The U.S. and Canada share much, not the least of which are a common colonial heritage and a robust appreciation for the outdoors. Unfortunately, it appears Canadian public health researchers and gun control advocates share a regrettable distinction with their U.S. counterparts; a willingness to use misleading statistics on childhood firearms-related injuries to advance an anti-gun agenda.
In the 1990s and into the early 2000s, it was common for U.S. gun control advocates to push for greater firearms restrictions by claiming that a certain number children were killed with firearms each day.
For example, in 1999, Sarah Brady of Handgun Control Inc. (now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) lamented, “Maybe the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the gun lobby can ignore the fact that tens of thousands of people continue to die every year from guns, including more than 11 children per day, but it's unacceptable to me that the killings, many of them preventable, continue to go on.”
That same year, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton claimed at a press conference, “Every day in America we lose 13 precious children to gun-related violence. Every two days, therefore, we lose the equivalent of a classroom of students.”
In 2001, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) parroted this gun control lobby talking point during the Senate confirmation hearings for Attorney General John Ashcroft. Kennedy posed a question to then-Brady Campaign President Michael Barnes, asking, “Mr. Barnes, as I understand, there are 12 children that die from gun accidents every single day. Is that your understanding?” To which Barnes responded, “Well, Senator, thank goodness it`s a little better now. Thank goodness, it`s just under 11 children a day in the United States dying from gun violence.”
Anti-gun advocates came to these deceptive figures by combining the annual number of firearms-related fatalities among those properly identified as children (0-14), with firearms-related fatalities among juveniles and young adults (15-19). For the purposes of the figure and gun control talking points, all those under the age of 20 were considered children.
As one might expect, firearms-related fatalities are much more prevalent among juveniles and young adults ages 15-19. At the height of the U.S. gun control community’s misleading use of this statistic, NRA conducted an analysis of firearms-related fatalities among children using National Center for Health Statistics data for the year 2000. The analysis determined that the average number of firearms-related fatalities per day among those ages 0-14 was 1.2, while the average among juveniles and young adults ages 15-19 was 7.1.
Using National Center for Health Statistics data for 2015, the massive discrepancy between firearms-related fatalities among actual children versus those among juveniles and young adults holds. In 2015, the average number of firearms-related fatalities per day among those ages 0-14 was 1.2, while the average among juveniles and young adults ages 15-19 was 6.5.
In a galling display of dishonesty, HCI even used this fraudulent statistic to advocate for “safe storage” laws, which they claimed were aimed at preventing young children from accessing firearms. A HCI produced fact sheet from the 1990s listed a handful of tragic firearms accidents involving young children and then followed it up by contending that “Every day, 13 children in America are killed with guns…” The combination gave the uninformed reader - likely by design - a wildly inaccurate impression of the number of firearms fatalities among young children.
Following efforts by NRA and others to expose this misleading statistic, gun control advocates have continued to use the figure, but have changed the way in which they characterize it. For instance, Brady Campaign and Everytown for Gun Safety materials now present the number of “children and teens” involved in firearms-related fatalities.
It now seems that gun control advocates in the Great White North are bent on perverting shooting figures even more than their stateside counterparts
On March 27, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) titled, “Risk of firearm injuries among children and youth of immigrant families.” The study concluded, “We counted almost 1800 firearm injuries among children and youth in Ontario over a 5-year period, which represents almost 1 injury per day.” This conclusion was highlighted by a press release from SickKids, which carried the headline, “A child or youth is injured by a firearm every day in Ontario: study.” Predictably the press was quick to highlight this factoid, with the beginning of a Toronto Star article stating, “A child or youth is shot in Ontario almost every day, according to a groundbreaking study…”
What was less emphasized is how this statistic was created. A closer look at the study reveals that the researchers’ definition of “children and youth” includes children ages 0-14 and juveniles and young adults ages 15-24. Just as with U.S. firearms-related fatality data, the individuals over the age of 14 experience the vast majority of firearms-related injuries.
Though not emphasized in some media reports or in the study’s abstract or conclusion, the researchers did break down number of firearm-related injuries in Ontario by age in a table included in their research. Between 2008 and 2012, there were roughly 338 injuries among those ages 0-14. In the same time period, firearms-related injuries among those 15-24 numbered roughly 1444.
The misleading nature of the study’s conclusion led Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley to call for the CMAJ to retract it. Lilley pointed out, “When most of us see a study, put out by pediatricians, about injuries among children and youth, most of us are probably thinking about little kids, or young teenagers. This study includes anyone that is 24 years of age or younger.” According to his column, Lilley asked the researchers for a more comprehensive breakdown of the firearms-related injuries by age, but was rebuffed.
Pointing out an even more misleading tactic, Lilley went on to note that the study includes injuries sustained with air guns and paintball guns. The columnist said of the study,
Then there is their sloppy definition of firearm. Despite what the authors may think, a paintball gun is not a firearm. Neither is a BB gun or an airsoft pistol.
But they are included in this study as a firearm. When I asked for a breakdown between real guns and paintball guns and the like, I was told that information was not available.
Asked on radio whether many of those injured could be 22 year-olds running around a paintball field at a bachelor party, Dr. Natasha Saunders [lead study author] took a long pause before admitting that could be the case.
This latest perversion of “firearms” injury figures makes clear that gun control advocates the world over are prepared to contort data in any manner that suits their agenda. It is the duty of gun rights supporters to look beyond sensational headlines, educate themselves about such common anti-gun tactics, and alert others to these underhanded methods.