Apr 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Guns were leading cause of death for youth in 2020

Handguns being processed for potential evidence in the Chicago Police Department in 2017.
Handguns being processed for potential evidence in the Chicago Police Department in 2017. Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Firearm-related injuries surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in 2020, according to an analysis of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Driving the news: Overall, there were 45,222 firearm-related deaths of all types — suicide, homicide, unintentional and undetermined — in the U.S. in 2020, a new peak for the country, according to the analysis.

By the numbers: Firearm-related deaths among people between 1 and 19 years old jumped 29.5% from 2019 to 2020, more than double the increase in the general population.

  • The most common types of gun-related deaths in those age groups were homicide and suicide.
  • Rates of firearm mortality per 100,000 people in those age groups were highest among Black children and adolescents followed by Native American or Alaska Native children and adolescents.

What they're saying: The researchers wrote in a letter to the editor in the Journal that the new data is "consistent with other evidence that firearm violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic" and that the reason for the increase was "unclear."

  • They warned that "it cannot be assumed that firearm-related mortality will later revert to prepandemic levels."
  • "Regardless, the increasing firearm-related mortality reflects a longer-term trend and shows that we continue to fail to protect our youth from a preventable cause of death," they wrote.

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