What Happens When the Media Narrative™ on Gun Control Loses Traction?

They go back to scaaaaary numbers!  And they beat their drums made from the skins of dead children.

Terrible tally: 500 children dead from gunshots every year, 7,500 hurt, analysis finds

That’s the headline. Here’s the first line of the piece (emphasis mine):

About 500 American children and teenagers die in hospitals every year after sustaining gunshot wounds — a rate that climbed by nearly 60 percent in a decade, according to the first-ever accounting of such fatalities, released Sunday.

Children and teens – which includes 18 and 19 year-old “children” who are legally adults.

But wait! It gets better!

In addition, an estimated 7,500 kids are hospitalized annually after being wounded by gunfire, a figure that spiked by more than 80 percent from 1997 to 2009, according two Boston doctors presenting their findings at a conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, held in Orlando, Fla.

Eight of every 10 firearm wounds were inflicted by handguns, according to hospital records reviewed by the doctors. They say the national conversation about guns should shift toward the danger posed by smaller weapons, not the recent fights over limiting the availability of military-style, semi-automatic rifles.

So the urgent need to reinstate the assault weapon ban is not so urgent after all?

Just as an aside, I did a Google search on the name of one of the authors, Dr. Arin L. Madenci. Google returned 9,380 hits. The first eight pages are almost exclusively this announcement. Of the dozen or so stories I scanned, not one had a link to the actual report, just the database that spawned it.

So let’s look at some numbers.

The NBC piece states:

Madenci, and his colleague, Dr. Christopher Weldon, a surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, tallied the new statistics by culling a national database of 36 million pediatric hospitalizations from 1997 to 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available.
During that period, hospitalizations of kids and teens aged 20 and younger from gunshot wounds jumped from 4,270 to 7,730. Firearm deaths of children logged by hospitals rose from 317 in 1997 to 503 in 2009, records showed.

Wait – “aged 20 and younger? I thought we were talking “children and teens”?

The Centers for Disease Control has a tool, WISQARS, which stands for Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. It has subsections on fatal injury, non-fatal injury, and violent injury statistics, though the last covers only sixteen states and is “not nationally representative.” That’s OK though. The fatal and non-fatal statistics can be searched by “violence-related” or “unintentional.” The CDC numbers go through 2010.

In 1997, according to the CDC, for “children” aged 0-19 there were 4,223 gunshot fatalities, not 317. Apparently the overwhelming majority of these gunshot fatalities never made it to a hospital. The non-fatal data only goes back to 2000, so I can’t do a comparison, but you’d think they’d want to use the higher number. But here’s the interesting part where this “news” piece becomes an opinion piece without bothering to inform you of the fact:  of the total of 1,005 words in the NBC piece, the first 298 of them are about the study and its results. The remaining 707 are about how you should feel about it. They relate to the tragic death of 3-year-old Will McAnaul who died from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound. As I have said before, this is the kind of thing that really irritates me. As I said then:
 Now, what are you to infer from this? You are to infer that the majority of these injuries and deaths are accidental, are you not?

Let’s look at the CDC’s numbers in more depth.

For 1997, children 0-12 years of age, gunshot fatalities: 318
Unintentional: 84
Violence-related (includes suicide): 226
Known suicide: 20

Eighty-four accidental deaths. Over two hundred homicides.

For 1997, children 13-19, gunshot fatalities: 3,905 (12.63/100,000 population)
Unintentional: 222
Violence related: 3,616
Suicide: 1,242

That means 2,374 were homicides.

Let’s jump to 2009.

Children 0-12, gunshot fatalities: 209
Unintentional: 44
Violence-related: 156
Suicide: 14

Age 13-19 total gunshot fatalities: 2,502 (8.25/100,000 population)
Unintentional: 90
Violence-related: 2,383
Suicide: 735

Excuse me?

The story plainly states that:

…hospitalizations of kids and teens aged 20 and younger from gunshot wounds jumped from 4,270 to 7,730. Firearm deaths of children logged by hospitals rose from 317 in 1997 to 503 in 2009, records showed.

But the Centers for Disease Control data also plainly states that the total “firearm deaths” of children aged from birth to nineteen years of age went from 4,223 to 2,811 – a decrease of 1,412 in raw numbers and a death rate decrease of almost 63%Accidental death by gunshot dropped by 60%.

And all of this in the face of expanding “shall-issue” concealed-carry legislation, and at least four million new guns being purchased each yearat least half of them handguns.

The CDC numbers are far higher than those used by Doctors Arin L. Madenci and Christopher Weldon, and they are nothing to be proud of, but they trend DOWN, and dramatically. You can’t frighten people with declining statistics. Instead, they had to find numbers they could cherry-pick to support The Narrative™ that guns are a disease vector, and that more guns = more “gun deaths.”

And every news service in the country, and many more worldwide picked up the “story” (and I use that word with dripping sarcasm) and ran with it.

LAYERS of editorial fact-checking!!

Agenda?  What agenda?

Remember, they’re The Other Side.  It’s what they do.  It’s all they do.  And they absolutely will not stop.

So we can’t either.

UPDATE: NBC reporter Bill Briggs, who wrote the linked article, is on Facebook. I asked him about his story. Specifically, I asked:  “Mr. Briggs, I read your piece. Don’t you guys have fact checkers?”  His response:

The study conducted by these surgical residents came from the first-ever data mining of firearms injuries/deaths from this statistical set (KID). It warrants coverage. We noted in the article that this pediatric database typically includes anyone 20 and under (although for one year of data, the cut off was younger). We typically try to put faces and personal stories with any numbers reported in all our stories, no matter the topic.

I asked him:

Doesn’t it bother you – even a little – that they reported a significant increase in fatalities (317 in 1997 to 503 in 2009) while the Centers for Disease Control reported a significant DECREASE in fatalities (and a MUCH higher total count)? Does that not tell you that the KID statistical set is pretty much USELESS for the purpose they put it to (if you don’t assume that their purpose was to push gun control)? Doesn’t THAT “warrant coverage”? Doesn’t it make you ask “Why”?

We’ll see if he replies.

UPDATE II:  He did.  Here’s the remainder of the exchange:

Yes, we cover all those trend lines.

Also, if you read the abstract written by these two surgeons, you’ll note that they are not pushing a social agenda. They speak to the statistics from a clinical perspective. They only venture slightly down that road when citing the higher percentage of handgun injuries in contrast to ongoing debates about so-called assault rifles.

Bill, where was the link to the abstract in your piece? I saw links only to the KID website and to Patcine McAnaul’s blog. (And though you chose Will McAnaul as the face for your story, I think even you would admit that stating his case “may” have been one included in the data is stretching it. He was “declared dead” at the hospital, not admitted.)

I saw no mention of “trend lines” other than “hospitalizations of kids and teens aged 20 and younger from gunshot wounds jumped from 4,270 to 7,730. Firearm deaths of children logged by hospitals rose from 317 in 1997 to 503 in 2009, records showed.”

With respect to the doctors, you don’t find this comment suggestive? “Policies designed to reduce the number of household firearms, especially handguns, may more effectively reduce the number of gunshot injuries in children,” Madenci said.

This INSISTS that “the number of gunshot injuries in children” is INCREASING – an assertion BELIED by the CDC data that says it’s DECREASING – dramatically – WITHOUT such “policies” despite the increasing number of firearms in private hands – especially handguns.

In short, your piece provides false information in support of a false narrative, but it “warrants coverage” while the truth – as uncomfortable as it is – does not.

And you wonder why people no longer trust the media?

Thank you for your thoughts. The American Academy of Pediatrics can offer additional information on this research.

Thank you for your responses.

As my daughter said to me tonight on the telephone, “I kept waiting for him to respond, and he never did.”

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