As depressing as America’s endless parade of shootings alongside its going-nowhere gun debate is, injecting reality into gun politics would make things even more distressing. Begin with the question at the forefront of the dubious debate: Who is shooting thousands of America’s children?
“Gun violence,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s Weekly Update begins, is “the leading cause of death for children in America.” Bonta touts his Office of Gun Violence Prevention as “innovative… the first of its kind.” What “innovative” ideas, then, does he propose?
The facts are stark. Over the last decade, an appalling 2,401 American children under age 12 died by guns; two-thirds were murdered. A record 464 were killed in gun homicides in 2020 and 2021 alone, a uniquely American carnage. Gun homicides in general are rare in other Western nations; those victimizing children all but unheard-of.
School shootings of young children invoke tears and outrage among American politicians, interest group spokespersons, and media commentators, many speaking “as parents.” Then, they distort children’s shootings simply as tragedies the young inflict on themselves.
Media talkers incessantly berate “young men” for committing “these shootings” such as the Sandy Hook, Conn., and Uvalde, Tex., grade-school massacres. Acclaimed Washington Post writer John Woodrow Cox, voicing the official/media consensus, denounces “teenagers who slaughter children:” the “biggest threat to the safety of children in our country” is “punks with a gun and a grudge” and children finding “guns… unlocked," he fumes. Experts invoke debunked “non-science” to disparage youthful “developing brains” as recklessly violent. A recent CNN survey of “experts” found all but one simply blaming gun violence on “kids” and “youths” shooting themselves and each other.
In fact, school shootings and children shooting children, though unspeakably horrific, account for just 2% of younger children’s gun homicides. No one talks about who really is murdering children. The answer and silence are deeply disturbing.
FBI tabulations of age of killer by age of victim show 77% of children younger than 12 murdered by guns were shot by grownups age 25 and older -- a consistent pattern for at least 40 years. More children are shot by murderers over age 50 than under age 18.
These shootings are hardly hidden, as just a few stories from 2021-22 show (“Father fatally shoots five children”; “Father shoots son, 3, daughter, 5”; “ “Woman kills 2 young children, herself”; “Father fatally shoots 4 people, including his 3 children”; “Father shoots 2 young sons, killing 1”; “Father kills 2 children in murder-suicide”; “Man charged in deadly shooting of 6-year-old”; “Maryland father shoots family”; “Phoenix father shoots, kills family"; “Colorado gun shop owner suspected of killing 2 children”; “Gresham woman kills 2 young children, herself”; “Father fatally shoots 4 people, including his 3 children”; on and on). They’re just not the “gun violence” anyone wants to talk about.
Facing the harsh reality of thousands of 30-aged and middle-aged Americans shooting children, mainly in homes, would completely upend an already vitriolic gun-policy quarrel. The one consensus angrily battling gun-control and gun-rights factions share is the “right” of nearly all adults to have at least some guns, especially in their homes.
“This is not about taking away anyone’s guns,” President Joe Biden declared of modest gun-control proposals. An adult can own “a dozen AR-15s” so long as he “prevent(s) his deadly weapons from falling into the hands of a child,” Cox insists.
The easily-discerned reality on who is shooting children renders this made-up consensus vital to sustaining Americans’ gun discourse both callous and insane. Americans’ megalomanic concept of “adult rights” enabled one 64-year-old legally to obtain weaponry capable of shooting more people in 15 minutes in Las Vegas than have been shot in all 131,000 American schools in four years. No proposed reform would have stopped him.
That simple, stark fact with cataclysmic implications for safety cannot be published in any mainstream media or by any gun-debate lobby (I’ve tried). It is too threatening to the fragile set of myths that dictate how we discuss guns.
In truth, as long as the right of nearly every American adult to have a gun remains unassailable, Americans will continue to suffer hundreds of thousands of gun deaths every decade, including tens of thousands victimizing children.
However, let us interpret the seemingly unconscionable silence by gun-control groups (whose researchers surely know the facts presented here) as charitably as possible. They know that challenging the court-upheld right of every American adult to “keep and bear arms” would jeopardize gun-control lobbies’ already difficult politics, rendering the modest reforms they propose (background checks on gun buyers, bans on assault weapons, holding gun makers liable for reckless marketing, and “red flag” laws to seize guns from openly disturbed owners) all but impossible to win against implacable gun-rights forces.
Research shows these modest reforms, even if they would barely dent America’s enormous gun toll, would do at least some good. They would marginally reduce domestic gun killings, especially those victimizing women, and gun suicides. Therefore, this thinking goes, it’s better not to raise unpalatable gun-violence realities in order to win some beneficial reforms.
If that’s the rationale, gun-control lobbies should at least observe some basic honesty and stop defeating themselves with lies about schools, youth, and startling, positive trends, to be detailed in Part II.