Scientists from Northeastern University found gun-related deaths have overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of death of children in the United States
The research is published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Matthew Miller et al.
In the study, the team found the 45,222 firearm-related deaths in 2020 was a 13.5% increase from 2019, and is largely attributed to an increase in homicides rather than suicides.
Of the deaths, 10% were children ages 1 to 19, making 2020 the first year that firearms were more deadly for children than auto accidents.
In light of the recent string of mass shootings in the United States, including the horrifying murders of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in May, it may be tempting to attribute this development to mass shootings.
But researchers say that doing so is a misunderstanding of the real risks involved with gun violence in the United States.
There are many theories that could explain the increase in overall gun deaths, including shifts in policing after the George Floyd murder, or increased stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there is no definitive explanation for it, and strangely, crime didn’t rise.
Auto deaths, on the other hand, have been trending down since the mid-20th century, making the overlap with firearm deaths almost an inevitability.
The United States is comparable to those countries when it comes to crime, Miller says, and even when it comes to violence. The difference, though, is that the tools that are used in the United States are more deadly.
In addition, school shootings are far more common in the United States than other high-income countries.
But the team says the risk of school shootings in the United States is vastly overstated relative to other forms of gun violence.
The average number of children who are killed at school by guns in an average year is about seven.
Despite the truth about gun violence, though, there tends to be inflated coverage around school shootings, and this can influence how the public perceives risk,
This misunderstanding of gun risks means that measures that are taken or proposed after a well publicized school shooting may actually be counterproductive.
The team would like to see guns become much more difficult to acquire, by raising the age of purchasing, starting buyback programs, and banning assault weapons altogether.
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