It isn’t often that one sees such a blatant example of propaganda as this. The article in USA Today last week caught my attention. It was titled “Guns in the home proving deadly for kids.” I should have smelled it sooner. Here are some warning signs: First, it was published by USA Today. Not everything they print has a bias, but when it comes to the issue of guns it’s wise to take a deep breath before diving in.
Secondly, the article started off with an emotional story about a young boy shooting a friend with a gun, killing him instantly. That’s a warning: get the heart-strings tuned up, there’s a message ahead!
Then comes the “fact” on which the rest of the article is based: “Through homicide, suicide and accidents, guns cause twice as many deaths in young people as cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 15 times as many as infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
The solution? Pediatricians need to find out if parents have guns at home and, if they do, to “counsel” them on how to handle them safely, including locking them up or removing them from the home altogether.
This should raise a red flag. The minute a conclusion comes out of an article that doesn’t make sense, then there must be something wrong with the article’s premise.
I went to the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and found the source of the “fact.” It’s entitled “Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population,” and, lo and behold, the report says:
As shown in Figure 1, the firearm-associated death rate among youth ages 15 to 19 has fallen from its peak of 27.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1994 to 11.4 per 100,000 in 2009, driven by a decline in firearms homicide rates. (my emphasis)
This squares with other data from other sources that I consider reliable, such as Pew Research Center. Pew reported that between 1993 and 2010, roughly equivalent to the time period from the AAP, “the gun homicide rate shrank by 49 percent.”
I like this definition of propaganda: “a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument”. This article from USA Today is a great example.