Gun lobby apologist in chief John Lott recently criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for compiling data on preventable firearm deaths, and USA Today for publishing an article on the 59,658 preventable firearm deaths that the CDC calls an "important public health concern."
The USA Today article is a straightforward account of gun violence in America noting that firearm homicide was the second leading cause of preventable death nationally for 10-19 year olds, but Lott questions why this is "news worthy enough" for USA Today to report on.
Based on the CDC data, USA Today reports on overall firearm homicides and their impact on metropolitan areas from from 2006-2007, noting that these urban areas experienced a higher percentage of homicides than non-urban areas. They also report on the CDC's finding that, "for youths aged 10--19 years, residents of these MSAs accounted for 73% of firearm homicides and 39% of firearm suicides nationally." *
But Lott questions why this is "news worthy":
Why does USA Today cover this? Why is this news worthy enough for an article by them? If it was important enough for a news story, why didn't USA Today simply assign a report [sic] to spend a few hours going through the FBI UCR reports to get this information?
From the CDC's report's editorial note:
During 2006--2007, firearm suicide and firearm homicide were the fourth and fifth leading causes of injury death in the United States, respectively. For youths aged 10--19 years, firearm homicide was the second leading cause and firearm suicide was the fifth leading cause of injury death nationally.
To Lott reporting on leading causes of preventable deaths isn't real news.
Lott also objects to the age range the CDC uses:
In the discussion of 10 to 19 year olds committing most of the murders, couldn't they have mentioned that virtually none of these were by the younger kids in this range. Why not include have [sic] the range from 5 to 19? It would be even more sensational.
It is true that most of the murders occur among the older youth in the age brackets, but it's clear that the CDC is reporting the data based roughly at the age where you start to see children commit murder. FBI data from 2007 shows that the 9-12 age bracket is the first set of years you see any reported murders.
The CDC is using a similar starting point and ends when the offenders were no longer teenagers, not surprisingly John Lott doesn't recognize methodological rigor and confuses it with sensationalizing.
Young children are rarely the perpetrators of firearm homicides but they're all too often the victims. Data collected by the Children's Defense Fund showed that in 2007, 397 children under the age of 15 died in firearm deaths.
Lott's attack on the CDC is a natural extension of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby's largely successful campaign to squash any and all public health research on gun safety conducted by the CDC.
The reason Lott and his ilk don't want the public to see these type of numbers is clear, in 2007, 3,042 children and teens died from gunfire in the United States and another 17,523 suffered non-fatal gun injuries. There is no way to argue with those numbers, all Lott can do is hope to convince the media this isn't real news.
* Sentence edited for accuracy