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Bill Bradley threw the bogus figure around all the time during his
failed presidential primary jog and no one called him on it.

TV, newspapers and gun-shy liberal commentators know and chant the
figure by heart. It’s a tragic, stomach-turning number that is repeated
constantly during America’s escalating war on guns: 13 of our country’s
precious children die each day from gun violence.

Sometimes, when it’s coming from the likes of the Children’s Defense
Fund, the number rises to 16 a day. But as Dave Kopel bluntly points out
in the gun-hugging April 17 issue of National
Review,
those
numbers are a lie. Even the 13-per-day figure (4,775 per year) is
exaggerated by a factor of four — unless you count a 19-year-old drug
dealer who is killed in a shoot-out as a “child.” And unless you also
lump in suicides, which the American Bar Association and others do to
drive their body count up (3,300 “kids” between 14 and 24 killed
themselves in a recent year).

Kopel, a think-tank researcher from Colorado, doesn’t feign
neutrality in his article, “An Army of Lies.” Relying on FBI and
National Institute of Justice figures, he sets out to debunk various
“truths” we’ve been taught by the anti-gun lobby and its mostly
unquestioning allies in mainstream media.

In fact, he says, for children under 14 the real daily death rate
from guns is 2.6 — still a national tragedy. For children under 10,
it’s 0.4 per day. That, too, is a sorry fact. But, as he argues, it is
“far lower than the number of children who are killed by automobiles,
drowning or many other causes.”

Economist John Lott, whose specialty is sifting through gun data to
show the benefits of firearms to society, said in a January interview in
Reason that the numbers
are even lower: 17 gun deaths for kids under age 5 in 1996 and 44 for
children under 10. Given the rapt media attention to each child who dies
from a gun, he says it’s no wonder few Americans would ever believe that
five times more children die in bathtubs each year.

Many Americans have been led to think our backyards are littered with
the bodies of children who have died from gun violence — deliberate or
accidental. In fact, Kopel says, the number of fatal gun accidents is at
its lowest level since 1903, when figures were first kept.

Maybe Kopel is one of those anti-anti-gun nuts. And so what if he was
a little sloppy with his numbers and his sources. His argument that
gun-hatred has blinded many Americans to the reality of gun use and
abuse is supported by the official
stats

and a disturbing March 27 article in the Christian Science Monitor by
statistician Iain Murray.

Murray, a senior research analyst at the Statistical Assessment
Service,
reported that when it comes
to murdering children — which Americans do at a rate four times Western
Europe’s — there’s a greater problem with our culture than just gun
abuse.

Murray said that in 1997, according to the FBI, of 738 children under
age 13 murdered in the United States, 133 were killed with one of
America’s 250 million guns. Apparently children are most at risk from
knife violence, blunt-object violence and fist violence — and most of
them live in big welfare-cultured cities on the East and West coasts and
in the Southwest. According to Murray, 85 percent of America’s counties
did not have a single child murder in 1997.

As the one-year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre
approaches, and as we hear new condemnations of our gun culture and
calls for more and more gun control to protect our children from “gun
violence,” Murray’s article is especially valuable.

“Despite the attention paid to outbreaks of violence in peaceful
suburbs and schools,” he says, “the overwhelming majority of child
murders happens elsewhere. This fact alone would imply that
across-the-board federal solutions affecting the entire country may be
misplaced. …

“Certainly, gun murder of youths 13 to 19 is a significant problem,
but the characteristics of murder in this category are clearly quite
different than in the younger cohort. 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.

“Yet we focus on exceptional cases, and ignore the unsettling nature
of the daily reality. There’s 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.”

Covering the Big Newsweeklies

It’s the “Elian and Juan Gonzalez Show” in both Time and Newsweek,
with both magazines playing the never-ending political soap opera on
their covers — and to the hilt. Both Elian — who may well be back in
Cuba’s socialist paradise within a few days and secretly praying for
Fidel to hurry up and die of throat cancer — and his dad are on the
cover of
Time.

Its eight pages include a rap on Miami’s anti-Castro hardliners, the
old guard of Cuban exiles whose chief sins among the media seem to be
their wealth and success and their failure to moderate their intense
hatred for communism and Fidel. (“The Slanderers of Cuban-Americans,” a
piece in The Weekly Standard,
presents ample evidence that “uppity, anti-communist Cuban Americans”
are the one ethnic group it is still politically correct for
editorialists and commentators to smear.) A Time sidebar shows Elian
isn’t the only case in which parents are fighting for custody of their
children across international borders, just the most symbolic.

Newsweek’s
coverage, heavy with photos, also clearly favors the father’s right to
take Elian home to Cuba, where we are assured he will enjoy what passes
for a privileged life. As a loyal Communist Party member and a worker
with access to tips in a tourist area, Elian’s dad is relatively well
off. He owns an air-conditioner and presumably has another great Cuban
luxury: toilet paper.

“Elian’s Cuba,” a five-page tour of his hometown near Havana,
mindlessly repeats the liberal myth that Cuba’s education and health
care systems are “among the best in the Americas.” Still, the
article
does a good job of detailing how poor and unfree life is like for the 6
million prisoners trapped in Fidel’s shabby museum of 20th-century
communism.

U.S. News & World Report, always the most short-winded of the
newsweeklies, takes care of the War Over Elian in less than two pages.
U.S. News spends most of its pages jumping the gun on the Columbine
multi-mediafest coming next week, which will replay and rehash the
lessons and after-effects of the massacre last April 20; It wants
everyone to hear the “good news about
teenagers”

which is that they are getting arrested less, pregnant less and dropping
out of school less. Also, columnist Randall Stross makes clever fun of
Al Gore and shows that the so-called digital divide that separates the
access whites and blacks have to the Internet is a myth not worth
throwing taxpayers’ money at.

Quick Reads

The cover of the May/June American Photo is adorned with the lovely,
shirt-doffing wife of Tom Cruise, and inside Cindy Crawford and other
beauties appear in various states of undress. American Photo, which
unfortunately has no website, always relies on the naked female form to
spice up its usually interesting mix of features, profiles, field tests
and ads for camera gear.

Along with its charms, the issue also contains seven horrible
black-and-white images of dead black American men and women hanging from
Southern trees and telephone poles. Drawn from a new book, “Without
Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,” they are photos and
post-cards from a collection that was put on exhibition earlier this
year in a Manhattan gallery.

Carol Squiers says it all in her accompanying article: The pictures
“are a devastating indictment of not only the lynchers and voyeuristic
crowds, but of the photographers themselves. The people who made the
images … were not dispassionately recording history; they were
collaborators in a hideous spectacle, and their involvement makes these
unbearable pictures even more difficult to look at.”

For a year now National Geographic
Adventure
has been
pleasing the young and strong people who like to engage in (or just read
about) high adventure. The March/April issue, which presents a list of
the 100 best hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, boating adventures in
America, has a great feature on Gary Larkins, a.k.a. “The Warbird
Hunter.”

Larkins is the best salvager in the world when it comes to finding
and recovering rare World War II warplanes. Writer Carl Hoffman traveled
with Larkins when he and his high-tech flotilla went in search of a
shiny B-17 bomber that will bring $2 million — if Larkins can lift it
off the bottom of a fjord in Greenland. You don’t need to own your own
kayak or be able to rappel down the face of a glacier to appreciate the
article’s good writing, great photography and love of high adventure.

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