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Kids, Guns, Cars and Calendars
How the Brady Bunch Misinforms People with a Bogus Prediction

by Sean Oberle

August 24, 2001 -- In its web-based essay Kids and Guns In America1, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Handgun Control Inc.) writes, 

"While deaths from gunfire have been decreasing since 1994, firearms are still expected to overtake motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among American children."

Really? When? Indeed, questions of time are big with this factoid.

Time … While the Brady essay is undated, we can place it in time. It does contain a footnote (unrelated to the prediction) that references an October 2000 U.S. Department of Education document. That means Brady at least updated the essay, if not wrote it, since last Fall. 

Time … Is it too much to expect the Brady Bunch at least to use the most recently available data when spouting factoids? Perhaps so, especially since Brady shows it obviously knows of those data by stating "deaths from gunfire have been decreasing since 1994," but then, as we will see, ignores the same data in making its prediction.

As of October 2000, mortality data were available through 1998 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Let's examine those data and compare the results to the Brady factoid. Because it is impossible to know what gun grabbers mean by "children" -- they often mix 18- and 19-year-olds into their statistics for "children" -- we'll have to look at CDC data for children 0-14 and for "children" 0-19.

Does the Brady factoid hold up? No, it is laughably absurd whether we look at the data for children or for "children."


The Truth vs. Brady's factoid

For children 0-14, from 1993-to-1998, the firearm death rate declined nearly 38% from 1.69 to 1.05 per 100,000. Over the same period, motor-vehicle deaths declined only about 11%, from 5.38 to 4.80 per 100,0002. For this age group, in 1998, motor-vehicles were more than 357% higher than firearm deaths. Guns started out lower and have fallen faster. It defies imagination how anyone could make a reasonable prediction that this gap would close in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, for "children" aged 0-19, 1993-to-1998, the gun death rate declined a similar 37% from 7.77 to 4.88 per 100,000. Over the same period, motor-vehicle deaths declined only 5% for that age group, from 11.13 to 10.26 per 100,0003. Again, firearm deaths started lower and fell faster. For this age group, in 1998, motor-vehicle deaths were about 110% higher than firearm deaths. While this huge gap is not nearly as cavernous as the gap for 0-14-year-olds, there still is no way to make a credible prediction about it closing in the foreseeable future.

So how can Brady make this prediction? Where does the factoid come from? We have no way to know the source for sure -- Brady provides no reference to support its factoid. But we can make a good guess. Presumably, Brady bases the factoid on an infamous, but outdated, prediction from CDC -- although that prediction was for the overall population, not for either children or "children."

In 1994, CDC compiled trends in firearm and motor-vehicle related deaths4. Looking at the trends for motor-vehicle deaths and gun deaths from 1968 to 1991, and plotting those trends into the future, CDC noted that gun deaths would surpass motor-vehicle deaths by 2003 - if the trends held. It repeated this prediction in 1997, using 1962-1994 data5.

Initial critics of these predictions pointed out that the authors were "comparing apples and oranges" -- most gun deaths are intentional (suicides and homicides), while most motor-vehicle deaths are accidents. 

However, the prediction did not even prove to be correct. Similar to the trends for children and "children," for the overall population from 1993 to 1999, gun deaths fell 31% in just six years, from about 15.4 to 10.6 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, motor-vehicle deaths -- which started higher -- fell only about 5%, from 16.3 to 15.4 per 100,000 people6. Excepting an extremely improbable and unprecedented increase in gun deaths from 2000 to 2003, for all practical purposes, it is impossible for this prediction to turn out true.

Time … When will we stop seeing variations of this bogus prediction?


1   Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Kids and Guns in America, undated, found at

2   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, On-line "WISQARS" (Web-based Injury Statistics Query And Reporting System) database at

3   CDC On-line WISQARS database

4   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deaths Resulting from Firearm- and Motor-Vehicle Related Injuries - 1968-1991, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 43, No. 3, January 28, 1994. 

5   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fatal Firearm Injuries in the United States 1962-1994, Violence Surveillance Summary Series, No. 3, 1997.

6   1993-1998 data: CDC On-line WISQARS database. 1999 data: Centers for Disease Control, Deaths, Preliminary Data for 1999, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 49, No. 3, June 26, 2001.

Other Articles from Sean Oberle


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