There is no greater loss than that of a child’s life. Unintentional or accidental death can be even more jarring due to the seemingly preventable nature. Certainly, unintentional childhood death is an especially sensitive topic, but a recent study led by Dr. Archie Bleyer, M.D., opens the door for discussion.
His study calls into question the use of biased sources upon which he draws predetermined conclusions.
Dr. Bleyer, a Clinical Research Professor of Radiation Medicine, took an interesting approach to bring this topic to the forefront. The study is highly speculative about firearm ownership as a whole and calls into question the safety steps that firearm owners take at home.
Aside from the obvious bias present in the report and relying upon research from a gun control advocacy group, Everytown For Gun Safety, the most alarming issue with the research is the distorted use of Center For Disease Control and Prevention WISQARS (CDC Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) data.
Instead of publishing the exact figures reported by the CDC, the authors elected to condense and convert the numbers to push their agenda: blaming the existence of firearms for unintentional deaths of children. Anyone would be alarmed to hear that, “the rate of unintentional firearm deaths in children ages 1 – 4 increased exponentially at an average annual percent of 4.9 between 1999 and 2018.”
The problem with this claim is that the authors are cherry-picking and obfuscating while not making available the full breadth of the data. Using the CDC’s WISQARS system to collect the same data as Dr. Bleyer, NSSF researchers came to a different conclusion.
The CDC WISQARS reported 431 unintentional deaths of children aged 0 to 4, from 1999 to 2018, noting a “firearm” as the only cause or mechanism of injury. This is a staggering number for anyone, let alone responsible firearm owners who practice and preach safety daily.
Using the same criteria for the previous result but excluding firearms as a factor, NSSF found a total of 51,857 unintentional deaths for the same group of children and timeframe.
This means that firearms were involved in less than one percent – 0.83 percent – of unintentional deaths in children aged 0 to 4 years for the nearly 20-year timespan studied. Dr. Bleyer is not alone in his use of sensational statistics to attempt to muster support for more restrictions on Second Amendment rights and the firearm industry. Studies like this are used to rationalize the false narrative that firearms are a public health crisis.
The very small percentage of unintentional deaths among this age group is due to programs like NSSF’s Project ChildSafe and others that promote responsible gun handling and storage. According to the latest CDC Childhood Injury Report, the leading cause of death for children under one year of age is suffocation. For one-to-four-year olds, the most imminent dangers are transportation-related, drowning, fires and burns, respectively.
Americans do not avoid dangerous things simply because there is risk involved. When there is a risk present, education is the primary avenue pursued to make sure those who own swimming pools or drive cars, for example, are aware of the dangers posed to their children or those visiting. The same approach is applied to safe firearm ownership.
A Successful Strategy
On behalf of the firearm industry, the NSSF is the leader in responsible firearm ownership and education through initiatives like Project ChildSafe®. Our commitment to genuine firearm safety is accomplished through safety education and free firearm safety kits all across the United States.
Project ChildSafe has distributed over 40 million locking devices in partnership with over 15,000 local law enforcement agencies, provided up-to-date firearm safety material and even a Firearm Storage and Safety Assessment Quiz that we encourage everyone to take.
Safety is an ongoing practice that must be habitual for it to be effective. With over 8.4 million new gun owners estimated in 2020, the discussion around firearm safety is paramount. The firearm industry will continue to lead the way by offering Real Solutions® for safer communities.
Salam Fatohi is the Manager of Legislative and Policy Research at National Shooting Sports Foundation.