Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) seemed more concerned about unborn embryos and fetuses than living children on Wednesday as he downplayed gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting that left six people dead at a Tennessee school.
“There’s no such thing as gun violence. There’s only human violence. It’s intellectually unsound to state otherwise,” he said during a House Oversight Committee hearing. “And the number one cause of death for children in America remains abortion.”
Many Americans, including Democratic politicians, have renewed their calls for better gun control laws in the wake of Monday’s shooting, but face resistance from Republicans, many of whom receive major financial backing from the gun lobby.
Higgins was criticizing Democrats for repeatedly bringing up the statistic that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.
That statistic is true, however. In 2020, firearms surpassed car crashes as the number one cause of death for children and young adults ages 1-18.
Firearms accounted for nearly 19% of children’s deaths in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER database. In no other similarly large or wealthy country are firearm deaths among even the top four causes of death for children, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Motor vehicle accidents and cancer are the two most common causes of death for people ages 1-18 in all other comparable countries, KFF found. The U.S. has by far the laxest gun laws and the highest number of civilian-owned firearms of its peer nations.
This year alone, there have been 130 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Higgins cited CDC data from 2020 to say that there were more than 620,000 legal abortions performed that year, comparing that number to the number of children ― 4,357 ― killed by guns.
The vast majority of abortion procedures occur during the first trimester of pregnancy (before or at 13 weeks of gestation for an embryo or a fetus). Fetal viability, defined as the point at which a fetus’ survival may be possible outside the womb, is reported to be at approximately 23 to 24 weeks of gestation in the U.S.
Social media users called out the flaws in Higgins’ “human violence” argument:
Other commenters observed that Higgins’ self-proclaimed “pro-life” stance didn’t seem to apply to actual living children:
Higgins is staunchly anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment, and argues on his House webpage that life “unquestionably begins at conception.”
He’s previously made headlines for other inflammatory remarks. In 2020, he threatened to shoot any armed demonstrators ahead of a Black Lives Matter rally, even though people are allowed to openly carry firearms in Louisiana. And in September, he was criticized as racist and misogynistic after he shouted at and made offensive comments to a Black climate expert testifying to Congress.
Three 9-year-olds and three adults were killed at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday after a 28-year-old shooter, who police say legally purchased the two assault-style rifles and pistol they were wielding, opened fire.