Gun Violence is Top Killer of US Children, With Mortality Rates Doubling Since 2013

Firearms were the leading causes of death amongst children and teenagers aged 1-17 in the US in 2020 and 2021, according to a new study published by KFF, a US-based policy think tank.

The number of children dying in firearm-related incidents in the US has doubled since 2013, and now ranks higher than other causes of death like injury and illnesses. Death by firearms includes suicide attacks, assaults, and attacks for undetermined reasons.  

Firearm-related deaths accounted for 20% of deaths of children under the age of 18 in the US in 2021. This amounts to a total of 4,733 deaths, with 2,571 of them children aged 12 and under. 

The mortality rate due to firearms in teens is particularly high at 25.2 deaths per 100,000. The mortality rate of children alone due to gun-related incidents in 2021 was 3.7 deaths per 100,000, over double the number recorded in 2013, at 1.8 deaths per 100,000 – and that was the lowest in recent times,  The second leading cause of deaths in this age group is motor vehicle accidents. 

Provisional data from 2022 saw gun deaths remaining the top cause of death in this age group, tracking a steep increase in gun violence assaults across the country. 

This mortality rate is around 10 times the average seen in other similarly large and wealthy countries in the world. Canada occupies second place in child and teen mortality rates due to firearms. Other than Canada, no other peer country has “firearms” in the top-five causes of children’s deaths. 

Regulation aligns with mortality

A hotly debated topic in the US, gun violence is an extremely political issue in which both sides – those protective of their right to bear arms, and those demanding stricter laws around the purchase and possession of firearms – hold considerable influence in electoral outcomes. 

Analyzing the correlation between laws around the purchase and possession of firearms, the study pointed out that the mortality rate attributed to firearms was markedly lower in states with strict gun laws, compared with the rates reported in states with liberal laws around the purchase and possession of firearms. 

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama reported the top three highest firearm mortality rates in children and teens, while New York reported the lowest firearm mortality rate in the country. However, even the rate recorded in New York is thrice that of Canada. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a US-based non-profit working to publish accurate public information on gun violence incidents across the country, there have been 420 mass shootings, including mass murders, in the US during the first half of 2023. Over 1,000 children and teens aged 1-17 have been killed in these attacks. 

Image Credits: Max Kleinen/ Unsplash.

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