Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents, predominantly from homicide – surpassing motor vehicle death rates
Over 45,000 people across the U.S. died from firearm-related incidents in 2020, which was more than a 13% increase from 2019.
Regardless of age, the national increase in firearm deaths was driven largely by firearm homicide, which jumped more than 33% from 2019 to 2020. Additionally, suicides by firearm also increased by about 1%, according to data analysed by University of Michigan researchers.
As the former highest death cause, motor vehicles caused up to 3,900 fatalities among children and adolescents in 2020, while drug poisoning deaths increased by more than 83%. Accounting for more than 1,700 total deaths, drug poisoning become the third-leading cause of death.
Of the statistics, over 4,300 children and adolescents between the ages of 1 to 19 died due to firearms in 2020 in the U.S – including suicides, homicides, and unintentional deaths.
Firearm deaths among children increased by 29% from 2019 to 2020
Researchers at the University of Michigan analysed national datasets to identify firearm violence and misuse in national statistics, in an innovative effort to find solutions to reduce firearm injuries and deaths – while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to legally own firearms.
Jason Goldstick, research associate professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine, said: “The increasing rates of firearm mortality are a longer-term trend and demonstrate that we continue to fail to protect our youngest population from a preventable cause of death.
“Recent investments in firearm injury prevention research by the CDC 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.”
Firearm homicide increased by more than 33% from 2019 to 2020
The researchers from U-M conducted their most recent analysis on the main causes of death for children and adolescents, which demonstrates a serious increasing trend in firearm violence nationwide.
This research could potentially help policymakers and community groups identify potential solutions to address this national crisis and protect children from firearm incidents.
“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.”
Patrick Carter, co-director of the institute and associate professor of emergency medicine and of health behaviour and health education, commented: “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.
“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.”
Firearm violence will only get worse, experts say
Across the US, gun laws are closely protected by national legislation funded by organisations like the National Rifle Association (NRA). In 2018, NRA membership hit over 5.5 million people in 2018 – making it increasingly difficult to change gun laws to better protect citizens.
Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine, further said: “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.
“As a nation, we turn to scientific evidence to prevent injuries and deaths, and firearms should be no different. Michigan has incredible expertise in this space, and we will continue to use our collective knowledge to create safer and more vibrant communities nationwide.”