For all the fiery rhetoric issued during annual meetings of the National Rifle Association, new research suggests that life gets a bit more peaceful in hospital emergency departments when the country's most ardent gun-rights advocates attend their yearly confab.
The rate at which Americans head to ERs seeking treatment for gun injuries dips during the days that the NRA typically holds its annual convention compared with three- and four-day periods just before and after the meeting, a new study shows.
The size of the downturn in gun-related injuries was small, largely because firearms injuries account for a tiny fraction of the ills that bring patients to hospital emergency departments.
During the non-meeting days included in the study, the rate of ER visits for firearm injuries was 1.49 per 100,000 total visits. During the NRA conventions, which are typically held for three or four days in April or early May, that rate fell to 1.19 per 100,000.
The results, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, were based on private insurance claims for emergency department visits across the country. The findings fit with mounting research suggesting that increasing rates of gun ownership and use are accompanied by increasing rates of firearm injury, even when guns are purchased legally.
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Both rates reported in the study are small. But the authors -- Dr. Anupam B. Jena of Harvard Medical School and Andrew R. Olenski of Columbia University -- insist they are meaningful.
The difference between them amounts to a 20 percent reduction in firearms-injury risk, a magnitude that's on a par with the decreases in gun-related deaths seen after states have adopted some firearms restrictions, the authors wrote.
The researchers did not find a corresponding downturn in gun-related crimes during NRA conventions. That suggests that the missing ER patients were mainly legal gun owners who were either at the convention or taking a break from their usual hunting or sport shooting because their hunting buddies or the gun range operators were off at the convention.
It is a reminder that guns are dangerous, even in the hands of legal owners affiliated with an organization that teaches gun-safety courses and preaches the virtues of responsible firearms ownership, Jena said.