Thursday, July 13, 2023

More than 96% of Gun-Related Fatalities Involving Children and Adolescents are Deliberate

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005) {cited 2019 & 2020}. Available from: From the CDC WISQARS database.

An overwhelming majority of firearm-related fatalities involving children and adolescents, more than 96%, are deliberate. The comparison often drawn between the number of young individuals (under 20) who lose their lives in firearm incidents versus motor vehicle incidents is misleading and designed to trigger an emotional response.

Almost all motor vehicle-related fatalities are accidental. Although there may be a small number of homicides and suicides, the predominant cause of such deaths are accidents. 

Conversely, nearly all deaths involving firearms are intentional, driven by murder, gang violence, or racially fueled crimes. There are some accidental deaths, but a large proportion are homicides, where individuals consciously choose to harm children and adolescents with firearms or to use firearms to harm themselves.

Statistics from 2019 show that 96.4% of the fatalities involving firearms were deliberate, and in 2020, this number increased slightly to 96.5%. In 2019, among deaths where the intention was known (homicide, suicide, or accident), 61% were homicides and 35% were suicides. In 2020, the rates were 66% for homicides and 30% for suicides. 

However, it's worth noting that fatal firearm accidents for all ages have decreased by more than 94% from 1933 to 2017. The relatively few cases that do occur are primarily the result of adult negligence. Almost all firearm fatalities occur because someone decided to engage in illegal activities or harm themselves.

Intentional acts like murder or suicide often see a switch in methods when access to one particular method or tool is limited. This phenomenon is often observed in cases involving firearms. When firearms are heavily regulated, rates of suicides and homicides remain the same, suggesting that other methods are substituted. 

Those advocating for stricter gun control often fixate on reducing the number of suicides or homicides involving firearms, which can be misleading. If the objective is to reduce overall suicides and homicides, the total rate of these incidents should be the focal point, not just those involving firearms. 

Phrases such as "gun violence" tend to club all firearm-related fatalities together, suggesting an emphasis on reducing gun numbers rather than addressing the root cause of homicides or suicides.

Legally restricting access to one method does not necessarily alter the intent of those involved. Detractors often argue that the availability and lethal potential of guns increase the likelihood of suicide. However, the data does not support this notion. Similarly, while guns might make murder more accessible, they also facilitate personal defense. Homicide rates often remain stable or show a marginal increase when legal firearm ownership becomes more challenging. 

A drop in homicide rates is often observed when trust in justice and legal systems strengthens. Societies with high trust often exhibit low homicide rates, regardless of the prevalence of firearms. Similarly, cultural attitudes towards suicide influence its rate, with societies that disapprove of suicide typically reporting lower rates.

The argument that reducing the number of firearms will lead to a decrease in suicide and/or homicide rates neglects the real solutions to these problems. Assigning blame to firearms shifts the responsibility from the individual's actions to an inanimate object, reinforcing a flawed narrative.

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