Lauren Moye, FISM News
Three researchers from the University of Michigan have identified that gun violence deaths are now the leading cause of death in children and adolescents. Their study, based on 2020 Centers for Disease data, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 20.
The CDC mortality data showed an increase in various firearm-related deaths for all age groups with a 13.5% uptick in these deaths from 2019 to 2020. This created a new record of 45,222 deaths by firearms. This general category includes suicides, homicides, and accidents.
However, the researchers identified two alarming trends in the data. There was a sharp 33.4% increase in firearm homicides in 2020. Additionally, firearm-related deaths overtook motor vehicle crashes as the number one cause of fatalities in ages 1-19 years. The authors note that the gap between the top two categories has been narrowing since 2016. However, a surge in 2020 firearm-related deaths saw vehicular deaths move into second place for adolescents.
“This tells us that it’s a worsening problem in the U.S., and I mean the most recent data suggests that the trend is actually accelerating,” Jason Goldstick, one of the researchers and a professor at the University of Michigan, told USA Today.
He added, “If you look at other countries, it’s not even comparable. The risk of firearm violence in other countries is not even in the same league as it is in the United States.”
The researchers wrote, “From 2019 to 2020, the relative increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths of all types (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) among children and adolescents was 29.5% — more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population.”
The writers cautioned at the end of their study that “the reasons for the increase are unclear, and it cannot be assumed that firearm-related mortality will later revert to pre-pandemic levels.”
Their concern over what they identified as a longer-term trend prompted them to conclude with a reminder that there are programs designed to curb community violence, including through federal infrastructure legislation.
“This funding momentum must be maintained,” the authors concluded.
Patrick Morgan, another of the co-authors, is hopeful that better gun education among minors as well as improving the security of guns to keep them away from adolescents might show a decrease in gun deaths among this age group. Morgan noted that similar education and road safety improvements have led to fewer vehicular deaths.
“That gives me hope that we can apply those types of evidence-based findings in the same way we did for vehicles over the past 50 years to the problem of firearm deaths,” he said to USA Today. “We can then change and bend the curve on the number of kids who are dying from firearms.”
Additionally, overdosing on drugs and poisoning is now the third leading cause of death in the adolescent age group with a steep 83.6% increase. This surge is “largely explained” by an over 110.6% increase in unintentional poisonings.