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Eight children a day die from firearms in the US

Firearms claimed the lives of more than 3,140 children and teens in 2016.

Marchers hold up photos of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in which 20 children, aged between six and seven, were killed.
Marchers hold up photos of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in which 20 children, aged between six and seven, were killed.
Image: UPI/PA Images

A NEW STUDY in the US has found that of the 20,360 American teens and children who died in 2016, 60% of them died from preventable injuries, with firearms playing a widespread and persistent role. 

According to the University of Michigan study, firearms claimed the lives of more than 3,140 children and teens in 2016, which works out at about eight children a day.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 young Americans died in motor vehicle accidents, making it the leading cause of death. However, prevention efforts and better trauma care in hospitals have cut the death rate of young people from such crashes in half in less than two decades, according to the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

Unlike motor vehicle accidents, the rate of firearm-related death for those aged 1 to 19 years has stayed around the same for almost the past two decades. 

Children and teens in the US are 36 times more likely to be killed by a firearm than the 12 other high-income countries.

For children between the ages of one and nine years, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of firearm death.

The study found that boys had firearm death rates five times that of girls, and African-American young people had a firearm death rate nearly three times that of white children and teens.

According to the lead author of the study, Rebecca Cunningham, firearm-related deaths are an “everybody problem” as they occur at about the same rate in urban, rural and suburban settings.

US teens and children in urban areas are twice as likely to die in homicides as rural youths, while rural teens have a rate of suicides that’s twice as high as the rate for urban youth. Suburban teens who die of firearm-related causes do so of suicide and homicide at roughly equal rates.

“Homicides account for 60% of those deaths, suicide about 35%, unintentional or accidental injuries about one percent and mass shootings slightly less than one percent,” Cunningham said. 

By using a data-driven approach to studying these deaths, I hope we can guide the US to apply our resources to help us understand what we can do to prevent these deaths across the country.

Preventive measures 

The study represents the first time all causes of child and adolescent death have been tallied by both mechanism and intent, and that rates of these causes of death over time have been calculated for all the top causes.

The third leading causing of death was cancer, which accounted for 1,853 deaths of those age one to 19, but data has indicated that its death rate has dropped since the start of the study period.

Suffocation – mainly suicides by hanging and other means – was fourth, and is on the rise. This is closely followed by drowning, drug overdoses/poisonings and birth defects, each with just under 1,000 deaths and steady decreases in death rates over the last 17 years.

Co-author of the study Maureen Walton noted that drug poisoning and overdose have risen to be the sixth leading cause of death for young people, largely due to increases in opioid overdoses, which the study shows account for over half of drug overdoses among adolescents. 

Walton said that the US has spent billions to decrease car crash injuries and deaths adding that the implementation of “prevention science” has resulted in the steady decrease in motor vehicle crash deaths for children and teens over the past 20 years.

“We hope these data help put firearm deaths of young people in the proper context, so we can study and test potential preventive measures while respecting the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.”

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Adam Daly

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