When it comes to children and guns, both the New York Times and California Governor Gavin Newsom seem to lack both honesty and basic math skills. The former created a misleading meme using bad definitions and incorrect analysis. The latter, being a politician of the craven variety, aped bad data without even a cursory fact check.
The Equine Effluvium
- Conflates different age groups
- Omits many rows of data about child and teen deaths that are higher than gun deaths
- Portrays teen age street gang members as “children”
- Ignores age-related issues or the underlying causes of deaths
The Data is Raw
The Times perpetrated intellectual fraud by using a subset of the causes of death common to children and to teens (two different groups) and amalgamating them into one entirely inaccurate meme.
The fallacious point they want you to believe is that guns are now the leading cause of death among children.
Which they aren’t. In fact, for children, guns are number 19 on the list with a rate lower than drowning, meningitis, suffocation and heart disease.
To understand their canard, you have to understand what they don’t want you to understand. Compare their chart to the unedited table here that shows data for the year 2019 (pre-pandemic, to avoid any pandemic-related anomalies). We truncate the table after firearm deaths to keep you from drowning in numbers.
- The Times was pretty shady by omitting 15 causes of deaths with rates higher than guns.
- This obscured the fact that for children (pre-puberty), the firearm death rate is low and in the statistical noise range. There were 510 gun deaths for children (ages 0–14), including all murders, accidents and suicides. That is less that one child per state per month.
- The rate is 16 times higher for teenagers. This demonstrates gun availability is not a determinate variable.
Teens, Gangs and Guns
This gets important because teens join street gangs, and homicide is a way of life in gangs.
According to the National Gang Center, depending on the year, between 35 and 50% of gang members are juveniles. And that excludes the 18- and 19-year-olds who are classified as adults.
This chart shows the increasing probability of a teen being murdered with a gun (and a smaller, more slowly growing probability of suicide with a gun).
The Gang Center notes that street gang recruitment begins at age 14. The longer one stays in a gang and the more active within the gang they become over time, the higher the rate of gun homicide. As the CDC data verifies, this is a reality with the gun homicide rate rising 20-fold from age 13 to age 19.
Journalism Dies in Dubiousness
If these were new issues, a Times reporter might be forgiven for producing the disingenuous meme they did. But these factors have been known for decades by criminologists and social scientists. Such common knowledge escaping both the Times and Gavin Newsom indicates that honesty is not their virtue.