Aug 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Gun deaths among U.S. children hit a new record high

Data: Pediatrics analysis of CDC data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Firearm deaths among children in the U.S. hit a new record high in 2021, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Driving the news: The study, based on government data, points to the worsening of an already distressing trend, after guns became the leading cause of death for children for the first time in 2020.

By the numbers: There were 4,752 pediatric firearm deaths in 2021, or a rate of 5.8 per 100,000 people — an 8.8% increase from the year before, the study found.

  • Between 2018 and 2021, the pediatric firearm death rate rose 41.5%.
  • "Spikes in firearm purchasing during the pandemic were substantial, resulting in roughly 30 million children living in households with firearms, a known risk factor for pediatric firearm injury," the researchers wrote.

Zoom in: Gun deaths among children have "disproportionately affected communities of color," said the study, which is based on data from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Nearly 50% of children who died by firearms in 2021 were Black, and Black children "accounted for the greatest increase in death rate" from 2020 to 2021, per the study.
  • "With respect to firearm homicides, in 2021, the death rate was 11 times higher for Black children compared with white children ... representing the largest disparity gap in the 4 years of this study."

The big picture: Nearly 85% of children who died from firearms in 2021 were male, and the firearm death rate among males has increased since 2018.

  • About 83% of pediatric firearm deaths were among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years old, a 5.2% increase from the 2020 rate.

State of play: The new study aligns with earlier findings on the topic.

  • A Pew Research Center report earlier this year found that gun deaths among U.S. kids rose 50% between 2019 and 2021.
  • The number of children killed by guns in 2021 was higher than in any year since 1999, the first year the CDC began tracking the data, according to the report.
Go deeper