In my just-released “Light Over Heat” YouTube video, I talk about how I am always looking for common ground in the great gun debates that are stalemated in America, including on gun violence prevention. This, of course, does not mean I simply accept research on gun violence at face value.
Raising questions about that research, however, often gives me a bit of an unsettled feeling because I don’t want to be seen as saying homicide, suicide, accidental death, or injury are no big deal.
These things ARE a big deal. They are negative outcomes in society that frequently involve guns that merit our attention and efforts at prevention or mitigation.
In my view, exaggeration so as to create a moral panic around these negative outcomes is a problem. Gun advocates are often criticized for creating a “culture of fear” to motivate gun ownership, but Barry Glassner’s classic analysis of the culture of fear can equally be applied to some gun violence prevention advocates in their efforts to motivate gun de-ownership and regulation.
Case in point: “Crossing Lines–A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children,” published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
Any normal person would certainly be concerned to know about the leading cause of death among U.S. children. We don’t want children to die. But when I moved from this attention-getting (click-baity?) headline, and looked at the graph provided in the article, the label on the Y-axis caught me by surprise.
Deaths per 100,000 persons 1-24 yr of age
1 to ***24*** years of age? I know people criticize the immaturity of college students and emerging adults these days, but we certainly shouldn’t — particularly as social scientists — call them “children.”
(Per Wikipedia: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” So 18 years MAX.)
Now, it may be the case that the leading cause of death among U.S. children has changed. The data provided in this article don’t allow us to answer that question.
In addition, I don’t know how far the motor vehicle crash vs. firearms injury analogy should be taken, since the vast majority of car crash deaths are ACCIDENTAL and the vast majority of firearms injury deaths are INTENTIONAL.
It is not my area of expertise, but I would think the things you need to do to mitigate accidents are different than the things you need to do to mitigate intentional acts. Thought perhaps not. I don’t know, but am curious, how those who work in the field of injury prevention approach negative outcomes that are accidental vs. those that are intentional.