Surveillance and Data Quality
1. We need a good data system for violent deaths
A broadened reporting system, not only for firearms but for all violent deaths (all suicides and homicides) will provide more useful data, at only a small increased cost. This article summarizes the need for such a surveillance system, and its status as of 2001.
Azrael, Deborah; Barber, Catherine; Mercy, James. Linking data to save lives: Recent progress in establishing a National Violent Death Reporting System. Harvard Health Policy Review. 2001; 2:38-42.
2. A violent death reporting system will be useful for policy evaluation
This article highlights the benefits of surveillance systems for various social issues (e.g. economics, crime, public health). It shows the how the additional information provided by a national violent death reporting system can be used for policy evaluation.
Azrael, Deborah; Barber, Catherine; Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. “Data on violent injury.” In: Jens Ludwig and Philip J. Cook, eds. Evaluating Gun Policy: Effects on Crime and Violence. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution. 2003.
3. We describe the history of the creation of National Violent Death Reporting System
We describe the effort of many groups which led to the creation of this data system.
Publication: Hemenway, David; Barber, Catherine W; Gallagher, Susan S; Azrael Deborah R. Creating a national violent death reporting system: a successful beginning. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2009;37:68-71.
4. The vital statistics underestimates other-inflicted gun accidents
Do the vital statistics provide an accurate count of unintentional firearm deaths? We compared the Supplemental Homicide Report data on “manslaughter by negligence,” which are considered to be accidents with the vital statistics data. We found that only 23% of the negligence manslaughters were classified as accidents on the death certificates. Official vital statistics data almost certainly undercount firearm accident deaths when the victim is shot by another person.
Barber, Catherine; Hemenway, David; Hochstadt, Jenny; Azrael, Deborah. Underestimates of accidental firearm fatalities: Comparing Supplementary Homicide Report data with Vital Statistics. Injury Prevention. 2002; 8:252-256.
5. For accidental gun deaths, NVDRS data are accurate, Vital Statistics are not.
We carefully read all the circumstances of any death characterized as an unintentional firearm fatality by the state vital statistics registry (death certificate), the medical examiner or coroner, the police, or the National Violent Death Certificate (NVDRS) abstractor. We found that the NVDRS data were extremely accurate but the Vital Statistics data were not. The Vital Statistics data seriously under-report accidental deaths to children (many true accidents are reported as homicides) and over report accidental deaths to adults (many homicides and suicides are reported as accidents).
Barber, Catherine; Hemenway, David. Too many or too few unintentional firearm deaths in official U.S. mortality data? Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2011; 43:724-31..
6. The best proxy measure of firearm prevalence is the percentage of suicides with guns
Various proxy measures for the prevalence of firearm ownership were compared with surveys-based estimates. One proxy, the percentage of suicides with a firearm, performed consistently better than other measures in cross-sectional comparisons.
Azrael, Deborah; Cook, Philip J; Miller, Matthew. State and local prevalence of firearms ownership: Measurement, structure and trends. Journal of Quantitative Criminology. 2004; 20:43-62. Also see National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #8570.
7. CDC’s WISQARS dramatically underestimates the costs of street gun violence
This commentary emphasizes that cost of injury estimates that focus on medical costs and productivity losses of the victims (e.g., WISQARS) dramatically underestimate the costs of street gun crime. Costs of street gun crime also include costs to the shooters family, criminal justice costs, trauma of witnesses, the costs of avoidance (e.g., children not being able to go out and play), the likelihood of retaliation, and the destruction of neighborhoods
Hemenway, David. Measuring the cost of injury: underestimating the costs of street violence. Injury Prevention. 2011;17(5):289-90.