Reported 30% increase in past three years
In the wake of the Nashville, Tenn school shooting in which seven persons were killed (including the shooter), gun violence remains the number-one killer of American children.
The finding was published two years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine as part of longer-term research from the university’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention.
A 2021 analysis of mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed a nearly 30% increase in gun-related deaths among Americans up to age 19 between 2019 and 2020, the researchers said. These deaths include incidents of suicide, saccidental shootings and homicides, with homicides outpacing the other two categories.
“We knew gun violence had increased but I was surprised by the level of increase for just one year,” said Dr Jason Goldstick, a researcher with IFIP and associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan. “I can’t remember ever seeing that before.”
The rise in shooting deaths among the nation’s youngest is part of a larger increase in homicides in that same time period. Gun homicides across the US rose 33% in 2020, according to the study. This increase was disparately felt by Black Americans, who despite making up 14% of the US population accounted for nearly half of the nation’s homicide victims, according to FBI data released in the fall of 2021.
Although 2020 marked the first year that more children and teens were killed by guns than in car accidents, gun violence has been the number one cause of death among Black teenage boys over 15 for at least a decade, according to CDC data.
And these teens weren’t dying in high profile mass shootings on school campuses or malls. Rather, many of them lost their lives in homes where guns were present and unsecured and in the neighborhoods they grew up in.
California teens have reported in 2021 the rise in shootings had rocked their communities. They expressed paranoia, sadness and hopelessness over the loss of their peers to gun violence, both as victims and as those caught up in the cycle of shootings.
“We have to see that violence everyday. We can’t go outside and have fun without knowing that somebody just died out there. I just wonder, ‘Damn, who’s next?’” said Samantha Walton, a 17 year-old from San Francisco. “Nothing should be so serious to where everybody is just killing each other. We’ve got like little kids, sisters and brothers out here that don’t even make it to 18.”
“These numbers are horrible, especially because these are such preventable deaths, but until very recently research has been chronically underfunded,” said Goldstick, the University of Michigan researcher. “Our ultimate message is that a public health approach to violence prevention can work, but only if you fill in the evidence base and to do that, you need funding.”