Gun control has been a contentious issue for decades, but the NRA has become especially polarizing in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,, on February 14. Since that tragic event, students have mobilized against gun violence, and brands have boycotted the NRA. President Donald Trump has since discussed banning bump stocks and making background checks more rigorous to curb gun violence, but a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine opens the door to a different kind of strategy.
In the paper, a duo of researchers found that the number of gun injuries in the U.S. actually decreased during the NRA’s convention, an event that draws thousands of gun owners each year. Their data show that bringing thousands of gun owners together was associated with a 20 percent decrease in gun injuries during those dates.
“Our results suggest that firearm-safety concerns and risks of injury are relevant even among experienced gun owners,” write the study’s authors, Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, and Andrew Olenski, a doctoral student at Columbia University. They say that this decrease in injuries is probably due to the fact that so many people who own and use guns were at the convention not using their guns.
To conduct this study, the researchers collected national data on gun injury victims treated in hospitals during NRA conventions from 2007 through 2015 and compared these numbers to those measured on control dates three weeks before and after. The unique conditions of the NRA convention allow for something of a natural experiment, which yielded the results we see.
“Fewer people using guns means fewer gun injuries, which in some ways is not surprising,” said Jena in a statement. “But the drop in gun injuries during these large meetings attended by thousands of well-trained gun owners seems to refute the idea that gun injuries stem solely from lack of experience and training in gun use.”
For such a huge social problem, gun violence hasn’t been researched as much as one might expect, partly because the NRA’s pressure on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it especially difficult for researchers to study its causes. This rare study does not focus on the important topics of gun safety and gun control but suggests one creative solution to an increasingly intractable problem: perhaps it would be more effective to sequester all gun owners in one place.