Monday, September 18, 2023

Are Guns the Leading Cause of Death for Children in the US?

by Rod Williams, Sept. 5, 2023- If you do a search engine search for "Guns the Leading Cause of Death for Children in the US," you will get page after page of articles repeating the assertion that guns are the leading cause of death of "our kids," or "children," or 'kids."  I just accepted it as true. 

Today I was reading a post from the Pamphleteer and read this: 

It's not advisable to make permanent policy decisions motivated purely by emotions. One talking point designed to push the emotive dial up a few notches is the oft-parrotted line "Guns are the leading cause of death for children in America."

But that depends entirely on how you define the word children. For those aged 17 and under, the number one cause of death is infant-specific abnormalities unique to children under the age of 1.

But if we define children as being between the ages of 1 and 18 or 1 and 19, firearms are the leading cause of death, indicating that most firearm deaths cluster at the edge of whether someone should be titled a teenager or a young adult.

The problem for "teens" at the upper end of this age spectrum is the sort of gun violence that proliferates in urban, majority-black neighborhoods —a kind of violence most protesters at the Capitol seem to either tokenize or ignore entirely.  

I had not considered that.  I looked further and found this from Snopes in answer to the question, "Are Guns the Leading Cause of Death for Children in the US?":

Key facts:

  • The latest available data pertinent to this claim covers 2020 and 2021. As of this writing, there is no data available for 2022 and 2023.
  • The claim that guns were the leading cause of death for U.S. children in 2020 and 2021 is true only if the selected age range is 1-19 years old. This range excludes infants under one year old, who have a unique risk of age-specific causes of death.
  • Similarly, capping the age range at 17, instead of 18 or 19, also alters the result, as children aged 17 and under have a greater risk of dying of vehicle-related injuries. 

...  The most important caveat is that this conclusion derives from data that excludes infants below the age of 1, who are uniquely impacted by other causes of death. Adjusting the parameters in other ways also affects the result.

... if we were to calculate the number of motor vehicle deaths between the ages of 1-17 in 2021 using only "Motor Vehicle Accidents" as a category from CDC's "ICD-10 113 Cause List," the number of deaths would be 2,561, which would be slightly less than the number of deaths from guns, which totaled 2,565. If we were to make the same calculations within the same parameters from the ages of 1-18, it would be 3,588 number of deaths from firearms, and 3,397 deaths from motor vehicles.

... Looking at data from the CDC and the Gun Violence Archive, The New York Times found that, in 2021, Black children represented half of these gun deaths, and two-thirds of all gun-related homicides involving youths. In other words, Black children were overall six times as likely to die from gun violence compared to white children. Children in big cities were three times more likely to die from gun violence compared to children in small towns.    

When I think of "kids," or "our children," the picture that comes to my mind is a 8- or 9- or 10-year-old girl. If you look at the above and do the math, the primary problem of "kids" being killed by gun violence is primarily the problem of 17-year-old Black inner-city males shooting each other. 

The above data in no way minimizes the severity of the problem of gun violence, but the truth should matter. When former President Barack Obama said, "We are failing our children. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the U.S," that is misleading. 

One may conclude that if there were fewer guns in circulation, there would be fewer people killed with guns, but gun confiscation is not going to happen in America. There are already more guns in America than people and I don't think that will change. 

When one says, "guns are the leading cause of death of children in America," it would be more accurate to say, "guns are the leading cause of death of people between the age of 1 and 18 and it would be more informative to add, "and of those gun deaths the largest portion are the result of Black 17-year-old boys killing each other."

We have a gun violence problem in America, but mass school shootings are only a small fraction of the number of people killed by guns. On average, fewer than 35 children and teens are killed a year as a result of mass shootings (1). I support taking sensible measures to makes schools more save and efforts to temporarily remove guns form people who may be a danger to themselves or others.  However, the problem of children being killed by guns is not the same problem as the problem of school shootings. Most "children" killed by gun violence die as a result of Black youth street violence.

If we wish to address the problem of "children" being killed by guns, we need to think clearly and identify the problem. The primary problem is that Black culture in America is dysfunctional, and violence is a norm. Fear of being called racist, or being too polite to tell the truth, or too politically correct to name the problem means we just ignore the real problem of children dying by gun violence. 

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