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Report ranks guns as main killer of U.S. children, teens; trend worsening due to mental health crisis

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Gun deaths among children nationwide have increased by 87% over the past decade, while injuries and deaths from car accidents have decreased by nearly half, according to a new study. The data show more than 2,500 kids and teenagers died of firearm injuries in 2021.

Dr. Annie Andrews, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital, said while many households own guns for recreation or protection against intruders, guns in the home have consistently been linked to increased risk for homicides and suicides.

Firearm fatalities have now surpassed car accidents as the number one killer of U.S. children, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. (NKyTribune file)

“Those of us who do this work, those of us who work in children’s hospitals are not at all surprised to see these numbers. And the most frustrating thing about this as a pediatrician is that these deaths and injuries are preventable,” Andrews explained.

In Kentucky, 91% of homicide deaths in 2020 occurred in children between ages 1 and 17, and around 66% of those cases involved firearms, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Andrews added gun violence is worsening in the midst of a mental health crisis, especially among youths, and noted impulsive behavior among teens combined with high rates of depression and anxiety and easy access to firearms have driven fatality rates for firearm suicide among young people up by 85%.

“If they have a passing impulse to harm themselves, and in that moment of the passing impulse, they also have access to an unsecured firearm, that impulse can turn lethal in a matter of seconds,” she continued.

Parents can find more information on how to prevent unintentional shootings through the
Be SMART For Kids secure storage campaign, which encourages families to normalize conversations about gun safety and take actions that can prevent gun injuries, deaths, and youth suicide.

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