Erin Schumaker, a double major in English and Spanish from Union College and holder of a Masters in journalism from Northwestern Universitym has an extensive and varied resume (especially when you consider she was class of 2009 at Union). One of the things lacking from her background, however, is any sort of formal education in statistics, although she has held a number of “fact checking” positions.
One wonders how hard she fact-checked the sources for her latest piece at HuffPo, Guns Are Now The Third-Leading Cause Of Death Among Children. It took me about 15 minutes to tease out the actual facts from the CDC’s WISQARS website (mainly because they separate children <1 from all other people in their custom age selection for Leading Causes of Death app).
Oddly enough, the CDC’s facts don’t match Ms. Shumaker’s.
In 2015 the top six leading causes of death for children and young teens (0 – 17 years old) were:
But wait…if you add up all the 0 – 17-year-old firearm related deaths, counting accidents, homicides, and suicides (which we will get back to later), that totals 1,420. Which is not in the top six.
As for getting back to the suicides, I left them in to try and boost the gun-related numbers, just in case there was some slight chance that the anti-gunners weren’t lying. However, since study after study has shown that suicide rates are independent of method, we really should exclude firearm-related suicides, which brings our total “gun deaths” down to 851. Oddly enough this is still not in the top 6.
But wait, there’s more! The “study” Schumaker sourced looked at deaths of 0 – 17-year-olds from 2000 thru 2014. So, let’s do the same thing with those numbers, shall we? Remember, these are 15-year aggregates, not averages:
And the total “firearm deaths” for those 15 years (not counting suicides, again for obvious reasons) was 14,187. Still not in the top six.
But just because Ms. Schumaker has no grasp of statistics doesn’t mean she doesn’t have answers.
With guns involved in so much childhood injury and death, it’s logical that pediatricians would ask parents about firearms in the home.
“Recognizing the prevalence of guns in homes and the potential dangers of easy access to them makes it both reasonable and wise to ask and talk about firearms as part of our injury prevention guidance,” Nelson wrote.
Setting aside for a moment that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility (it is, after all, for the children), let us look at that statement. Earlier in her piece, Schumaker admits that “[u]nintentional shooting deaths declined from 2002 to 2014.”
So why is it that she wants people snooping into families’ firearms ownership? Especially when there are much more productive things pediatricians could spend their time on. Things like talking with parents about warning signs of adolescent depression. Especially since, between 2011 – 2015, 268 children (aged 0-13) died from accidental gunshots while more than 10 times that number (2,817) of adolescents (12-15-year-olds) committed suicide?
Maybe Ms. Schumaker’s understanding was that there would be no math required in her
anti-gun advocacy coverage of public health and inequality issues for the august HuffPo. But a basic knowledge of numbers sure helps to bolster your narrative.