TheBlaze Fact-Checks ABC: Did Diane Sawyer Use Misleading Stats in ’20/20’ Report on Children and Guns?
Jan. 31, 2014 11:34pm Jason Howerton
ABC’s “20/20” waded into the never-ending gun debate on Friday with a new special titled, “Young Guns.” While some pro-gun advocates, including TheBlaze TV’s Oceander Loesch, are already panning the report, TheBlaze also took a closer look at the statistics cited by ABC and found a few noteworthy details.
In the report, ABC producers strategically place unloaded firearms in play areas and allow children to find them so their behavior can be observed. The objective of the experiment is seemingly to determine if parents’ children are safe at the homes of neighbors who own firearms.
While previewing her new special on Friday, Sawyer and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos claimed that “every hour a child is hospitalized because of gunshots” and “every other day a child [is] killed” by a gun.
A review of ABC’s statistics reveal that its numbers on “child” gun deaths include all “kids under age 18.” Citing the CDC, ABC reports that 1,337 people under age 18 died from gunshot wounds in 2010, which is actually trending down from 1,544 in 2000. When looking at ages 1-14, which the CDC actually classifies as children, there were 369 gun deaths in 2010 (including suicides, homicides and unintentional deaths).
Further, the network uses “kids and teens under age 20? to calculate the number of “children” hospitalized from firearms injuries. ABC’s data source is based on a study done by Yale School of Medicine researchers rather than the CDC — and the numbers only include 2009. Some might also argue that people as old as 18 and 19-years-old aren’t children or kids. The report says 7,391 people under the age of 20 were hospitalized from gun-related injuries.
It is likely that a detailed breakdown of the Yale data would show the majority of gun injuries involved individuals older than the young children featured in the “20/20? report. The vague presentation of the data on both deaths and injuries leaves a number of questions unanswered: Do the numbers include suspects shot by police officers? What about 18-year-olds who are shot while serving in the military? How many of the injuries and/or deaths are crime-related? Do they include suicides?
Citing CDC statistics, ABC reports that 98 “kids under age 18” died from accidental shootings in 2010, which is actually “trending down from 150 deaths in 2000 and 417 in 1990.” That means there has been a radical drop in accidental shootings from 1990 to 2010.
It’s not exactly clear why ABC used “kids and teens under the age of 20? for gun-related injuries and then “kids under the age of 18? for gun deaths and accidental shootings. Not using the same type of data sets can make it hard to truly interpret the statistics. The CDC classifies ages 1-14 as children and ages 15-19 as youths.
Accidental deaths are only a small portion of the total number of gun deaths among children. Averages based on multiple years provide a more accurate picture of an issue than those focused on a very short period of time. Many times, advocacy groups on both sides of issues attempt to use extreme examples to get the statistics to look the way they want.
Overall, the total number of gun deaths among ages 1-14 made up a little more than 1 percent of all gun deaths in the U.S. in 2010, according to CDC data. The CDC reported 62 unintentional firearms deaths in the same year.
For a full breakdown of CDC gun death statistics from 1999-2010 click here.
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Additionally, ABC’s “Young Guns” report seems to focus heavily on the possibility of accidental shootings resulting from children’s natural curiosity. In this sense, Sawyer may be overstating her case that the homes of gun owners may be increasingly unsafe for children.
Again, despite gun ownership being on the rise, the number of “kids under the age of 18” killed in accidental shootings has dramatically decreased from 417 in 1990 to 98 in 2010, ABC reports, citing the CDC. In 2010, there were 62 unintentional gun deaths among children ages 1-14, down from 88 in 1999.
And that’s just looking at the statistics. Loesch found the premise of ABC producers strategically placing firearms in kids’ play areas highly questionable.
“The first problem I see is that ABC producers irresponsibly conclude that we have an epidemic of accidental shootings involving children because these producers placed guns around play areas and children looked at them,” Loesch said sarcastically. “The second problem I see is a hysterical report based upon the presupposition that accidental death as a result of improperly used firearm is an epidemic. It’s not.”
To back up her argument, Loesch cited her own CDC statistics.
There are roughly 90 million gun owners in the United States and about 40 million children under the age of 10, according to the CDC’s National Center for Injury and Prevention Control. The same statistics indicate that in 2003, 28 children under the age of 10 died of accidental shootings.
“In fact, calculating the statistics from the CDC, less than 2 percent of all firearm deaths in the United States are the result of accidental shootings,” Loesch explained. “The overwhelming majority is from gang and drug violence.”
Loesch went on to note that children account for less than 1 percent of all accidental shootings, according to the CDC.
In fact, pools, cars and poison are “exponentially more dangerous” and result in the deaths of thousands of children each year, the data shows. In 2010 alone, 602 children died from drowning, 262 died in fires and 923 died in car accidents.
“These are real epidemics,” Loesch concluded. “When is [Diane Sawyer] going to host a special on that?”
UPDATE: Confirming TheBlaze’s suspicions, a closer look at the statistics used by ABC News in its “Young Guns” report on children and guns reveals that the vast majority of firearm-related injuries cited involved youths aged 15-19, not young children like the ones featured in the report.
As we noted above, ABC News chose to use a Pediatrics report conducted by Yale School of Medicine researchers, which uses “kids and teens under age 20? to calculate the number of “children” who are injured by guns. Injury rates were decisively higher among older youths in every category, particularly when dealing with assault.
The numbers are also broken down by gender and race:
Editor’s note: One statistic for child gun deaths per year pulled from a 2013 news report appears to be likely inaccurate. This story has been updated with direct CDC statistics and additional information. We regret the error.