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Was Biden Correct That Child Gun Deaths Exceed Police, Military?

In his speech last week on gun violence, President Biden said that, "Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined.” Was that accurate? The Washington Post fact checker finds that the numbers add up, but "whether they should be added up or if these are apples and oranges is another question." The figure on school-age children comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has an interactive online database that provides information on fatal and nonfatal injuries and violent deaths. The White House defined “school-aged children” as between 5 and 18 and “two decades” as 2001-2020. Within those parameters, searching for death by firearm, you get 42,507 deaths.

For military deaths for the same period, the Defense Casualty Analysis System reports 25,527 active-duty military deaths between 2001 and 2020. The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) lists 3,583 deaths from active-duty officers in 2001-2020. The number of firearm deaths for school-age children drops quite a bit when you do not include 18-year-olds. It’s a judgment call whether to include them. Removing 18-year-olds would drop the gun death number to 28,559, slightly fewer than the total for the military and police. In fact, 17- and 18-year-olds make up almost 56 percent of the gun deaths of school-age children. The numbers also drop significantly — 60 percent — if suicides are removed. There is a debate among criminologists and public health specialists about whether suicides should be counted as part of gun violence. The military death figures show about 22 percent of the deaths are from suicide. In the military, not all deaths are from firearms. Deaths by accident exceeded deaths by hostile action in all but five of the 20 years.


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