If this isn’t irony, we don’t know what is.
A new study from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University found the amount of gun injuries in the U.S. actually decreases during the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.
The results published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine show a 20 percent decline in gun injuries nationwide during the NRA’s yearly meeting, which attracts 80,000 gun enthusiasts.
The NRA convention actually doesn’t feature a lot of shooting. Members attend lectures and peruse exhibits instead of hunting or taking target practice.
“Fewer people using guns means fewer gun injuries,” Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School said in a statement. “No matter how one feels about guns, one thing that we should all recognize is that owning and operating a firearm entails risk.”
Indeed, the study implies that even experienced gun owners who attend NRA classes or other training sessions are not immune to gun-related injuries. This runs counter to the NRA’s own messaging, which asserts that an educated gun owner is a safe gun owner.
Researchers examined nearly 76 million medical insurance claims for hospital and emergency room visits related to gun violence between 2007 and 2015. They then compared the number of gun injuries during the three-day NRA meeting with the amount of injuries reported in the surrounding weeks.
Gun injuries on non-convention dates occurred at a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 people. But on convention days, the rate was only 1.25 per 100,000 people—hence the 20 percent difference.
The decline was even bigger among residents of the state hosting the convention (the 2018 meeting will be held in May in Dallas). In those locations, the amount of gun injuries dropped from 1.9 to 0.7 per 100,000–that’s a 63 percent decrease.
Demographically, the biggest reductions in gun injuries came among men in western and southern states—85 percent of gun owners are male.
The researchers also pointed out that NRA meetings may even influence gun use among people who don’t attend. Many hunting and shooting ranges around the country close on convention days so employees can attend.
The NRA has not responded to an Observer request for comment.
Some gun safety advocates sarcastically suggested that the NRA convention should last the entire year to bring injury rates down even further.
That’s obviously not realistic, but here’s hoping this study still provides food for thought for both scientists and American gun owners.