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Youth and Gun Violence

From: John Kupski <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2002 10:05:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: America's youth and the tragedy of gun violence

Dear Mr. Riley,

I'm writing in response to your paper's editorial of January 3rd, entitled, "America's youth and the tragedy of gun violence."

It seems there is a new trend in "journalism" these days: Taking press releases from groups with an agenda, and turning them into editorials or even news stories, without even checking the validity of the claims. Of course, this leads to "news" that is so detached from reality that it would be laughable--if so many people did not actually believe what they were reading.

Some examples of the flaws in your editorial:

"Every 2 1/2 hours, a child dies from gunfire."

This is completely untrue. According to CDC (you can obtain these figures yourself, using the search engine at by simply selecting "firearms" as cause of death, and manner/intent to "all" which includes suicide, intentional homicide, unintentional homicide, etc.) 3,792 people under the age of 20 died in 1998 (the latest year with available statistics) or roughly 10.3 daily. On it's face, this is in-line with the "report" you turned into an editorial.

However, once you begin to dig deeper, this rapidly falls to pieces--the numbers include people who are not even children! As the definition of "child" can vary wildly from person to person, let's simply equate the term child with someone who is legally a minor under the law. When you remove 18 and 19 year olds from these "statistics," you cut the numbers almost in HALF, to 1,971--still an abominable figure, but nowhere near the claims. Removing the 648 suicides (a determined suicide will occur, without taking into account the instrument chosen) leaves us at 1323, or about 3.5 "children" killed in homicides and accidents, daily, over 60% lower than the "report" claim--and this number still includes those shot by police, or killed in gang "turf" wars over drugs.

"The rate of firearm deaths among children under 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in other industrialized countries."

The "study" that generated this comment can be found at and seems carefully designed to produce just this sound-bite--level of industrialization has nothing to do with what countries are on this list, merely the 26 "richest" countries are represented. Additionally, some of the data is suspect. Apparently, Northern Ireland (which ranks third on this list) loses just over 0.5 children per 100,000 to gun violence--and all of them to SUICIDE. While one would expect suicide rates to be quite high in a perpetual war zone, one would also expect intentional killings to be even higher. For the record, the study places firearms deaths from ALL CAUSES at about 1.6 per 100,000 in the United States. In order to obtain the "12 times higher" factoid, one must choose one of the countries at the very bottom of the list, which seems to be completely contradictory to the claim.

The results also do not track with the "United Nations 1996 Demographic Yearbook" which does not break down deaths by AGE, but DOES report on total deaths, broken down by suicide and homicide. Twenty-three nations, Armenia, Bahamas, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sao Tome, Tajikistan, Trinidad, Ukraine, and Venezuela, admitted to higher homicide rates than the United States. While all of them are not "industrialized countries," it is difficult to ignore Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Belarus, and Mexico.

Regarding suicide, the U.S. is in the middle of the pack, with 35 of the 86 nations having higher rates (38 using the most recent U.S. figure). Compared to the U.S. rate of 11.9, Russia has a rate of 41.2, Hungary 32.9, Denmark 22.3, Switzerland 21.4, France 20.8, and Japan 16.7.

Read the raw numbers for yourself at

"Political leaders need to pass sensible gun legislation that will protect children. Parents, law enforcement officials and gun manufacturers also have a responsibility to educate youngsters."

As you yourself suggest, the key is education--something the national rifle association has been doing for over a hundred years (while being demonized by the press for the last forty or so) and wishes to continue doing--while gun control groups laugh at the very idea of the so-called "gun lobby" having a hand in firearms safety education. I ask you, who better than those who have a vested interest in firearms safety as opposed to gun banning?

Additional laws will do nothing--murder is already illegal. The Columbine Killers broke at least 18 laws before they fired their first shot, while responsible adults inside the building found themselves disarmed. By definition laws affect only the law abiding, and criminals will continue to flaunt them, no matter what laws we pass.

Sir, my job is not to be a journalist, but in the last thirty minutes, I have done more research into this issue than the individual who wrote your editorial--or more likely, just copied a press release and added a few notes. I submit to you that your paper has been used (willingly, or unwillingly) to push an agenda. And you have let just a little more of your credibility slip away.

I invite you to read Fox News' piece, "The Op-Ed's hidden agenda" at,2933,42050,00.html which may shed some light on the recent trend I've mentioned.


John M. Kupski
Chuckey, TN

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