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HMS Study Finds 20 Percent Gun Violence Drop During NRA Conventions

The Gordon Hall of Medicine stands at the center of the Harvard Medical School's quadrangle.
The Gordon Hall of Medicine stands at the center of the Harvard Medical School's quadrangle. By Justin F. Gonzalez
By Luke W. Vrotsos, Crimson Staff Writer

A professor at Harvard Medical School has found that gun injuries decrease by roughly 20 percent during the National Rifle Association’s annual conventions.

The finding comes as debate over gun control continues to rage throughout the country in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. last month.

Anupam B. Jena, an associate professor of health care policy at the Medical School, and a colleague at Columbia published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday, and their research quickly garnered national media attention.

The researchers analyzed private insurance claims from 2007 to 2015, comparing gun injury rates during the weeks before and after the convention to rates during the convention. They found the largest decline in gun injuries among men in states with high rates of firearm ownership.

The NRA Annual Meeting is a gathering that attracts about about 80,000 people each year.

Jena said there are multiple possible explanations for the decline in gun injuries.

“We started off with the hypothesis that just attending the meeting alone might lead to reductions in gun use,” he said.

He also pointed to the possibility that owners of gun ranges and stores could close their businesses while at the convention, bringing down the number of people using guns during that time.

The study has earned national and international press attention from ABC News, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Reuters, Vox, and CNN, among others.

The NRA responded to the publicity with a post on its website that criticized the researchers’ methodology and disputed their findings.

“Whatever nonsense they conducted with the data and their methods, this finding flies in the face of common sense and logic,” the site reads. “It would be laughable if not so completely absurd.”

Asked about the extensive media coverage of his research, Jena said it was mostly accurate, but urged caution in the precise interpretation of the results.

“The answer may not be a 20 percent reduction. Remember, this is just one estimate. There’s a large confidence interval, if you will, around the estimate,” he said.

Still, Jena said, it is likely there is a decrease in injuries during the convention, even if the exact magnitude is unclear.

The study’s release comes at a time when gun control is in the national spotlight. Last month, a shooter opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. In the wake of the shooting, activists across the country have stepped up efforts to push for stricter gun control legislation.

Harvard affiliates have waded into the national conversation in recent weeks. Students on Harvard’s Longwood campus have protested gun violence. Meanwhile, the College faced criticism for its “lackluster” statement that applicants would not be penalized for protesting gun violence.

The College has since updated its statement with an assurance to prospective students that taking part in peaceful protest would not jeopardize their chances of admission.

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