The claim that guns are the leading cause of death of children has been cited increasingly frequently by liberals pushing gun control.
Jon Stewart recently cited the statistic while arguing with a guest over drag shows and gun control, which he used to attempt to guilt trip conservatives for supposedly “not caring about children.”
Following the mass shooting at the Nashville Christian Covenant School, Obama tweeted out “We are failing our children. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.”
Even Biden has started cited it, and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is mindlessly repeating it too, telling the press yesterday “Now, this stat, as you’ve heard me say many times — the President put it in his statement recently — guns is the leading cause of death in our children. Guns is the leading cause of death in our children.”
There are a few sources for this claim.
The first is from the New England Journal of Medicine, which published a report in March 2022 defining children as persons aged 1-19 (thus excluding those younger than 1, and counting legal adults as youths), which found that in 2020 firearms deaths exceeded motor vehicle deaths for the first time ever. This was caused by a recent rise in gun deaths that accompanied a national crime wave - but as is visible in the chart, also a massive historical decline in motor vehicles deaths.
The Kaiser Family Foundation also published a report in July 2022 with the same headline conclusion, and again defining children bizarrely as those age 1-19. In both cases, the figures include homicides, but also suicides and gun accidents. Breaking off suicides into a separate category would've prevented them from generating the conclusion they needed for the quotable headline they desired.
The bizarre age parameters immediately raises red flags, and again, it just looks like they were chosen so they could produce the headline conclusion they wanted. Kaiser, for instance, cited 4,357 children as victims of death violence in 2020, compared to 4,112 deaths for motive-vehicle accidents. If the age range was reduced to a more appropriate 0-17, they wouldn’t have gotten the headline they wanted. The Pew Research Center, for instance, did a similar analysis but limited their age range to those 17 and under, and recorded 2,281 gun violence deaths in 2021.
Nearly all young people murdered by guns aren't killed in school shootings, but by gang violence. These are homicides unfortunately impossible to deter with gun control, given nearly all of them are committed with guns obtained illegally.
As Matt Christiansen pointed out after combing through the data, nearly the entire increase in “child deaths by firearm” in recent years have been in black teenagers, while it's remained constant for other demographics. “When almost all the change is in a very specific population, you have to look at what changed for that specific population - and guns did not.” As for what did - the rise in death correlates right with the “defund the police” movement’s successes in 2020, which disproportionately resulted in police being defunded in minority communities, fueling a nationwide crime wave. In other words, Democrats helped fuel the fire, and then blamed guns for it.
Christiansen also noted a silver lining here, that we’re discussing a type of death that it fortunately extremely rare overall. The CDC’s data has a death rate of 14.3 per 100,000 children aged 5-14 every year, compared to a death rate of 1,043.8 per 100,000 people for the general population - 73 times higher. “And that’s not to say that kid’s deaths don’t matter, or that we shouldn’t seek to minimize them, of course, it’s just to say that with numbers this low, even slight shifts in deaths can appear dramatic. That’s why they [the media] were able to say that COVID was a leading killer of kids despite a microscopic mortality rate. When the benchmark is statistically zero, even the smallest increases make a big difference,” Christiansen explained.
Matt Palumbo is the author of Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers: How the Left Hijacked and Weaponized the Fact-Checking Industry and The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros
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