The rate of children’s deaths by firearms increased by more than 40% from 2018 to 2021, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
In 2020, gun violence became the leading cause of death for youth after jumping 28.8% from the previous year. The rise continued in 2021. From 2018 to 2021, there was about a 41.5% increase in deaths of children by firearms, the study said.
“This is a public health issue. It’s the number one killer of kids in this country. And I’m sure it’s going to continue to be the number one killer of kids in 2022. And maybe in 2023. It’s not going away,” Dr. Chethan Sathya, pediatric surgeon and the director of the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Northwell Health, told HuffPost.
Sathya is the lead author of the report. The other authors listed include Bailey K. Roberts, MD; Colleen P. Nofi, DO; Emma Cornell, MPH; Sandeep Kapoor, MD, MS-HPPL; and Laura Harrison, MPH.
The report, “Trends and Disparities in Firearm Deaths Among Children,” points to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was first reported on by NBC News.
The majority of reported deaths in 2021, referred to as “pediatric firearm deaths” in the study, were male (84.8%) and/or ages 15 to 19 (82.6%). Further, 49.9% were Black and 64.3% died by homicide.
Nearly a third of the 2021 pediatric firearm deaths were caused by suicide (29.9%) and 3.5% were caused by unintentional injury.
Of the Black children, 67.3% died by firearm homicides in 2021. This marks a 1.8% uptick from the previous year.
Additionally, white youths made up 78.4% of firearm suicides among youths.
The report also links poverty to firearm death rates among children and notes that the South and the Midwest experience higher firearm death rates.
“The large uptick in pediatric firearm-related deaths in 2020 garnered national attention, with many theorizing the increase to be because of the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and exacerbation of root causes,” the analysis stated. “Strikingly, although initial pandemic-related fears and anxiety have dampened, firearm mortalities persisted as the leading cause of death in children and adolescents in 2021.”
Various types of gun violence have risen dramatically over the years.
“I like to talk about the root causes or potential root causes of each type of firearm injury rather than lumping it all together. Because firearm suicide, unintentional injury, public mass shooting and then violence or assault are so different in their root causes, ideologies and the type of circumstances that you can’t really lump it together,” Sathya told HuffPost.
Since the April 20, 1999, school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, which left 15 dead, gun violence has affected more than 356,000 students nationwide, according to The Washington Post.
This year alone, from January to July, more than 400 mass shootings have taken place across the country, CNN reported, citing the Gun Violence Archive. In one instance, a teen was arrested in connection to a mass shooting at a Baltimore block party celebrating the Fourth of July. Two people were killed and 28 others, mostly teens, were injured.
The rising rates of gun violence have divided the country, between those who are calling for stricter gun control laws and those who claim gun control laws threaten their Second Amendment rights.
“I rarely see a nuanced discussion about the different types of gun deaths, or injuries and what policies might affect them, but you often hear the narrative: ‘OK, let’s pass an assault weapon ban,’ which I believe will definitely reduce things like public mass shootings. Absolutely,” Sathya said.
But, he added, “For truly effectuate change when it comes to firearm violence, you need to address root causes of violence — like structural inequity, social determinants of health, food security, employment opportunities, and so on.”
The CDC declined HuffPost’s request for comment since the report was not written by the center.
If you or someone you know needs help, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
CORRECTION: The original headline on this story said the rate of gun-related deaths among children nearly doubled; it increased by nearly 42% from 2018 to 2021, according to the study.