Guns Kill More U.S. Children than Anything Else—But It’s Not Hopeless

No other country in the world experiences mass shootings and children’s gun deaths at the rate the U.S. does—but we have to get over our denial to stop it.

Tara Haelle

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Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

Today, at least 19 children have died or or received emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day.

The only difference between the 19 killed or injured today (and tomorrow and the next day) and the 19 killed in the Uvalde school shooting on May 24 is that we know the names of all the children who died in Uvalde since they died all at once in a tragic but absolutely preventable event.

I didn’t make up the number 19 to match the number of Uvalde’s victims. That number comes from a gun violence study in Pediatrics that I wrote about when it came out in 2017. It found that approximately 1,300 children die and 5,790 receive treatment for gunshot wounds in the U.S. every year. If you add those numbers and divide by the number of days in a year, the answer is a little over 19.

It just so happens that in Uvalde, all 19 died — in addition to 17 others who were wounded. That’s how averages work: some days the count is higher, and other days it’s lower, but when all is said and done, every single day 19 young American lives are irreparably changed by gun violence.

Here’s the thing that struck me when I returned to that story before writing this one: At that time, I wrote that firearms were the third leading cause of death for all children between the ages of 1 and 17. Yet just three years later, in 2020, that statistic would change. Today, guns have surpassed motor vehicle accidents and become the number one cause of death in children and teens under 18. And the U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world where that’s the case.

In fact, according to that 2017 study, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world came from the United States. Given how gun deaths in children have climbed in the years since that study, I’d imagine that proportion is higher now. I also am not aware of ANY other country in the world — no matter what…

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Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker, and author of Vaccination Investigation and The Informed Parent. Follow her at @tarahaelle.