Again today we can hear the president speaking about the need for gun control legislation. This time, as has been the case since Sandy Hook, it is the school shootings that have got him riled up. However, I imagine the his comments would have been similar had it been a shooting by a child playing with a gun found in a home, or a hunting accident. We can postulate endlessly about WHY the president is anti-gun, but I’d like to focus for a minute on the facts. While doing some research for a past post I stumbled on to a great resource. THe CDC, which is based in Atlanta 😉 offers a publicly searchable database of reported cases of injury and death in the US. As with all statistics, the data can be spun in a number of ways. So I sat down with a statistician, to see where the president should really place the blame.
Data is available for the years prior to 2010, so I decided to go back to 2001. The database allows you to search all reports of injury or death that were “firearm” related, (as opposed to “poisoning”, “vehicle related” etc.) I pulled the data specifically for children under the age of 14 because so much of the recent gun control discussions have been based on school shootings. The arguments, I’ve noticed, often vacillate between violent and nonviolent acts. For example, I child finding a gun in a home and accidentally shooting their sibling is “nonviolent” while, I think we can all agree, Sandy Hook was a “violent” incident. Certain anti-gun folks I’ve previously covered, might consider these issues one and the same, but the professional with whom I worked, felt the distinction must be made. Interestingly, the CDC also categorizes the data into separate groups.
I found that from 2001-2010 violent acts on children ages 0-14, which include a firearm, whether fatal or not, have stayed very steady AND very low. In fact, when separated, the number of violent deaths has been dropping slightly. Violent acts with a firearm, killed 0.00056% of 0-14 year olds in 2001, but by 2010 that number had dropped to 0.00049%, even with an increase in that age group’s population over the same period of time.
Just for argument sake, I wanted to look at the firearms accidents that were reported, to see if guns were really dangerous by nature. When looking at “unintended” firearms injuries and deaths, the CDC’s number are exceptionally clear. Violent acts cause firearms incidents. Fatalities are rarely caused by firearms accidents, but even when these numbers were factored in, a firearm is two times more likely to be used violently than to be part of an unintended incident. More than anything, these statistics tell me that it is the violence causing the problems for children, not the guns. So Mr. President, how about a little violence control?