It seems like every couple months, another report surfaces that tries to make the argument that the existence of a firearm in a home endangers the lives of children. The first one I debunked was a report from the New York Times published almost two years ago, and while the name of the organization publishing this “shocking report” may be different, the facts of the matter remain the same. This time the Brady Campaign has published a report titled “The Truth About Kids & Guns” that tries to make the same old arguments. While the numbers presented might be enough to shock low information voters into following the rallying cry for gun control the report basically debunks itself. Shall we begin? . . .
From the opening paragraphs of the report:
Based on the most recent available data, in 2011 there were 2,703 child and teenage firearm deaths in America. That’s seven of America’s youth killed every day. These youth were shot in different ways by varying intents—some were murdered, some unintentionally shot themselves or were unintentionally shot by another, and others died by their own hand. All were tragic and should lead to public outcry about the continuous threat gun violence poses to our nation’s youth.
This is a public health crisis. These deaths are preventable. Most parents bring a gun into the home legally with no intent of doing harm. Many think they’re doing their family a service by offering protection. Yet it is these guns that cause the majority of gun deaths and injuries. A gun in the home is a significant risk factor for homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings.
This is the thesis that the report is trying to prove — that innocent children are being “gunned down” by heartless gun owners every day. But there are some major problems with their evidence, and the cracks are easy to spot for those who haven’t been blinded by the rhetoric.
The very first claim that the Brady Campaign makes — that “gun violence” is a public health issue — is a belief shared only by 12% of the American population. It is, by definition, an extremist and fringe viewpoint, but one that is the keystone of their entire narrative. The end goal of the Brady Campaign is a complete ban on firearms and confiscation of those already in circulation, and their tactic is to paint “gun violence” as a public health issue.
In order to get others to buy into that belief and therefore their dream of civilian disarmament, they need to convert Americans to their cause. What follows in the report is an attempt to twist numbers and cover up inconvenient facts to make their premise seem plausible, when in fact it couldn’t be more wrong.
Moving past the first page, we start to see why their numbers are so large in terms of “children” killed with guns.
In 2011, 2,703 young people, ages 0-19, were killed by gunfire in the United States. More than half of these deaths, 61% (1,651), were homicides, 32% (850) were suicides, and 5% (140) were caused by unintentional gunfire (see Figure 1). Approximately 16,700 more youth suffered nonfatal injuries, many of which resulted in serious lifelong consequences.
What the Brady Campaign wants you to imagine when they spout the figure that “2,703 children” were killed with guns is that these are small defenseless children being mercilessly cut down. They want that image of a crying 8-year-old girl in a pink princess dress being shot to death to be the first thing you think of, which causes an immediate reaction. They are banking on the idea that people will have that emotional response, and then use their emotions to make up their minds instead of applying any actual logic to the situation.
To back up their “shocking” numbers, they provide a handy graph.
The intended reaction for the reader is that if firearms are involved with that great of a percentage of homicides in children, then obviously something needs to be done. If we can just remove the guns, we can eliminate all of those murders. It’s so obvious! But life doesn’t work like that — guns are used in the majority of homicides because they are convenient, not because they are the only tool available. The vast majority of suicides in children are committed with things other than guns, so obviously there are ways to kill kids without the use of a gun. The question is how many of those murders would you stop if you removed the firearms, and to figure that out you need to dig deeper into the data.
A few pages later, the report outlines who is actually being killed.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
Personally, I’m of the opinion that someone who has been deemed old enough by the state to operate a car (a deadly object responsible for more deaths every year than all firearms fatalities combined) is no longer a “child.” And I’m damned sure that people 18 and over aren’t even considered minors by the state anymore. And yet, in order to pad their numbers and make the figures shocking enough to support their conclusions, the Brady Campaign needed to include those people between the ages of 16 and 19. Because as a matter of fact, the vast and overwhelming majority of firearms related homicides involve victims 14 years old and over.
The reason the majority of these homicides are in the 14+ age range is simple: gangs and gang violence. These homicides aren’t the result of a legal gun owner deciding to use their firearm against a child — these are “children” who have been drawn into the gang lifestyle and who are paying the price for it. Even the Huffington Post admits that 80% of the murders in Chicago are gang related (cities, by the report’s own admission, are where the most “child” murders take place, dropping to near zero in the countryside), so therefore 80% of these murders (or more) should logically fall into that category. It’s no wonder that Louisiana and Illinois (home to New Orleans and Chicago) rank as the two top states for “child” homicides according to the study, two states with gang problems.
The Brady Campaign rejects the idea that these homicides are committed by criminals, and instead soldiers on with the narrative that these homicides are committed by legal gun owners — or guns acquired from a house where a legally owned gun exists. To support their conclusion, they turn to the old chestnut of school shootings.
The next three pages are devoted to school shootings, which are high profile events that lead to a statistically insignificant number of deaths. Don’t get me wrong, these deaths are tragic, but in the grand scheme of things school shootings represent such a small percentage of even the deaths among “children” presented by this report that it hardly is worth our time to discuss them. However, the Brady Campaign devotes a full 10% of their report to a category involving less than 0.004% of annual deaths even among their chosen age group (12 deaths per year annually, on average).
The reason they want to focus on these incidents is that they are scenarios which are well studied and support their conclusion, namely that firearms used in homicides come from households where they were legally purchased.
This right here is the real point of the “report” from the Brady Campaign. Their entire argument is that guns are too dangerous to have since most people leave them unlocked and kids can get their hands on the guns. And then, obviously, kids will play with them and pull the trigger. They base this off a single study, whose methodology was dubious at best and presented the gun in this situation to the child as if it were a toy to be played with.
Kids die from guns, the Brady Campaign claims. Kids will pull the trigger on a gun if they find it, they claim (with dubious integrity). There are 1.7 million unlocked guns in the US, they claim (all unsubstantiated). Therefore, since all the guns are unlocked, kids will die. The obvious solution isn’t training the kids to not touch guns, or talk about “safe storage” laws, or even further research. The solution from the Brady Campaign is that we need to eliminate guns.
The truth is that while school shootings are high profile events with lots of media coverage that perfectly fit the narrative of the Brady Campaign, the fact of reality does not match the image presented in the report. The Brady Campaign wants you to come away with the impression that these homicides were committed using guns procured from unlocked gun cases, but the reality is that roughly 80% of the deaths are gang-on-gang violence with one criminal killing another criminal, all using guns that even the Huffington Post admits are illegally procured. Adding one more onerous law that restricts the Constitutionally protected rights of American citizens will do exactly nothing to prevent the murders that this report uses as evidence, as legal gun owners (as always) are not the problem.
The Brady Campaign is pulling out all the stops. With public opinion dead set against their agenda and sliding further in opposition each and every day, they have to resort to “shock” reports like this to mobilize their base and attract more gun control extremist crusaders. But anyone with half a brain and five seconds spent actually reading the report can see that while the truth is buried on the pages, the conclusion doesn’t match the facts presented. It makes about as much sense as using the American Civil War as evidence to support eliminating gluten from your diet.