Scientists from the University of Michigan found that firearms have surpassed motor vehicles as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States.
The research is published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Jason Goldstick et al.
In the study, the team quantifies the leading causes of death nationwide for individuals ages 1 to 19.
Based on their analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm-related deaths among children and adolescents increased by 29% from 2019 to 2020.
The team found more than 4,300 individuals ages 1-19 across the U.S. died as the result of firearms in 2020, which includes suicides, homicides and unintentional deaths.
Motor vehicles caused about 3,900 fatalities among children and adolescents in 2020, while drug poisoning deaths increased by more than 83%—to more than 1,700 total deaths—to become the third-leading cause of death in this group.
The team says 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.
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.
The team says 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 people truly want to break this alarming trend.
More than 45,000 people across the U.S. died as the result of firearms in 2020, regardless of age—a more than 13% increase when compared to 2019.
The national increase was driven largely by firearm homicide, which jumped more than 33% from 2019 to 2020. Firearm suicides increased by about 1%.
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