Guns are now the leading cause of death among young Americans

Just days after another fatal shooting at an elementary school in the United States, health experts point out that firearms are now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 across the country. – with a shocking 83% increase in youth gun deaths over the past decade.

Image credits: Jay Rembert.

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed this week in a shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It was the second deadliest school shooting in US history and sparked calls for urgent action to reduce those deaths. However, few issues are as politically polarized in the United States as gun policy, with most proposals lacking bipartisan support.

A recent national survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 73% of Democrats consider gun violence a very big problem for the country, compared to 18% of Republicans who say the same. This partisan divide is also widening — divisions over guns have been growing steadily since 2016, and America’s youth are paying the price. With supporters unlikely to stop gun politics no matter how many shootings there are, finding solutions isn’t easy.

“We must reverse this deeply troubling and unacceptable trend of gun deaths among young people, especially young people of color,” said physician Karen Sheehan, co-author of the commentary, in a statement. “We need more funding allocated to research-based prevention efforts so we can save young lives before it’s too late.”

The situation has deteriorated so badly that guns have become the leading cause of death among young people in the United States. There is an increase in firearm deaths (83% since 2013) and a decrease in motor vehicle deaths (51% since 2000), the authors wrote. This increase in the number of firearm deaths is attributable to more firearm homicides, as 60% of youth firearm deaths since 2010 were homicides. While firearm deaths began to rise in 2014, the authors say the “societal upheaval of the pandemic” likely accelerated the increase with declining well-being and escalating stressors for the Mental Health. The changes in the lives of young people during the pandemic have come after a long absence of prevention efforts to reduce gun deaths, they added.

“The foundations of firearm injury prevention are only beginning to be established, in contrast to other instituted injury prevention systems,” they wrote. “Motor vehicle injury prevention has infrastructure and has led to a large decrease in fatalities. For firearms, the absence of an intentional and methodical public health approach led to the opposite results.

Looking more closely at recent statistics, there are also large racial and ethnic disparities when it comes to youth gun violence. Non-Hispanic black youth (ages 15-19) saw a 40% increase in gun deaths between 2019 and 2020. It wasn’t until 2020 that black teens died from gunshot wounds. firearm homicide at a rate 21 times higher than teens while, based on the latest CDC data.

In their commentary published in The Lancet, the authors argue that these racial disparities “are rooted in poverty and structural and cultural racism” in the United States. This then leads to a “skewed perception of gun violence among the minority population” and also reduces the sense of urgency of the problem, they added, calling for further action by policy makers to address the problem. tackle the problem.

According to them, a crucial element of prevention is strong data systems on firearm injuries and deaths. Surveillance of non-fatal firearm injuries began in 2020 in ten states with funding from the CDC. Better use of these data systems could make a difference, but increased research funding is needed to advance scientific understanding of firearm injury prevention, they added.

“In addition to better understanding the risk and protective factors for firearm injury and death, more funding is essential to develop, implement and evaluate firearm injury prevention interventions at the individual, hospitable, community and political,” said co-author Samaa. Kemal in a statement.

The comment was published in the journal The Lancet.