- For the first time, firearms have overtaken motor vehicles as the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.
- Deaths attributed to guns now account for nearly 30 percent of deaths among children and adolescents in the US
- Gun Violence Has Increased Rapidly During the U.S. Pandemic
Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teenagers in the United States.
Between 2019 and 2020, the number of firearms deaths among children and adolescents rose by 29.5 percent, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.
The increase is twice as high as the increase recorded in the general population.
The report also found that drug overdoses and poisoning in children and adolescents increased by 83.6 percent, making it the third leading cause of death among young people after car accidents.
Mental health problems among young people around the world have increased in recent years, and public health experts say the pandemic has exacerbated the isolation, loneliness and stress young people were already feeling.
Easy access to firearms has made gun violence a uniquely American problem.
“Adolescents are a reflection of what has happened in the total population. Gun violence has increased at an alarming rate in the United States. That percentage is exponential when it comes to children.” dr. Howard Prattoa psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health at Community Health of South Florida, Inc.told Healthline.
New evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed 45,222 firearms-related deaths were reported in 2020.
Firearms-related deaths in children and adolescents saw a 29.5 percent increase. Of those deaths, homicides from firearms increased by 33.4 percent and suicides from firearms increased by 1.1 percent.
Drug overdoses and poisonings rose by 83.6 percent and became the third leading cause of death in children and adolescents.
The number of firearms homicides among young people varies from state to state – Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama and Illinois usually see the highest rates† gun related suicides are more common in white and Native American children.
The researchers say the findings highlight the need to invest in the prevention of gun violence.
“I agree with what the authors said – gun violence is preventable and we understand better and better how to prevent this crisis,” Jeff TemplePhD, a licensed psychologist and director of the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“In addition to common sense gun control, such as safe storage and enforcement of red flag laws, we need universally administered community and school-based programs that effectively prevent violence,” Temple added.
Research of the gun safety organization Everytown found that there was a 64 percent increase in gun purchases between 2019 and 2020.
From March to December 2020, the US saw a 30 percent increase in accidental fatal shootings by children compared to 2019.
“More young people are carrying guns, guns are more easily accessible to young people and they are more likely to use them to settle disputes,” says Daniel FlanneryPhD, the director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention and Research at Case Western Reserve University.
Public health experts believe the pandemic’s many stressors — including months of social isolation, record high unemployment, and school and office closures — have contributed to the rise in gun violence.
Pratt says that children typically depend on the social support they receive through school.
“Children have been spending more time outside of school, isolated from support systems, not interacting with others, so they’re missing important connections with adults, mentors and peers,” Flannery said.
Young people have also spent more time on social media, which has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
“There is a global mental health crisis among our youth that started before the pandemic. The isolation, loneliness, loss, stress and economic hardship associated with the pandemic have only exacerbated this problem,” Temple said.
Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teenagers in the United States. The number of deaths from firearms among children and adolescents increased by 29.5 percent between 2019 and 2020, which is twice the increase in the general population.