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The Tragedy of Child Deaths From Firearms

March 8, 2022

For approximately 20 years, there was a virtual ban on research on gun violence, because of an amendment to a 1996 appropriations bill that stated that NIH and CDC funding could not be used to advocate for gun control. However, in 2018, Congress clarified that this stipulation on funding applied only to gun control advocacy, and gun violence research has slowly begun to be funded by federal agencies again.

We have thus begun to see important data finally reported about the morbidity and mortality caused by guns.

This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an article entitled, “Pediatric Firearm Injury Mortality Epidemiology,” by Dr. Annie Andrews and colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University (10.1542/peds.2021-052739), which describes who is dying from firearms and how they are dying.

Some of the stark details of the findings include:

  • In 2019, firearm injury jumped ahead of motor vehicle collisions to become the number one cause of death for children 0-19 years of age.
  • Homicide is the most common cause of firearm death for children 0-19 years of age.
  • Suicide comprises more than one-third of firearm deaths for children 10-14 years of age.
  • In 2019, 10.32/100,000 Black youth were killed by firearms, compared with 0.72/100,000 white youth.
  • There has been a gradual increase in firearm suicides among white children. In 2019, 3.69/100,000 white children committed suicide with a firearm.

Of note, this is strictly a US problem. The authors cite a sobering statistic: 90% of all firearm deaths for children 0-14 years of age in high-income countries occur in the US.

Please take a look at this article. Not only do the authors describe the statistics, they importantly also provide a robust discussion about how we as pediatricians and as a society can work together to advocate for solutions to this public health crisis.

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