Letter to the editor: Defending gun owners

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

David Rask Behling needs a fact-checker: He says data compiled from law-enforcement reports and emergency-room admissions show that nearly 3,000 Americans under the age of 18 are killed by guns each year. Behling does not cite the source of his statistics.

I went online, and found this piece, by nationally syndicated columnist Larry Elders. He was referring to the &uot;Dr. Phil&uot; television show &045; who also was guilty of using figures provided by others, and not verifying them himself.

Dr. Phil: &uot;There are five children a day killed with guns through either accidents or suicides. Five children a day in America are killed with guns.&uot; The five children per day figure adds up to over 1,800 per year.

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Hold tape.

Elders: &uot;Dr. Phil never defined what he meant by ‘children.’ Independence Institute researcher Dave Kopel notes that many of the reported gun deaths involving &uot;children&uot; include those aged 14 through 19, many of them gangbangers. If, by children, Dr. Phil meant 10 and under, approximately 50 children &045; or less than one child per state per year under 10 &045; die from handgun violence.&uot;

Elders: &uot;Dr. Phil specifically said gun &uot;accidents and suicides.&uot; Yet the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks all causes of death, reports only 86 accidental deaths in kids aged 14-years and under in the year 2000, and 110 suicides, for a total of 198. Not exactly 1,800. (Even if Dr. Phil intended to include homicide and undetermined intent, the total of kids aged 14-and-under killed by firearms in 2000, according to the CDC, was 435.) By contrast, the CDC reported 943 accidental drownings of kids aged 14-and-under, 593 deaths from accidental exposures to smoke and fire and 2,591 killed in motor vehicle accidents. Surely one child dying through handgun violence &045; or any kind of violence &045; is one child too many, but we should not lose perspective.&uot;

I went back to the Center for Disease Control figures: http://webapp.cdc.gov/cgi-bin/broker.exe and found the figures cited by Elders to be correct. Please check them yourself.

More disturbing than Behling’s distortion of figures is his distortion of intent. He villifies the NRA by saying &uot;The NRA doesn’t trust a democratically elected government’s attempts to regulate guns but we’re supposed to just trust NRA members when it comes to firearms safety? I don’t think so.&uot; Mr. Behling, it is the NRA that regularly demands tougher penalties for use of firearms in the commission of a crime &045; a demand regularly dismissed by liberal prosecuters and judges. It is the NRA that has one of the most effective firearms training programs for youngsters &045; the Eddie Eagle program &045; teaching them to &uot;Don’t touch, leave the room, tell an adult&uot; if they find a firearm, yet many schools will not allow this common-sense program to be taught. The NRA is the leading sponsor of gun-safety classes for both youth and adults &045; but no mention is made in your column.

Behling says, &uot;people like me talk about more thorough background checks, mandatory firearms safety training for gun owners, child-safe triggers and rules about how to store ammunition (and) the NRA protests.&uot; Yes, the NRA protests against &uot;feel-good&uot; but ineffective legislation. None of these proposed &uot;rules&uot; would have prevented the Cold Spring cold-blooded, premeditated murder.

Don’t go to your gun store for psychological counseling; and don’t go to a newspaper columnist for advice on guns.

Jim Hanson

Clarks Grove