Emails Reveal CDC Ditched Stats on Defensive Firearm Uses Under Pressure From Gun Control Groups


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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appears to have taken down a study the agency commissioned regarding the number of times Americans use firearms for self-defense under pressure from gun control groups that argued it would make it harder to pass gun control legislation.

According to The Reload, the gun control groups spent months pressuring the CDC to remove the study, which then culminated in a face-to-face meeting between CDC officials and three advocates in the summer of 2021, months after President Joe Biden took office, emails obtained by the website show.

The site added:

Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.

“[T]hat 2.5 Million number needs to be killed, buried, dug up, killed again and buried again,” wrote Mark Bryant, one of the attendees, in a message to the CDC following their meeting. “It is highly misleading, is used out of context and I honestly believe it has zero value – even as an outlier point in honest DGU discussions.”


Bryant, who heads up the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), claimed that Kleck’s estimate has harmed political efforts to pass additional gun restrictions and thus should be taken off the CDC’s website.

“And while that very small study by Gary Kleck has been debunked repeatedly by everyone from all sides of this issue [even Kleck] it still remains canon by gun rights folks and their supporting politicians and is used as a blunt instrument against gun safety regulations every time there is a state or federal level hearing,” Bryant noted in the same email.

“Put simply, in the time that study has been published as ‘a CDC Study’ gun violence prevention policy has ground to a halt, in no small part because of the misinformation that small study provided,” he added.

The agency initially stood behind its study, the emails obtained by The Reload show, but eventually removed the Kleck estimate from the website showing “Fast Facts” about firearms. Under “What Is Defense Gun Use,” the site now notes:

Although definitions of defensive gun use vary, it is generally defined as the use of a firearm to protect and defend oneself, family, other people, and/or property against crime or victimization.


Estimates of defensive gun use vary depending on the questions asked, populations studied, timeframe, and other factors related to study design. Given the wide variability in estimates, additional research is necessary to understand defensive gun use prevalence, frequency, circumstances, and outcomes.

The Reload said that the agency backtracked following “a previously-undisclosed virtual meeting with the advocates on September 15th, 2021.”

“We are planning to update the fact sheet in early 2022 after the release of some new data,” Beth Reimels, Associate Director for Policy, Partnerships, and Strategic Communication at the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, said in an email to the advocates on Dec. 10, 2021. “We will also make some edits to the content we discussed that I think will address the concerns you and other partners have raised.”

The outlet reported further:

The decision to remove a CDC-commissioned report from the agency’s website on gun statistics at the apparent behest of gun-control advocates may further strain its relationship with Congressional overseers, especially pro-gun Republicans who are set to take control of the House next year. The relationship between the two, already frayed over the Coronavirus pandemic, could reach new lows not seen in decades. During the 1990s, Congress put restrictions on CDC funding in response to officials openly working with gun-control groups to try and ban handguns.

Kleck, who is professor emeritus at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and has studied defensive firearms use for decades, stood by his conclusions.

“CDC is just aligning itself with the gun-control advocacy groups,” he told the outlet. “It’s just saying: ‘we are their tool, and we will do their bidding.’ And that’s not what a government agency should do.”

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