What happens when you plant two real, unloaded guns among toys and a backpack in grade school classroom and then tell kids that, while unsupervised, they should indulge in some nearby candy? ABC reporters did just this, and breathlessly revealed their discovery: the kids will touch the guns! …Before notifying an adult. "Can you really hide guns from children?" asks the network.
This less-than-scientific experiment was part of a 20/20 "unsettling special" called Young Guns, which aired last Friday. Its aim was investigate the supposedly deadly world of households in which both children and firearms reside. ABC also posted instructions on how to confront gun-toting friends without making it awkward and provides a handy quiz on the differences between fake and real weapons.
"The new numbers are arresting," assures the ABC's David Muir, "nearly one child or teen every hour [is] injured by a firearm in this country." He speaks to a doctor who "at one point was seeing gunshots and children twice a week." Diane Sawyer reports that a "groundbreaking" study implies that, "every other day, a child is shot to death."
But, the study doesn't match the ABC's far-fetched image of young kids finding guns among their playthings in school. Children, in this case, includes individuals aged 18 and 19, i.e. people who are legally adults and able to buy rifles.
The presentation is not reflective of America's gun community, which owns a total of 310 million firearms (by far the highest concentration per capita of any nation in the world). Major gun rights advocacy groups, as well as firearms instructors, and others in the community explicitly teach and advocate for the safe use and storage of guns. Gun forums are rife with advice on educating kids about gun safety and keeping weapons accessible for self-defense but out of children's reach.
One need not rely on anecdotal evidence, though.
Despite the massive number of guns in the US and ABC's hysterics, data collected by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 states that among children aged 1-14 there were 396 firearm deaths. Among the 15-19 demographic, 2,331 deaths were recorded, including legal intervention. Although this may seem dramatically higher than the younger group, it is hardly more than .0001 percent of the total 15-19 year old population. While each deaths is a tragedy, putting the numbers into context reveal a far less dramatic side of the story.
And, while ABC focuses on the accidents caused by guns, the network overlooks how many lives guns save. Gun Owners of America (GOA) states:
Guns [are] used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year — or about 6,850 times a day. This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.
Unlike ABC's extrapolations from an in-house trial, GOA's information comes from peer-reviewed academic research.