Study: Guns killed a record number of U.S. children in 2021
Guns killed a record number of children in the United States in 2021, exceeding the peak registered in the first year of the pandemic, according to a new analysis of CDC data.
The report said 4,752 children died from a firearm injury in 2021 - an increase of almost 42 percent from 2018. The study, published in the journal American Academy of Pediatrics, found nearly half of those who died in 2021 were Black and about 85 percent were males.
The analysis, which looked at children and adolescents from newborn to age 19, found nearly two-thirds of the deaths among children in 2021 were homicides, almost 30 percent were suicides and 3.5 percent resulted from "unintentional injury."
The research also found that, among that group, a majority of firearm homicides were Black children killed by gun-related injuries, while white children accounted for a majority of firearms suicides. Adolescents between 15 and 19 years old accounted for most of the gun-related deaths.
Black children - who have long suffered the highest gun death rates among racial and ethnic groups - saw the greatest increase in death rate, the report said, noting that the data showed racial and socioeconomic disparities had increased. "Across the United States, higher poverty levels correlated with higher death rates from guns," the AAP said.
The figures make 2021 the second year in a row in which guns were the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States, surpassing cars, drug overdoses and cancer.
In 2020, firearms for the first time killed more children and adolescents than car accidents, which had long been the leading cause of death for young people, and gun deaths continued to outpace cars for that age group in 2021, a Washington Post analysis found last year. The increase was driven by the number of Black youths killed by firearms.
The research published this week said the rise in firearm deaths among children in 2020 had "garnered national attention" and gave rise to theories that it was driven by the onset of pandemic lockdowns, but firearm deaths "strikingly" persisted as the leading cause in 2021.
Provisional CDC data from 2022 indicates that firearms remained the leading factor in child deaths, according to KFF and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"The numbers speak for themselves. This is one of our chief public health crises," said Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon and lead author of the analysis published this week.
"In the operating room and across our communities, we continue to see an increase in gun violence among children," said Sathya, who heads the Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention. "Our research reiterates the need for action now to bend this horrific curb."
The analysis was released as Tennessee lawmakers held a special session on Monday called by the governor after a shooting at a private school in Nashville earlier this year killed three children and three adults.
In recent months, a string of deadly shootings involving children have been reported, including a 4-year-old girl who was accidentally shot dead by another child in Illinois, and just last week, a 9-year-old in Florida who fatally shot a 6-year-old in the head, police said.
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