Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the US?

PXL_20230319_092927490 Another in the Gunz Warz. From the sainted Obama, no less: "We are failing our children. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.". But is it true?

You'd hope it was true. Big O is a high-profile saint, with the best advice available to him, and certainly no fool. And yet, he appears to be wrong. He appears to be so badly wrong that I suspect I've made some obvious mistake; if so, please point it out to me1.

My source is the CDC.

Here's a picture (the one below, not the one to the right...) from the CDC site. As expected, the wrinklies die of disease, but for the moment we don't care about them, we care about the young folk.

As sort-of expected, homicide peaks for late-teens / early adult, presumably amongst young men who make regrettable life choices. If I split by sex, we'd probably se something different for the rather more sensible female types <tries it> Ah yes, the sensible women are more likely to kill themselves: H+S = 27% for 15-24, vs 44% for males.

I don't think switching attention to the 10-14 group would help the argument. I wonder if you adjusted the breakdown, you could get something that looked like Gunz-are-Number-One: for 1-14, UI leads, but contains 27 "firearms"; Suicide (#2) has 189 F; Motor Vehicles leads UI as 294... ah, but if you broke MV down into all its constituents, the leading number would be 87, which is less than F. I think that's cheating, though.

You'll be wondering, of course, if "Unintentional Injury" hides some Gunz Deathz.


But no. UI is mostly Carz, with somewhat oddly "Poisoning" coming a very close second. But that's because P includes Drugz. For 10-14, F-in-UI comes up, but only to 5%.



chart (2)

P et al. point me at Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States in defence of O's claim. For the purposes of a pol, that's good enough: for the single year 2020 (though if I painfully search by year, 2021 looks similar to 2020 at least for X95), O's claim is "true". Although you'll notice that is "children and adolescents", not the "children" that O claimed. That's because rather than the what-looks-like-default age binning, that study uses 1-19.

Apart from the age issue, there's another, which is that is all death-by-gun; in the context of school shootings, that's misleading.

But to return to the age issue: why would you use "children and adolescents", if you mean "children"? The obvious reason is that death-by-violence goes up a lot into the 15-24 age group, and including older folk lets you tap into that.

Can I face quantifying that? Oh go on... and so (from the kindly provided https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10-expanded.html) I managed to drag out that graph (which if I've got it right is for X95 - which is most of the death-by-firearms-violence, but doesn't include suicide I think, for 2018-2021 (blue) and then I updated it to add just 2018-2019 in red; and remembered to multiply those latter by two to make them comparable, since they are numbers-of-the-fallen. Data in disorganised form here). This rather clearly shows why mixing up "children" and "those old enough to go out and get into trouble" isn't a good idea. Unless you have propaganda in mind, obvs (PF notices the same problem but is more forgiving than me). It is also rather clear that 2020-21 are anomalous; or at least, not like 2018-2019. The "obvious" "explanation" for that is Covid, but YMMV.


0. The gravestone is from SEH.

1. There was no shortage of kind volunteers. See the comments. And see my update.


I’m not sure people fully appreciate how dire the US life expectancy / mortality situation has got.

War and subsidies have turbocharged the green transition.

On the Rise of the "Economic Style of Reasoning".


* Hourly modelling of conversion of USA48 to wind/solar, with costing and optimisation - Moyhu.

* The Dominion lawsuit showed the limits of Fox’s influence over its audience


Phil said...


Of course, if you lump drownings, poisoning, auto crashes, falls and horse accidents, that total is still larger.

William M. Connolley said...

Ah, so the claim is that it is true, but only for 2020 and no other year?

Phil said...

"And yet, he appears to be wrong. He appears to be so badly wrong that I suspect I've made some obvious mistake; if so, please point it out to me."

Done so. I suggest rewriting your post to correct your errors. I'd suggest putting Fig 1 from NEJM in place of CDC tables.

2020 is the last year in released CDC statistics. Should see 2021 released numbers in a few months.

Unknown said...

here's a table for 2021 1-19 years of age.
It says Firearm is the leading cause of death.

b fagan said...

Sad but appears true.

Adding a Politifact article fact-checking Sen. Chuck Schumerremarking on the new leading cause of death in children. From last year, using 2019 and 2020 CDC data analyzed by the people in the Correspondence piece Phil referenced in comment #1


Shooting deaths top the list in 2020 data from CDC, where "children" defined being 1 through 19 years of age. The appendix in the NEJM piece also sorted suicide, homicide, accident and unknown.

Tom said...

Age of legal majority is 18--why are 19yo's included?

Phil said...


1-18 answer:


William M. Connolley said...

Thanks for the comments. The PF one is interesting, because it notices the "C" vs "C+A" issue and downgrades the statement to "Mostly True" because of that. I think it is open to interpretation, but I'd agree that by the standards of truth generally set by pols, it is truthy.

Phil said...

Why no Fig 1 from NEJM?

"It is also rather clear that 2020-21 are anomalous; or at least, not like 2018-2019."

It is also clear that motor vehicle crash deaths have been trending down. I suspect this is due to seat belt laws and regulations requiring safer cars. Firearms wouldn't stand a chance if cars were killing children like they used to. Shouldn't you be complaining about that?

Phil said...

Link is wrong. Try this:


"but also that the burden imposed by government borrowing on our grandchildren is unjust."

Is amusing.

Our grandchildren as a whole will own as exactly much debt as they owe, so is not a burden on them as a group. It might increase inequality, of course, but you don't care about that.

The burden of borrowing is on today's economy. Or not borrowing.


Phil said...

Oh, and this:


William M. Connolley said...

Thanks; I've fixed the link.

As to the debt: contracting debt on behalf of someone else and then splurging the money on yourself is indeed unjust. Arguably, even if you don't do the splurging it is still unjust. Your ref makes essentially the same point, but is over-optimistic about the chances of other people spending other people's money wisely.

Phil said...


West Antarctica Ice Sheet, WAIS, ice resting on the sea floor, very roughly 1000 km from the current ice edge would get most of this. 55 meters per day is 20 km per year, or 50 years. 610 meters per day would be 220 km per year, or less than 5 years. That's 3 meters of sea level rise.


Thank you for training the Chatbotz:

"No, guns are not the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death for children aged 1-14 in the U.S. are unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents, drowning, and fires. However, firearms are still a significant cause of injury and death for children in the U.S. In 2019, 3,406 children and teens died from gun-related injuries, according to the CDC."

They still need some work:


Phil said...

"Arguably, even if you don't do the splurging it is still unjust."

Kids that do not get a good education might have a different view on what is unjust.

William M. Connolley said...

TCW: still a way to go before they take over the world I think.

Kids that do not get a good education: are indeed being treated unjustly. The govt is splurging money on teaching unions and saddling the infants with the debt for their crap education. Bring in vouchers a-la Friedman.

Phil said...

Paying teachers less doesn't attract better teachers.


Vouchers have quality problems.


Phil said...

Not maintaining roads is an example of a physical debt.

Sometimes spending is wise. A stitch in time...

William M. Connolley said...

> teachers

Monopoly is bad. The current govt teaching system is effectively monopoly.

> Sometimes spending is wise

...is uncontroversial. My assertion is not that all (govt) spending is unwise. What is controversial is the degree to which govt spending is (un)wise. The SLS is clearly unwise, for example. Current voters can to some extent influence spending by choosing their representatives (though the degree of influence can be overestimated; see for example the aforementioned SLS); future generations cannot.

Phil said...

Wisdom is hard.

Regardless if government or non-government. Future generations can't vote for necessary spending.

Monopoly is sometimes the best choice. Regulation or public ownership is required, per John Stuart Mill.


Public schools have large community value, especially in rural areas.


SLS? School Lunch Service?

And meanwhile, how fast will WAIS collapse? Geologic record suggests it might be years, not decades.

Phil said...

NY Times and rising death rates in the USA. Link good for 30 days.


Nathan said...

Syllogisms are the best....

"Monopoly is bad. The current govt teaching system is effectively monopoly."

This is just great...

Phil said...

"This rather clearly shows why mixing up "children" and "those old enough to go out and get into trouble" isn't a good idea."

Getting into trouble, going to the wrong address to pickup your brothers. Mom said 115th Terrace, and he went to 115th Street.


Looks to me like you are blaming all of the victims. Sure, maybe some are to blame. But not all of them.


As a matter of factoid, American stats generally include 16-to-19-year-old juveniles, deliquent or other wise,under the gun death heading "children".

Exclude teenage gang members and the annual death by gunfire toll declines from over two thousand to a few hundred.

William M. Connolley said...

Individual horror stories are a poor basis for making public policy.

There are many ways to lower the death rate. Banging your head so insistently at one method that is walled off by the constitution is destructuve of the polity; damaging the fabric of society leads to more deaths.

Phil said...

Missing my point. Blaming the victims isn't helpful.

Not all 16-19 year old juveniles shot are "teenage gang members". Only about 10% of murders are "gang related". Lots of people that just happened to be in the way of a bullet.


Constitution used to mean that States had a right to arm and train militias, like the National Guard.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

"Bear Arms" in 1800 meant being the right to be part of the local militia, with arms usually (but not always) safely stored in the town armory. The Texas tower shooting was the start of the right wing movement to promote an individual right to carry deadly toys everywhere. My dad used to be part of the NRA when it was sane. I remember him quitting.

Yet, the Supreme Court has now ruled otherwise, bring up the new model of deadly toys spread across the land. And yes, unlikely to change this anytime soon. Sanity isn't likely anytime soon.

You do need to walk into your local grocery store and see a deranged looking old man with a big pistol on his hip muttering to himself about something. You need some fear into your gut. UK is too safe.

So do tell, how to lower the death rate?

William M. Connolley said...

> how to lower the death rate?

If that was your aim, you would look at the statistics for all deaths, rather than just concentrating on gunz. If your aim was deaths-from-gunz, you'd be looking primarily at single-death-incidents, since these kill the majority of people. If your aim in that was reform, you would be striving to de-escalate and de-politicise the issue, in which case you'd avoid calling the other side non-sane. If it was me, I'd start with one easy thing: cancel all the active-shooter-drills, since they are obviously stupid and counter-productive.

See-also: Gunz: constitutionalism and majoritarianism.