After a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, President Joe Biden gave a speech on June 2 calling for more restrictions on gun ownership.
In it, Biden made a claim about the victims of gun violence.
“Over the last two decades, more… children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined,” he said. “Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns.”
Since 2000, have there been more gun deaths among American children than police and military in the line of duty?
Yes, since 2000, there have been more gun deaths among American children than the combined gun deaths among police and military in the line of duty.
WHAT WE FOUND
The CDC tracks fatal injuries, including those caused by gun violence, and provides demographic information about victims, including age. The data dates back to 1999 and is current through 2020.
For the two-decade span from 2000 to 2020, the CDC reports 31,780 people under the age of 18 were killed by firearms. Those numbers include homicides, suicides, and accidents. The majority – 18,503 – are homicides.
Brady, a non-profit focused on combating gun violence, argues the CDC numbers are likely an under-count. Based on hospital data, Brady estimates 1,839 children and teens die from gun violence every year – slightly higher than the CDC totals.
The Department of Defense regularly updates its count of its employees, military and civilian, killed in the line of duty. In the last two decades, 7,075 troops have been killed in America’s various military operations.
The Watson Institute at Brown University reports a similar number, “7,057 service members killed in post-9/11 war operations.”
Neither metric breaks down deaths by cause, so we don’t know how many soldiers were specifically killed by guns. However, even if it’s assumed all deaths were firearms-related, the number remains significantly lower than the nearly 32,000 children killed by guns in the same period.
The National Law Enforcement Memorial reports that 4,218 law enforcement officers died between 2000 and 2021. It does not break down by cause of death.
The Officer Down Memorial Page does. It reports 4,598 total deaths between 2000 and June 3, 2022. Of those, 1,249 were from gunfire or inadvertent gunfire.
The FBI also releases annual reports about law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. According to that data, 1,163 officers were killed by firearms between 2000 and 2021, mostly feloniously with some killed accidentally.
Taking the highest-end estimates for both soldiers and police killed by guns, a total of 8,323 have died since 2000. In comparison, the low-end estimate for children killed by firearms is 31,780 – a number that does not include deaths from 2021 or 2022.
So President Biden’s statement is accurate. More children have been killed by guns in the past two decades than working police and soldiers combined. In fact, the number is nearly four times higher.