How stupid do you have to be to . . .

In making the case for something in which one believes deeply, it's possible to
overstate that case, to exaggerate, to be (ahem) inventive. It's also possible to lie. The more public one's case is, the less this is expected to happen. That is, when telling my boss why I'm late to work (power surge killed the alarm clock, again) I'm violating a public trust less than I am when I tell a court of law that there is no relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It is expected that the organizations which present these cases to the public will be scrupulous to ensure that they are not broadcasting fabrication or falsehood. Fact-checking.

So explain this from Reuters in an article on the soon-to-expire assault weapons ban:

She said 90 percent of spinal cord injuries in the United States are caused by gunshot wounds and noted that $1.8 billion a year is spent on spinal cord injuries.
This from Amy Sisley, a doctor and spokesman for Physicians for Social Responsibility. Forgive my skepticism. If those words had left my mouth, I'd immediately have made a screwy face and said aloud, "Really? More than car accidents?"

Of course there's always this from the Centers for Disease Control indicating that 1) "approximately 11,000 Americans sustain an SCI [spinal cord injury] each year," and that of these 2) "The leading cause of SCI varies by age. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading
cause among persons under age 65. Among persons age 65 and older, falls cause most SCIs," and that furthermore, 3) "SCIs cost the nation an estimated $9.7 billion each year."

Helpnetwork.Org has a related fact sheet (here, pdf only), according to which:

Avalable data indicate a dramatic increase in the proportion of SCI caused by acts of violence; from 14% of traumatic SCIs in the mid-1970s, to 20% in the early 1990s, to 30% of SCIs in 2001. Acts of violence have nearly doubles as a percentage of all causes of SCI and have overtaken falls as the second most common source of spinal cord injury, trailing only motor vehicle crashes. . . . Data entered into the National SCI Database since 1973 show that 17% of nonfatal injuries are gun-related, and about 90% of violence-related SCI are from gun injuries.

Apparently, Dr. Sisley got her figures confused. Doing some quick math, 90% of 30% is 27% of total spinal cord injuries. That's about 2,970 people a year injured by all types of firearms. One wonders what unimpressively small number would be the result of a gunshot wound from an assault weapon. I'd guess maybe 10% of the total: 297. Given a US population of nearly 300 millions, we're talking about protecting 0.0001% of the population from spinal cord injury. Relevance?

Points of policy aside, it's clear that the civic-minded Dr. Sisley is wrong coming (90% vs. 27%) and going ($1.8 b vs. $9.7 b). Of course, if someone at Reuters had spent ten minutes on Google, I wouldn't have been irritated enough to do this. Seems like that's becoming the refrain of the blog-o-sphere.

- D. Brown

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