This is Scientific American — 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata.
The annual meeting of the National Rifle Association is coming up in May. It's scheduled for Dallas. And if past events are any guide, gun injuries may actually go down in Texas, during the event.
"When a convention is held in a person's state, in that year, gun injuries fall." Anupam Jena, an economist and physician at Harvard Medical School.
Jena and his team discovered that surprising link by tracking visits to hospitals and emergency rooms for gun injuries during nine years' worth of NRA conventions. And they found the number of people hurt by guns dropped 20 percent during NRA meetings, compared to the same days of the week three weeks before and after the show.
There's no definitive causal link here. But the researchers still have a few ideas. First, could be, avid gun users are at the show, away from their guns, or shooting them in more supervised situations. And thus unable to injure themselves or others. Or: if some members of a regular shooting group are out of town, maybe the group postpones its meetup the week of the show. Thus avoiding accidents that otherwise might have occurred.
"It could also be the case that people who own venues where firearms might be used, like firing ranges or hunting grounds, may be likely to attend the conventions. And if those venues are closed, we might expect to see declines in gun use during that period as well."
The results are in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The NRA didn't respond to a request for comment in time for this report, but Jena said their objection might be: Why would gun injuries decline 20 percent if only a few percent of gun owners actually make it to the show?
"I would assume the 2 percent of people who are gun owners who attend NRA conventions are probably much heavier users of firearms." And—assuming you believe guns are inherently unsafe—people who shoot their guns a lot might also be more prone to injury than those who keep them locked away all year. Which would mean that NRA conventions might actually protect some gun owners from themselves.
Thanks for listening for Scientific American — 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata.