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Posted by on Jan 12, 2013 in Crime, Featured, Society | 51 comments

Meme-Busting: Do 85% of the children who die from gun violence live in the US?

85% of children that are killed with guns are killed in the United StatesIf you haven’t seen or heard this yet, just wait — it’s making its way around Facebook.

The quick answer is “no.”

Read on to see how the meme got started.

In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and former astronaut Mark Kelly, her husband, spoke out on gun violence.

Kelly said, according to the ABC transcript at midnight Friday January 11:

How do we get to the point where 85% of children that are killed with guns are killed in the United States? That is a sobering statistic.

There is no source for the stat, but mimics a 2012 report from the Children’s Defense Fund (pdf) which does not identify the source of the claim (added) on page 5 of the document or properly cite it on page 30:

The most recent analysis of data from 23 high-income countries reported that 87 percent of children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States.

And the chart on Facebook?

How do we get to the point where 85% of children in the world that are killed with guns are killed in the United States?

But late Saturday night I checked the transcript again, because of a comment below from Robert:

You know, how do we get to the point where 85% of the children in the world that are killed with guns are killed in the united states? That is a sobering statiststatistic (sic). 85%.

Notice the key difference?

  • The Children’s Defense Fund claim is for “23 high-income countries” (not enumerated).
  • The Kelly quote in the original ABC transcript implies we are talking about a global comparison.
  • The Anti-Republican Crusaders quote on the image being shared on Facebook makes that implication explicit — and puts words in Kelly’s mouth in the process.

There is also an implication that we are talking about murder – not accidental death or suicide. Half of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides; that percentage is considerably less for those under age 20.

How many deaths are we talking about?

Unintentional Injury Deaths / Homicides / Suicides by Firearm (2010)

  • Age 1-4 : 68 total; 25 firearm injury deaths; 43 homicides
  • Age 5-9 : 69 total; 11 firearm injury deaths; 58 homicides
  • Age 10-14 : 213 total; 26 firearm injury deaths; 107 homicides; 80 suicides
  • Age 15-19 : 2,234 total; 72 firearm injury deaths; 1,554 homicides; 668 suicides

This is not to discount the fact that guns are involved in a much higher percentage of deaths in the U.S. than just about any other place in the world or that guns are more likely than any other weapon to be involved in mass murder in the U.S.

But if you are going to stir people to action, do it with facts not fabrications.


Data for context:

Top two causes of death by unintentional injury (2010)

  • Age 1-4 : 1,110 total; 436 drownings, 343 motor vehicle accidents
  • Age 5-9 : 1,394 total; 343 motor vehicle accidents, 134 drownings
  • Age 10-14 : 885 total; 452 motor vehicle accidents, 117 drownings
  • Age 15-19 : 4,537 total; 2,895 motor vehicle accidents, 744 poisonings

Top two causes of death by homicide (2010)

  • Age 1-4 : 385 total; 163 unspecified; 84 other, classifiable
  • Age 5-9 : 111 total; 58 firearm; 13 unspecified
  • Age 10-14 : 150 total; 107 firearm; 16 cut/pierce
  • Age 15-19 : 1,832 total; 1,554 firearm; 147 cut/pierce

Top two causes of death by suicide (2010)

  • Age 10-14 : 267 total; 168, suffocation; 60 firearm
  • Age 15-19 : 1,659 total; 752, suffocation; 668 firearm

4:10 pm Pacific, 12 January : Edited to add data on homicides and suicides for context; data moved below conclusion.

9:40 pm Pacific, 12 January : Edited to reflect that ABC changed the transcript of the interview.

12:50 am Pacific, 17 January : Edited to clarify Children’s Defense Fund lack of citation of the study with 2003 data from 23 wealthy countries.