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A new statistical analysis report shows that despite a child-homicide
rate in the United States which surpasses that of most other Western
nations, firearms are near the bottom of the list of causes for the
alarming statistics.

According to a report drafted by Iain Murray, a senior research
analyst at the Statistical Assessment Service, a Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan think
tank, “in the rush to reduce America’s high juvenile homicide rates into
a gun-control debate, we’re missing the chilling bigger picture of the
real and deadly risks our children face, and what it says about our
society.”

The most recent statistical data available on child homicide rates,
Murray said, indicated that the U.S. had the highest infant-child
homicide rate — four times as high — as all other Western nations
surveyed, at 4.1 children per 100,000 people.

But “for every American child 4 or younger” that is murdered, he
said, “more than eight others die violently by other means — blunt
objects, strangulation or, most commonly, hands, fists or feet.”

Even in the 5-14 age group, he said, the U.S. non-gun murder rate is
more than double the rates taken from the international sampling group,
“although the rate of murders by firearms does increase considerably as
children get older.”

One of the most recent high-profile child murder cases involving a
gun was the shooting death of six-year-old Kayla Rolland, who was killed
by a classmate in a Michigan school last month. As expected, the
incident sparked more calls for childproofing handguns — such as adding
trigger locks — from traditional gun control advocates and from the
Clinton administration.

Some experts have said the Rolland case may even have been the
impetus for Smith & Wesson, one of the
nation’s largest handgun makers, to strike a deal with the
administration that would prevent the company from being sued by
municipalities and the Justice Department, who say gun makers shoulder
responsibility for illegal acts committed with guns they manufacture.
Specifically, Smith & Wesson executives agreed to add trigger locks to
all handguns sold by the company, and to forbid shipment of their
handguns to dealers who would not agree to the company’s new childproof
packaging mandates.

But Murray said the statistics don’t measure up to the hype.

“While the rate of child gun homicide in the U.S. is much higher than
elsewhere — as everyone acknowledges — so is the rate of non-gun
murder,” he said. “Even if all the gun homicides were taken out of the
equation, America would still have an infant-homicide rate more than 3.5
times as high as the other Western countries,” a phenomenon he called
“staggering.”

America’s obsession with guns and gun violence, Murray said, is
understandable, but that obsession is “blinding us to another
significant social problem,” noting that in 1997 alone, 738 children
under the age of 13 were murdered across the country (but only 133 by
guns, according to the FBI).

“America is witnessing something barbaric happening to its young
children,” Murray said, noting that the figures might be unbelievable
had they not been tallied by official U.S. government sources.

He said the case of another child, 23-month-old Brianna Blackmond,
“is more typical of the young children killed in this country.” She died
in January from a blow to the head given to her by her mother after
being returned from a foster home.

“But how much press attention did that death receive outside
Washington, compared with Kayla Rolland’s tragic but unusual death?”
Murray asked.

It is also important to note, he said, “that the main thrust of the
‘Kids and Guns’ study” — a recent government report — “is that the
rise and subsequent fall in the murder rate among older juveniles in the
1990s was driven by firearm murders and the consequent gun-control
measures. … But this does not apply to murders of children aged 13 or
younger.”

Murray said the murder rate in that group was 1.8 per 100,000 in 1976
and 1.7 in 1997, “never having risen above 2.1 in the intervening 20
years.”

“Children under 13 are being killed just about as often now as they
were during the height of the crack-fueled murder boom of the early
1990s,” said the STATS researcher. “If anything has been done to combat
the problem, it hasn’t worked,” which, ostensibly, includes a number of
new gun-control laws that have been passed over the last 20 years.

Yet the data show something surprising: 85 percent of U.S. counties
reported no child homicides — by any cause — in 1997, while just 7
percent experienced two or more.

“In great swaths of the country, child murder is virtually unknown,”
Murray said. “The problem is confined mainly to the big cities of the
East and West coasts, and to the Southwest.”

The research analyst also questioned the wisdom of universal gun laws
emanating from the federal level. Though gun violence in otherwise
peaceful suburban communities seems to garner headlines, “the
overwhelming majority of child murders happen elsewhere. This fact alone
would imply that across-the-board federal solutions affecting the entire
country may be misplaced,” he said.

Though it would seem more sensible to use government resources to
“concentrate where the problem is the greatest,” Murray added that other
feel-good measures, such as having “pediatricians nationwide … talk to
all young children about guns,” as some national pediatric groups have
proposed, “is well-intentioned, but will achieve little.”

“By letting ourselves believe that guns are the problem for
pre-adolescents, we are avoiding the unpalatable truth that something is
very wrong in American society,” Murray said. “We focus on exceptional
cases, and ignore the unsettling nature of the daily reality.”

But, he said, there may be “a lesson here.”

“We may be able to reduce child-murder rates to the levels of other
countries if we concentrate on what causes those murders — and guns
aren’t the biggest factor.”

There may be a hidden “domino effect,” he said, that causes children
who live in unstable or dangerous environments “where their lives have
little value” to also regard the lives of others in the same light “when
they are seduced by the power of the gun.” Breaking that cycle and
making childhood safer and saving the lives of the youngest children may
help save older children down the road, Murray said.

“Perhaps the safety locks we most need are the ones that other
civilized countries place in their citizens’ consciences,” he said.
While the tragic deaths of the “Kayla Rollands are thankfully the
exception rather than the rule … it is the Brianna Blackmonds who
really deserve the attention of the nation’s doctors and the president.”

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