FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: The CDC’s Gun Injury Data Is Becoming Even Less Reliable.
According to the CDC’s most recent figures, somewhere between 31,000 and 236,000 people were injured by guns in 2017. That range, which represents the confidence interval — the high and low ends of a range of estimates that probably contains the real number, whatever that number is — is almost four times wider than the one given in the agency’s 2001 estimate.
“When I looked at the 2017 numbers, I went, ‘Oh, my god,’” said David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “You just can’t use those numbers.”
Last year, FiveThirtyEight and The Trace, a nonprofit news organization covering gun violence in America,1 reported that the rising trend in the number of nonfatal gunshot wounds in the CDC’s estimates was out of step with trends reported by other public health and criminal justice databases, which found flat or declining numbers of these injuries. The CDC’s most recent estimate — nearly 134,000 injuries — suggests that the upward trend in its data is accelerating, with injuries jumping over 57 percent between 2015 and 2017.
But that number is suspect, in part because the agency sources its data from a small number of hospitals: just 60 in 2017, according to data obtained in a public records request by The Trace and FiveThirtyEight. Drawing data from such a small pool means that a single hospital that treats a disproportionate number of gun injuries has the potential to drastically skew the entire estimate.