A newly published study finds that pediatric deaths due to gun violence in the U.S. have dramatically increased over the past decade, with researchers noting that not enough is being done to address the horrifying trend.
The study, authored by Rebekah Mannix and Mark Neuman, pediatric emergency medicine physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as by Cordelia Mannix, Rebekah Mannix’s high school-aged daughter, found that 2,590 people under the age of 18 died due to firearm-related incidents in 2021. That number was an 87 percent increase from the 1,311 who died due to firearms in 2011.
Around two-thirds of the deaths were homicides, while around 30 percent were suicides, the study found. Those rates are consistent with other studies that arrived at similar numbers, with a smaller percentage being attributed to accidental discharge of firearms.
The study also analyzed other causes of premature death in children, and found that vehicular fatalities — once the most common type of premature death among kids — had declined significantly over the past 10 years. The decrease was attributable to an increase in preventive changes taken on car safety over that time, including changes to state laws on booster seats, the standardization of airbags in most vehicles, and other actions.
Unfortunately, “the opposite is happening with firearms,” said the study’s lead author, Rebekah Mannix. “It’s just getting worse, and kids are dying at higher rates from firearms.”
As a society, we’ve done a great job at targeted interventions. But what we’ve missed is that the most lethal means of injury are still incredibly accessible to kids.
Since 2020, firearms have been the leading cause of death in children.
Toni Gross, the medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, told The New York Times that the trend could change if the gun industry took proactive measures to prevent gun violence. However, the industry “has not signed on to making safety modifications,” including fingerprint identification on firearms, that could limit the number of child deaths per year, Gross said.
A separate analysis of firearm-related deaths in children, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in August, suggested that the number of pediatric firearm deaths is much higher, with around 4,752 children dying from a firearm in 2021.
“This is undoubtedly one of our chief public health crises in this country,” Chethan Sathya, lead author of the study and pediatric trauma surgeon in New York, said at the time of its publication. “The most likely reason that your child will die in this country is at the hands of a firearm. That’s not acceptable.”
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