Gun control advocates play very fast and loose with the data around gun violence, and if you aren’t trained on how to decipher and interpret statistics you may easily fall for their misrepresentations of the facts.
Recently, the anti-Second Amendment activist group “Everytown” took to Instagram to do just that.
“Guns are the #1 killer of college-aged people in America” they wrote, just days after a school shooting at Michigan State University left three students dead. This is of course a harrowing statistic to read and gives the impression, quite intentionally, that all these deaths are the result of campus shootings.
Good thing that isn’t actually true.
I tried finding the data they pointed to in fine print at the bottom of the image. Notably, they included no actual links or web addresses—and that’s probably because, as best I can tell, they don’t exist.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Wonder Online Database does provide information on the underlying causes of deaths, but it doesn’t offer an age-based breakdown of that data:
So I kept looking. On another part of the CDC’s website, I found an age-breakdown for causes of death with information through 2018. Everytown’s image claimed their data came from 2021.
Still, it’s hard to imagine there would be a tremendous change in causes of death over the course of three years, and the old data set indicates the leading causes of death for 15-24 year olds were unintentional injuries, suicides, and homicides (in that order).
This is backed up by other research I found online.
This all kind of tracks. It’s important to remember that it is much rarer for a young person to die in general than it is an older one. It’s also less likely a young person will die from an actual health issue. So, it isn’t surprising at all that the leading causes of death are related to tragic events, accidents, suicides and homicides—especially when you remember that younger people make riskier decisions and are far more likely to be involved in violent criminal activity than other age groups. (This is because the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making skills, isn’t fully formed until age 25).
So does this indicate there is some mass wave of gun violence targeting our youth? Hardly.
As this data points out, injuries and violence are responsible for less than 10% of deaths of Americans of all ages.
To get to their claim of guns being the biggest threat college kids face, Everytown had to manipulate the actual data a bit.
One of the oldest tricks in the book employed by gun control proponents is to lump suicide deaths in with homicides to make it look like there is more rampant gun violence in the country than there actually is. More than 50% of Americans who die by gun death actually die from suicide. Three percent of gun deaths fall under the category of “other” (which would include accidents).
Suicide is of course awful, and those who attempt it with a gun are more likely to succeed in that attempt than those who select other methods. But conflating these deaths with homicides and mass shootings is deceitful. They are hardly the same.
Additionally, data does not suggest that suicidal people simply give up when they cannot access a gun.
For example, Japan has the second highest suicide rate among industrialized nations while simultaneously maintaining very strict gun controls. Handguns are banned entirely and only shotguns and air rifles are allowed. So suicide prevention is important, but gun control is not the solution.
When Everytown claims guns are the ‘leading’ cause of death among college-aged kids they are lumping in deaths by suicide and accidental events (like a hunting accident) with homicides and mass shootings—all while working to convince you there is an epidemic of the latter when, as previously pointed out, homicide is actually the third leading cause of death in this age range.
And if you look at the actual number breakdowns per category, all of these occurrences are still exceedingly rare in a country of 330 million people. Keep in mind, the actual data I found was for a broader age range than Everytown claims to be pointing to (15 to 24 vs 18 to 25) and yet the numbers still show 12,044 died from accidental deaths, 6,211 died from suicides, and 4,607 died from homicides.
There is no gun violence epidemic in this country. If anything, there is a mental health epidemic and those who need help the most aren’t getting it because people with an agenda like Everytown are trying to use their plight to ban guns vs. expanding education and care.
This is plain old fear mongering by a group that is dead set on stripping you of your ability to defend yourself. It’s important Americans learn to dig into data like this so we can put this kind of manipulative tactic to bed.