Yesterday the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) put out the message that hunting with firearms is really, really, really safe. As you can see in their handy table, the gun-lobby group proclaims hunting with firearms is safer than golfing, bowling, or jogging. From the NSSF blog:
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Hunting with firearms is safe; in fact, hunting with firearms is one of the safest recreational activities in America.
Look just a little deeper and you can see that the NSSF's methodology is almost laughably shoddy. Safety analysis, according to the NSSF, need not include a relative measure of chance of death. Nor does it use a single source to form its estimated number of accidents, but rather mashes together two different data sources to make up for the lack of statistics about hunting in their primary data source.
The NSSF's blog post and its safety activity chart don't mention fatal hunting accidents at all. Perhaps sensing the obvious question coming from the reporters it hopes will write up its findings, the NSSF includes this factoid in the middle of a press release on the hunting safety report:
Though recent accurate figures on fatalities related to hunting are not available, statistics from 2002 show 99 fatal hunting accidents.
The NSSF makes no effort to evaluate the lethality or seriousness of different types of injuries in each activity it claims is less safe than hunting with firearms. A bullet to the chest and a sprained ankle are both counted as one injury in their statistics, and that's the basis of their claim that hunting with guns is safer then all but the least strenuous activities. According to a 2004 Good Morning America report, the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) estimated that hunters were accidentally shooting more than 1,000 people a year in the United States and Canada.
Additionally, the methodology used to determine the number of injuries for every other activity is different than the methodology used to determine the safety of hunting. For every other activity, the NSSF relies on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) 2010 data, but for hunting, it's data from CPSC combined with IHEA data to fill in the gaps. The NSSF never says if it has any reason to think that the IHEA collects data in a comparable way to the CPSC. It doesn't even say if it's using data from the same year, which it's also probably in the dark on, given that it apparently doesn't know the number of hunting related fatal accidents in 2010.
The media regularly go to NSSF for comment on articles related to gun statistics. The NSSF also publishes data on background checks that it claims are adjusted to properly reflect the number of gun sales made in the United States. The NSSF's shoddy hunting safety research casts serious doubts about the credibility of the organization as a source of accurate information.
Within a day of publication, the NSSF's hunter safety report was featured on the popular Truth About Guns blog under the title of "NSSF: Hunting Safer then Sex" and on the blog Shall Not Be Questioned under the title "Cheerleading More Dangerous Than Hunting With Guns." Outdoor-themed news sites have also picked up the story.