I had already debunked this completely misleading claim from the CDC even before it spread widely and before Biden incorporated it into his gun control speech.
After the Uvalde school shooting, the CDC and the media are pushing a misleading claim that, “firearms were the leading cause of death for kids one and older for the first time in 2020.”
There’s no statistical reason for the CDC to group infants and teenagers together into the same category except to push a gun control agenda. 1-year-olds and 19-year-olds don’t have much in common when it comes to gun violence. And when the numbers are broken down, teenagers have catastrophically high murder and suicide rates, while babies are much less affected.
The CDC’s letter to the New England Journal of Medicine claims that “in 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death” for “persons 1 to 19 years of age”.
The CDC buries the salient data in its appendix. It claims that the “increase was seen across most demographic characteristics”. Its own data however shows a massive increase among black teens and a fairly limited one among most other groups.
Nevertheless, in his gun control address, Biden pushed an even worse version of the same claim.
“According to new data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America. The number one killer. More than car accidents.”
Fairly few children are actually killed by guns.
Any statistical category that tops out at 19 years old obviously can’t be characterized as “children”. The majority of deaths in that category involve teenagers and gang activity.
NBC News’ fairly nuanced fact check makes the same point.
While gun and motor vehicle deaths increased substantially in 2020, the latest year final numbers were available, claims that more children and teens die due to guns than motor vehicles only hold up when 18- to 19-year-olds are included, a group that accounts for nearly as many gun deaths as 1 to 17-year-olds combined do, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The gap between vehicular deaths and firearm deaths is narrowing among 1 to 17-year-olds, and may close entirely, according to the CDC’s provisional and incomplete 2021 data…
Provisional data from 2021 shows a gap of 9 deaths separating vehicle fatalities from firearm deaths among children.
A key difference though is that while gun deaths are heavily concentrated among black teens in inner cities, car accidents are widely dispersed. This is the same issue as the mischaracterization of widespread AIDS risk in the eighties. The school shootings are the Ryan White of risk assessment. The data here is skewed by a very high rate of fatalities among a very narrow demographic.
The Johns Hopkins report on gun deaths in 2020 put out last month was much more revealing.
It had the numbers that should have been front and center at the CDC, such as, “In 2020, one out of every 1,000 young Black males (15–34) was shot and killed.”
Even though young black males only make up “2% of the total population”, they account for “38% of all gun homicide fatalities” with a gun homicide rate “almost 21 times higher than white males of the same age group.”
“More than half of all black teens (15–19) who died in 2020—a staggering 52%—were killed by gun violence,” it shockingly observes.
So you have a very high death rate among 2% of the population that’s being narrative laundered to make it seem as if all of America’s kids are at risk.
Guns are the number one killer of black teens. But then again black men are unique in that they’re the only group for whom murder is the top cause of death.
Homicide doesn’t even make the CDC’s top 10 causes of death for men in America, but it’s number four for black men. In 2017, it caused 5% of the deaths of black men, more than strokes, diabetes, or most diseases. The only things more likely to kill black men than black-on-black crime are heart disease, cancer, and accidents.
Among black men under the age of 20, homicide is the leading cause of death at 35.3%.
It’s also the leading cause of death for black men from 20-44 years old at 27.6%.
Only at the age of 65 does homicide drop out of the top 10 causes of death for black men.
So all that the number Biden is quoting really tell us is that a population with high crime rates now has such a high death rate among teens that when combined with the general population, it distorts those numbers dramatically.
Children, thank G-d, do have fairly low death rates in America. And so that data set is the most vulnerable to statistical distortion which I’m sure the gun control advocates at the CDC knew when they decided to push these dishonest statistics.
This is also a reminder of why Republicans were right to block the CDC from doing any gun violence research. The CDC can’t be trusted and any gun violence research inevitably becomes dishonest advocacy for gun control.