Gun Control: Using Children for Political Ends

[Note: story updated May 27, 2009 at request of author]

By Howard Nemerov

The death of a child is horrible and painful, and any decent person would do whatever it takes to save that life. How could an organization called the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) possibly have an agenda that could result in more child fatalities?

A recent report by the CDF leads with: "Firearm Deaths Among Children and Teens Increase for the First Time Since 1994: 3,006 in 2005." Insisting this ties into the now-defunct Clinton "assault weapons" ban, CDF says:

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 3,006 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2005, the first increase since 1994 and the first rise in gun deaths since Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire in 2004.[1]

Gun control organizations often insinuate that the assault weapons ban caused a decline in violent crime, but violent crime peaked in 1991 with an overall rate of 758.2 (per 100,000 population), while the murder rate peaked at 9.8. By 1994, when the "assault weapons" ban went into effect, violent crime dropped 5.9% and murder decreased 8.2%.[2]

The Children's Defense Fund is correct on one point: The CDC reports that, for persons under age 20, the overall firearms death rate rose 5.8% for the 2004-5 time period. However, other categories saw increases as well: The drowning death rate rose 5.3% and struck by/against rate rose 21.8%. It is also important to note that since 1994, the drowning death rate decreased 19.8% and struck by/against dropped 20.1%, while the firearms death rate declined 52.0%. These data illustrate how one year's data trend may vary from the longer trend. This is why, in response to the preliminary report that crime decreased in 2007 after a two-year increase, an FBI spokesman stated: "One preliminary report does not make a trend..."[3]

Real 'Child' Mortality Data

The Children's Defense Fund claims increasing gun control will save children's lives:

We need to ensure that those we elect to public office enact legislation that will really protect children by limiting the number of guns in our communities, controlling who can obtain firearms and the conditions of their use.[4]

Another gambit by gun control organizations is to include older teens and adults in their calculations, in order to produce at a scarier number, implying that eight children a day die because "gun lovers" only care about "their rights."

Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "childhood" as: "the time from birth to puberty."[5] Oxford defines "puberty" as: "The period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction..."[6] In terms of age, there seems to be general agreement that this ability to procreate occurs by the age of 15.[7]

In 2005, the total firearms death rate for CDF's "children and teens" was 3.70. However, the rate for those age 18-19 was 18.56, and the rate for those age 15-17 was 8.50. For true children (age 0-14) the rate was 1.31; 404 children were killed by firearms in 2005 for all intents, an average of slightly over one per day.[8]

The U.S. Health and Human Services estimates that in 2005, 1,460 children died as a result of abuse and neglect (4 each day, 1.96 per 100,000 population); 76.6% of that total was younger than four years old. Infant boys (younger than 1 year) had the highest fatality rate at 17.3, followed by infant girls at 14.5; 79.4% of the perpetrators were parents.[9] Curiously, CDF's Programs page includes no child abuse/neglect initiative, even though over three times as many children were killed by abuse/neglect than by firearms.[10]

Furthermore, the CDC reports there were 230 child firearm homicides in 2005, but there were 1,022 total child homicides. This means that 77.5% of all child homicides occurred without using a gun. Meanwhile, the victims of 87.1% of all drowning homicides, 88.1% of all poisoning homicides, and 66.7% of all suffocation homicides were children––physically less able to fend off an attacker. The idea that someone needs a gun to kill a child is naïve.

According to the CDC, between 1994 and 2005, the overall homicide rate for children decreased by 28.2%, but their firearms homicide rate dropped 53.0%. The overall child fatal injury rate decreased 26.6%, but the overall firearms fatal injury rate dropped 55.9%. The overall accidental injury rate for children dropped 28.1%, but the accidental firearms death rate, already a miniscule 0.32 per 100,000 children, decreased 61.4% to 0.12 per 100,000. During this same time period, the firearms homicide rate for the U.S. non-child population (age 15 and over) decreased 38.0% and the accidental fatal firearms injury rate dropped 46.8%. Children experienced a better-than-average decrease in fatality rates across the board compared to the general population. Children started out safer in 1994 and became even safer through 2005.

Table 1: Death Rate Trends, 1994-2005 (in Percent)

Injury Type/Demographic

All Causes








Homicide/Child (age 0-14)







Homicide/Non-child (age 15+)



































All Fatal Injury/Child







All Fatal Injury/Non-Child







* All rate values in fatal injuries per 100,000 population.

Nor do children need firearms to kill themselves. In 2005, 84 children committed suicide using a firearm, all of them in the 10-14 age range. Two children age 5-9 intentionally suffocated themselves. There were 272 total child suicides; 69.1% of these occurred by non-firearm means. There were 5,162 accidental child deaths in 2005; 1.5% of them (75) involved firearms. Between 1994 and 2005, children’s overall suicide rate decreased 19.6%, but their firearms suicide rate dropped 57.5%. This compares favorably to the total population’s experience of a 7.0% lower overall suicide rate and 19.6% lower firearms suicide rate.

Considering that during this time period the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated an average of 4.5 million new firearms were sold each year, there is either no correlation––or a negative one (more guns, lower death rate)––between civilian firearms inventory and fatal firearms injuries.[11]

The 1994-2005 decrease in children's fatal firearms injuries outstripped every category except for cut/pierce, which declined 57.2%. Poisoning deaths decreased only 5.9% and struck by/against declined 7.9%. Suffocation death rates for children increased 34.3%. CDF's Publications page prominently features their gun control report, but there are no publications that on reducing poisoning or suffocation fatalities.[12]

Table 2: Child Fatal Injury Trends, 1994-2005

Fatal Injury Cause



% Change

















Struck By/Against












Motor Vehicle




The Other Side of the Equation

The problem with organizations that represent only one side of an issue is that their intentional lack of context creates misleading distortions. When discussing the emotionally intense subject of child fatalities, such distortions can lead to promoting policies which 'feel good' but produce negative consequences.

In the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, CDF signed onto an amicus brief in support of the D.C. gun ban, which since 1976 has effectively banned all functioning firearms.13 The CDC reports that for the years of 1999-2005, the national homicide rate for children was 1.76, while the rate in D.C. was higher than any state at 5.82. For the years 1994-1998, the national children’s homicide rate was 2.14, but D.C. again led all states at 8.76.

Moreover, the national firearms homicide rate for children between 1999 and 2005 was 0.40, but the rate was 1.46 under the DC gun ban. The national non-firearms homicide rate for children during this time period was 1.36, lower than the firearms homicide rate in DC. The non-firearms homicide rate in DC between 1999 and 2005 was 4.37, higher than the total child homicide rate for the entire country. These data underline the fact that availability of guns has no correlation with child homicide rates.[14]

Table 3: Total Child Homicide Rates, 1999-2005

Homicide Injury Type


Total, U.S.


Total, DC


Firearm, U.S.


Firearm, DC


Non-Firearm, U.S.


Non-Firearm, DC


Sergio Aguilar didn't need a firearm to murder his own son, whom he believed had "demons" that required violent exorcism:

A 27-year-old grocery store worker who police say punched and kicked his 2-year-old son to death on a country road calmly told motorists who stopped at the scene that he had to "get the demons" out of the boy, two witnesses said Monday.[15]

When unarmed witnesses tried to stop him, his violent demeanor stymied their efforts:

"What we got from witnesses is he was punching, slapping, kicking, stomping, shaking," [police spokesman] Singh said. "They tried to intervene and get involved, but their efforts really didn't have an effect... He just pushed them off and went back to it."[16]

Witnesses called law enforcement, but it was too late to save the baby:

And when a Modesto police officer jumped off a helicopter and ordered Aguiar [sic] to stop at gunpoint, he raised his middle finger and continued his attack.

Officer Jerry Ramar, standing in a cow pasture behind an electric fence, shot Aguiar [sic] once in the forehead, the witnesses and police said. Aguiar [sic] died at the scene.

"Good shot, thank God," said Deborah McKain, a 51-year-old resident of nearby Crows Landing... "That guy needed to die."[17]

With few exceptions, law-abiding California residents can't carry concealed handguns. What if an armed citizen had shot Aguilar instead waiting for the police to arrive? If it saves a child's life, it's worth it, right?

In the last two months, media reported numerous self-defense stories where armed parents protected their children from violent criminals. One homeowner shot two men who had forced their way into his home. Police were "especially concerned because children also live in the home,"[18] a reasonable apprehension since the invaders stabbed the homeowner before being shot.[19]

A burglar's two-day crime spree ended when his most recent victim shot him with a handgun. The young daughter was home alone, but an alert neighbor called the father, who arrived home in time.20 "I'm a dad. Any dad would have done the same thing."[21]

When his pregnant wife, home alone with their two-year-old, called to tell him someone was lurking outside, Brian Stevens rushed home. After hearing noise outside, he got his handgun and waited for the police. The burglar entered, and Stevens repeatedly warned him to leave. When the burglar kept advancing, Stevens shot him.[22]

Crime costs society. Guns in the hands of law-abiding people stop crime. Rates of child firearms homicide, suicide, and accidental death are falling faster than the national rates. Laws touted as being “for the children” today risk costing more children’s lives tomorrow. Children’s Defense Fund would save more children by skipping the social engineering and returning to their core mission of promoting programs which serve the children.

About the Author

Howard Nemerov frequently appears as Analyst at Large on numerous radio shows and is the Austin Gun Rights Examiner at His new book, Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working?, deconstructs the gun control agenda and empowers readers to be better emissaries for the civil right of self-defense.


[1] Protect Children Not Guns, Children's Defense Fund, 2008, page 2.

[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Table 1 - Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1987–2006.

[3] Associated Press, FBI: Violent and Property Crime Down in 2007, Fox News, June 9, 2008.,2933,364472,00.html

[4] Protect Children Not Guns, Children's Defense Fund, 2008, page 2.

[5] The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Thumb Index Edition, 1993 Edition, page 386.

[6] Ibid, page 2404.

[7] Google search: definitions on puberty.

[8] All discussion of child fatal injury rates based upon Excel workbook compiled from data available at Centers for Disease Control. Email request for workbook.

[9] Child Welfare Information Gateway, Child Maltreatment 2005: Summary of Key Findings, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pages 3-4.

[10] Programs, Children's Defense Fund, copyright 2007.

[11] Commerce in Firearms in the United States, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, February, 2000, page 1.

[12] Publications, Children's Defense Fund, copyright 2007.

[13] Brief of the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Society for Adolescent Medicine, The Children's Defense Fund, Women Against Gun Violence and Youth Alive! As Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners, District of Columbia and Adrian M. Fenty, Mayor of the District of Columbia v. Dick Anthony Heller, Docket No. 07-290, Supreme Court of the United States.

[14] WISQARS Fatal Injuries: Mortality Reports, Centers for Disease Control.

[15] Associated Press, Calif. Police ID man they say fatally beat toddler, International Herald Tribune, June 16, 2008.

[16] Associated Press, Police Kill Man Who Stomped Baby to Death, Fox News, June 16, 2008.,2933,367243,00.html

[17] Demian Bulwa, Killer dad said he had to 'get the demons' out, San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2008.

[18] 1 Dead, 2 Hurt In Phoenix Shooting¸ KPHO, June 2, 2008.

[19] Associated Press, 2nd suspect in Phoenix home invasion found dead days later, KTAR, June 7, 2008.

[20] George H. Newman, Plant City Man Shot In Foot, Arrest After String Of Burglaries, Tampa Tribune, July 1, 2008.

[21] Shooting in Plant City Neighborhood, Fox Tampa Bay, July 1, 2008.

[22] Homeowner Opens Fire On Intruder, KSAT, July 2, 2008.

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