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Child Gun Deaths Rose 50 Percent in Just 2 Years, Research Finds

The data underlines just how bad the U.S.’s gun violence problem is — and suggests how much worse it could get.

Students participate in the Show Up to End Gun Violence rally at Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado on March 24, 2023.

Horrifying new data shows that gun deaths among U.S. children have surged at an unprecedented rate in recent years, reaching an all-time high as conservatives have worked to loosen the country’s gun laws at a record pace.

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of children under the age of 19 killed by guns increased by an astounding 46 percent when adjusted for population changes, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This marks the sharpest rise in child gun deaths since the CDC began collecting such data in 1999, and is an increase from 2.4 deaths per 100,000 children in the U.S. in 2019 to 3.5 per 100,000, just two years later.

This increase has brought the number of child gun deaths of any cause — including deaths from homicide, accidents and suicide — to a record high, from 1,732 children dying from guns in 2019, to 2,281 in 2020, to 2,590 child gun deaths in 2021, or an average of seven children a day.

Homicide was the most common cause of gun deaths among children in 2021 at 60 percent, followed by suicide at 32 percent; the main causes were flipped among adults, for whom 42 percent of gun deaths were due to homicide, while suicide accounted for 55. The data also showed a huge racial disparity, with Black children five times more likely to die from gunfire than white children.

The increase in child gun deaths is part of a 23 percent increase in gun deaths among Americans of all ages, which hit a record high of 48,830 in 2021.

The upward trend of gun deaths has come as Republicans are rapidly loosening state gun laws, experts have observed, often doing so directly after calls for gun control increase in the wake of a mass shooting.

The report appears to corroborate data archivists’ and journalists’ findings that gun violence has been increasing sharply in recent years. As The Washington Post reported, 2022 saw the highest number of school shootings since 1999, at 46 shootings, topping the previous record of 42 set in 2021.

Meanwhile, other countries are experiencing little to no school shootings or gun violence. Australia has had zero mass shootings since implementing strict gun control laws in 1996. That same year, the U.K. passed gun control laws after a gunman killed 16 children and a teacher at an elementary school in Scotland; there have been zero school shootings in the U.K. since. In Japan, strict gun laws mean that only about 3 people out of every 5 million people (0.0000006 percent) own a gun, versus 30 percent of Americans who own a gun. While there are typically less than 10 gun deaths a year in Japan, the U.S. had 48,830 gun deaths in 2021 alone.

In fact, every other wealthy country has a low rate of gun deaths compared to the U.S. According to a recent analysis from the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. had 7.4 deaths from assault, including guns, per 100,000 people in 2021. The country with the next highest number of assault deaths was New Zealand, at 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

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