Guns have surpassed road crashes as the leading cause of death among U.S. children and teens.
Gun-related deaths rose 29% among 1- to 19-year-olds from 2019 to 2020, according to a new University of Michigan study. In all, there were more than 4,300 gun-related deaths - including suicides, homicides and accidents - in that age group in 2020.
The rising rates demonstrate that the United States is failing to protect its youngest population from a preventable cause of death, said study co-author Jason Goldstick. He is a research associate professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
"Recent investments in firearm injury prevention research by the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and National Institutes of Health, in addition to community violence prevention funding in the federal budget, are a step in the right direction, but this momentum must continue if we truly want to break this alarming trend," Goldstick said in a university news release.
The study attributed 3,900 deaths in the 1- to 19-year age group to motor vehicles. The authors added that drug poisoning deaths rose more than 83% to more than 1,700. Drug poisoning was the third-leading cause of death in the studied age group.
The findings, based on CDC data, were published April 20 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Motor vehicle crashes were consistently the leading cause of death for children and adolescents by a fairly wide margin, but by making vehicles and their drivers safer, these types of fatalities have drastically decreased over the past 20 years," said study co-author Dr. Patrick Carter, co-director of the university's Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention.
"Injury prevention science played a crucial role in reducing automobile deaths without taking cars off the road, and we have a real opportunity here to generate a similar impact for reducing firearm deaths through the application of rigorous injury prevention science," Carter added.
In 2020, more than 45,000 people of all ages died in the United States as a result of firearms, up more than 13% from 2019. The researchers said the increase was largely due to gun homicides, which jumped more than 33% from 2019 to 2020. Firearm suicides rose by about 1%, the CDC data show.
According to study co-author Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and a professor of emergency medicine at the university, "Firearm violence is one of the most critical challenges facing our society, and based on the latest federal data, this crisis is growing more and more intense."
The Pew Research Center has more about gun deaths.
SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 20, 2022