Friday, October 31st, 2014

Do an average of nine children a day die in the U.S. of gunshot wounds?

An average of nine children a day die in the U.S. of gunshot wounds.

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 in a gun-control rally claim

Mostly True

In the wake of the Reynolds High School shooting in Troutdale that left two students dead, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the nation’s leading gun control advocacy groups, has once again been urging parents to lock up guns and ammunition in separate gun lockers.

The claim:

At a rally in Vancouver last week, Brady Campaign representatives claimed that, on average, nine children across the U.S. die every day from gunshot wounds.

The group set up a display showing nine pairs of children’s shoes and a chalkboard that read: "9 kids every day will never have another birthday."

Were Emilio Hoffman, the victim at Reynolds, and Jared Padgett, the shooter, just two of nine children who die from gun violence on any given day? PolitiFact wanted to find out.

The analysis:

In an email, Brady Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Fuson said the number is based on a five-year average of government data recording children who died from gunshot wounds. The ages range from infants to 19.

We obtained the same numbers from an online database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent data available, 14,258 children died as a result of gunshot wounds.

The circumstances range widely: accidental shootings by adults, kids who gained access to unsecured guns, gang violence, suicide and planned shootings like the incident at Reynolds High School on June 10.

The numbers work out to 7.81 deaths a day, about one fewer than the Brady Campaign claimed.

We presented this information to Heidi Yewman, a member of the national Brady Campaign board who organized last week’s rally. She acknowledged that the number presented at the rally was incorrect.

A volunteer accidentally wrote the wrong number on the chalkboard display, she said. Nine children are unintentionally shot and survive every day, she said, but those children are in addition to the eight who are shot – intentionally and unintentionally – and die.

"It’s really important we don’t exaggerate the number, because it undermines what we’re saying," Yewman said in a phone interview Monday. "That was unfortunate and somewhat misleading."

She added: "Certainly there was no conspiracy to mislead the public."

In an email, Fuson, the Brady Campaign’s spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., agreed: "It is correct to say that 8 children and teens die from gun violence every day. It is also correct to say that 9 children and teens are shot unintentionally."

We verified the nonfatal number as well — nine children and teens each day — and found that 8.86 children are unintentionally shot each day and survive, according to the CDC’s nonfatal injuries database.

That number is based on a five-year average from 2008-12, the most recent data available. The CDC’s fatal shootings database does not offer information for 2012, so we used a five-year average from 2007-11.

The CDC is the nation’s leading authority on mortality and injury statistics. The federal database includes information on thousands of death and emergency room records, and is regularly cited by lawmakers and activist groups. It is important to note, however, that the CDC says its data for gun injuries among children 16 and younger is shaky because the samples sizes are small.

The ruling:

At a gun-control rally in Vancouver last week, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence set up a display that claimed that nine U.S. children a day, on average, lose their lives to gunfire.

That number is about one higher than reflected in government statistics, which show that 14,258 children through age 19 were killed by gunshot wounds from 2007 through 2011. That works out to an average of 7.81 deaths a day.

The Brady Campaign acknowledged the error, saying it was a volunteer’s mistake. The number cited at the Vancouver rally wasn’t far off. Further, the group’s literature and website reflect the accurate number, supporting leaders’ contention that they had no interest in presenting incorrect information.  

Precision is important, especially in a debate as volatile as the one on gun control. But we find that the group misstated one number by a relatively modest amount -- one that doesn't materially change the debate or one's reaction to the number of children who die of gunshot wounds. We rate the group’s claim Mostly True.

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