Washington Post: Guns AREN'T Leading Cause of Death for Kids

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

“Guns are now the number one cause of death for kids.”

How many times have we seen some anti-gun article or comment with that exact sentence? How many more have some variation of it?


In fairness, the news was filled with reports making the claim, so it’s not like they just pulled it out of thin air. That doesn’t mean it’s true, though.

We’ve pointed out the flaws with the so-called studies that claimed it was true, though. However, most sources that have pointed them out are easily dismissed because we’re biased in the wrong direction.

The Washington Post, however, isn’t. Among the left, the Post is still one of the gold-standard publications that can and should be listened to.

Now, the question is will that continue after this piece where they fact-checked the claim.

“Gun violence is the leading cause of death of the children of America — leading cause of death — not car accidents, not some form of cancer — gun violence.”

— Vice President Harris, remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Jan. 18

Deaths from gun violence, after remaining relatively stable from 1999 to 2014, have spiked in recent years, to a peak of 48,830 in 2021, according to data maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But has gun violence become so horrific that it is now the leading cause of death for children?

The Biden White House, in various venues, has made that claim. But the source cited in the White House news release — a 2022 study by the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University — reports data with a broader focus. It cites gun deaths of “children and teens,” meaning it includes deaths of 18- and 19-year-olds, who are legally considered adults in most states.

When you focus only on children — 17 and younger — motor vehicle deaths (broadly defined) still rank No. 1, as they have for six decades, though the gap is rapidly closing. Indeed, deaths of children from gun violence have increased about 50 percent from 2019 to 2021, the CDC data shows. During the coronavirus pandemic, there was a surge in firearm sales and an increase in the use of firearms in deaths by suicide — especially among children in rural areas.


Now, the Post goes into a lot more detail about why they say that motor vehicle deaths still rank as the number one cause of death for kids.

For one thing, they note that the study being cited includes 18- and 19-year-olds, who literally no one besides gun control activists consider children. We might call them kids, but in the eyes of the law, they’re adults.

Further, they note that this age category includes a number of firearm-fatalities that fall under the category of “death by ‘legal intervention.'” In other words, a lot of these fatalities were killed by cops for doing something illegal like pointing a gun at police.

Yet just removing those, in and of itself, isn’t the whole picture.

Excluding children under the age of 1. The Johns Hopkins study cited by the White House, which was updated in 2023, and another often-cited study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2022 and updating a previous study, do not include children under 1 because they have perinatal deaths and congenital anomalies — unique, age-specific death risks. This decision marginally reduces the number of children killed by firearms — amounting to less than 1 percent. But it greatly reduces the number of motor vehicle deaths — by as much as 4 percent.

Using a broader or narrower definition of vehicle deaths. The CDC lists both deaths just from traffic-related crashes and an overall motor vehicle category that would include pedestrian and other deaths, such as death while in a stationary car. Using only traffic-related crashes further reduces the motor vehicle number by as much as 11 percent, depending on the year. The New England Journal of Medicine article uses the broader definition, but Johns Hopkins reports rely just on traffic crashes.

“There’s no ‘right answer,’ I suppose, but faced with having to pick just one out of two reasonable alternatives, we chose the more inclusive definition,” said Jason Goldstick of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a co-author of the New England Journal of Medicine study. “Both could be critiqued, but we certainly did not want to be perceived as choosing the narrower definition in service to some nonscientific objective.”


That’s a wise decision considering all “gun deaths” get lumped together regardless of whether it’s a “legal intervention,” a suicide, an accident, or a murder. If you’re going to lump everything with a gun together, doing the same thing with cars simply makes sense.

Now, the Washington Post declined to give any Pinocchios, which is what they use to rate claims, but they do a pretty good job of dismantling the study cited by anti-gun politicians like the vice president.

It’s clear now that the study’s findings are what they are because it used criteria that would skew the data in one direction in particular. Considering what we’ve seen from Johns Hopkins lately, there’s no reason to believe this was anything but intentional, especially in light of what was included and excluded.

Whether someone wants to take our word about the issues with the study, though, is now irrelevant. It’s entirely likely they will listen to the Washington Post about guns and child deaths. They won’t, however, like what they see.

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