authors: Anthony R. Harris,
    Stephen H. Thomas,
    Gene A. Fisher and
    David J. Hirsch

    Despite the proliferation of increasingly dangerous weapons and the very large increase in rates of serious criminal assault, since 1960, the lethality of such assault in the United States has dropped dramatically. This paradox has barely been studied and needs to be examined using national time-series data. Starting from the basic view that homicides are aggravated assaults with the outcome of the victim’s death, we assembled evidence from national data sources to show that the principal explanation of the downward trend in lethality involves parallel developments in medical technology and related medical support services that have suppressed the homicide rate compared to what it would be had such progress not been made. We argue that research into the causes and deterability of homicide would benefit from a “lethality perspective” that focuses on serious assaults, only a small proportion of which end in death.



    This study seems to be more what you're looking for:

    Trends in Conflict: Uniform Crime Reports, the National Crime Victimization Surveys, and the Lethality of Violent Crime. Homicide Studies February 2015 19: 58-87, first published on November 12, 2014

    Author: Douglas Eckberg

    Abstract: Previous research has found reduced mortality from aggravated assaults, attributed to medical care improvements. However, aggravated assault has limitations as a longitudinal measure of injuries from violence. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) can address this by providing estimates of serious injuries from criminal victimization. Their lethality trend is not compatible with the previous finding across 1973 through 1999, remaining stable rather than falling. After 1999, both Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)-and NCVS-based measures indicate increases in lethality. The trend differences raise serious problems of data choice for the researcher.