Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Debunking the Misconception: Firearms Are Not the Leading Cause of Death for Children, Cars Are

(Ed Booth/Enterprise-Record)

The recurring manipulation of firearm-related mortality data among children to advance gun control arguments appears to be on the rise, reflecting perhaps the declining focus of the American public. The strategy usually follows these steps: first, gather statistics on gun-related deaths for children aged 0-14, then add these to the more significant numbers for ages 15-19 or even 15-24. This aggregated number is then presented as the alarming rate of "children" exposed to "gun violence," which is then leveraged to push for specific gun control measures. 

In March, this tactic reemerged, drawing on the CDC's 2021 fatality data. The information suggested a rising trend in firearm violence, which also impacted young people, amid softer criminal justice policies. A CNN article from March 29, 2023, misleadingly declared, “Children and teens are more likely to die by guns than anything else.” The article combined data from age groups with different risks and causes of death, creating a skewed perspective.

When analyzing ages 0-12 or 0-14, for instance, firearm injuries aren't the leading cause of death. In these age groups, the rate of death from motor vehicle accidents is significantly higher than from firearms. For those aged 0-17, the same is true. The narrative shifts when focusing on ages 15-19, where over 80% of gun-related fatalities in the 0-19 category occur. This isn't surprising considering this age group is more likely to be involved in activities that could lead to gun violence.

The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a paper examining the same 2021 CDC data, again blending the lines between 'children' and 'adolescents,' even going so far as to include 18 and 19-year-olds as "children." Following its publication, articles from United Press International and 'Today' again proclaimed guns as the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens, which can be misleading when considering the data carefully.

So the next time a sensational headline about children and firearms catches your eye, remember that such statements often serve a pre-existing political motive rather than an interest in factual accuracy.

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