noun: Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause

Yes, I’m aware that it’s done on both sides of this issue, but some of it is so blatant and amateurish it really shocks me that they do it. Take for example this October 2002 press release from Commonsense about Kids and Guns (it’s a Word file):

Kennedy: Still Too Many Preventable Gun Accidents and Suicides

New Data Shows 58% Increase in Accidental Shootings of Small Children

Washington, DC — Gun accidents and suicides took the lives of 1,200 children and teens**, plus an additional 18,358 kids 0-19 years-old were injured by a firearm and 1,776 were killed in homicides, according to new mortality and injury data released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control for the year 2000.

These findings were reported by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, president of the nonpartisan group Common Sense about Kids and Guns, on the three-year anniversary of the group’s founding.

“The reality is that many of these accidents, suicides, and injuries were preventable, if only the firearm in question had been properly stored: unloaded and locked,” stated Kennedy, quoting two of the six safety tips of her non-profit group.

“Common Sense about Kids and Guns is encouraged that overall rates of gun deaths have declined for the sixth straight year,” said Kennedy. “We applaud the responsible adults who followed our Common Sense Safety Tips and assured that no child or teen encountered a loaded or improperly stored firearm in their home.”

“But there is still more that needs to be done: among 0-4 year olds, accidental shootings actually increased a startling 58%!” declared Kennedy. “This is simply tragic. We must take personal responsibility to make certain guns are inaccessible to these very young children.”

“Without any exaggeration, the way a gun is stored can be a matter of life and death for our children,” Kennedy said. “Studies show that approximately 75% of all firearm-related accidents and suicides involving children and teens, and many homicides, are committed with a firearm found at home, or the home of a relative or friend.”

At the heart of the Common Sense about Kids and Guns message is parental responsibility. “A responsible adult cannot rely on a child or teenager not to touch a gun, merely because they have been told not to do so,” continued Kennedy. “It is impossible to predict what children, teenagers, and their friends will do, and the risks of mishandling a gun are too great to place the burden of responsibility on anyone other the adult bringing the gun into the home.”

Common Sense about Kids and Guns has developed six simple safety tips that have been endorsed by organizations from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign to the National Shooting Sport Foundation to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Whether or not someone decides to keep a gun
at home, Common Sense urges all adults to follow these steps to protect kids from gun deaths and injuries:

All gun owners must:
1) unload and lock up their guns;
2) lock and store ammunition separately; and
3) keep keys and combinations where kids are unable to find them.
All parents must:
4) ask if guns are safely stored at places their kids visit or play;
5) talk with their kids about guns; and
6) teach young children not to touch guns and to tell an adult if they find one.

“There are still many complex issues that lead to gun violence in our society – issues that we must address in a serious way,” concluded Kennedy. “But right now, if adults act responsibly and follow these six simple steps, we can continue to reduce the number of tragedies involving kids and guns. And remember, the child you save may be your own.”

Now, I don’t have a lot of problems with this piece.* The facts are actually factual, and the suggestions recommendations demands listed at the bottom aren’t really out of line (except I’ll decide whether to keep a firearm loaded in my house. It’s my responsibilty to make sure that the kids in my house don’t have access to one.) But let’s look at the part I highlighted, the 58% increase!

Damn if that’s not a scary number!

It’s propaganda – see definition above.

It is, indeed, factual. If you look at the Centers for Disease Control WISQARS tools it will tell you that in 2000 there were nineteen (19) children between the ages of 0 and 4 who died by unintentional gunshot, and that was indeed a 58% increase over 1999’s twelve (12).

But I somehow doubt that Commonsense reported on the 37% decrease between 1998 and 1999, when the number went from NINETEEN to twelve. Or the 50% decrease between 1994 and 1996 when the number went from thirty-four (34!) to seventeen (17).

The fact is that over the period between 1995 and 2000 the average has hovered about 20 per year.

Yes, that’s too many. Yes it’s tragic. Yes, it’s almost entirely due to irresponsible parents who left guns where someone (not always a toddler) could get to them.

But how about some perspective?

What about the 46 children from 0 to 4 years old who died by accidental poisoning in 2000?

Or the 44 who died in falls?

Or the 568 who drowned?

Where are the people urging legislation to stop these deaths due to irresponsible parents?

NOTE: The organization Commonsense about Kids and Guns is not a lobbying body. It restricts itself to “advocat(ing) personal action, rather than government action, in ending gun deaths” as commenter Mays succinctly put it. At least I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary.

It was not my intention to suggest that Commonsense was another Violence Policy Center or Brady Campaign, but on reflection it certainly could appear that way (and understandably, given my obvious, stated bias), and I apologize if it was so interpreted. (But this does point out the difference between intentionally misleading someone and accidentally doing so.)

*I take issue with the idea that teen suicides would be affected, but that’s another topic.

**See this piece for commentary on the combining of accident and suicide statistics to ensure scary numbers.

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