Gun violence recently surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for American children. No group of kids has been spared, but some have fared far worse.
For much of the nation’s history, disease was the No. 1 killer of children. Then America became the land of the automobile, and by the 1960s, motor-vehicle crashes were the most common way for children to die. Twenty years ago, well after the advent of the seatbelt, an American child was still three times as likely to die in a car accident as to be killed by a firearm. We’re now living in the era of the gun.
Leading causes of death for children ages 1 through 18
The gun-death rate for children is nearly five in every 100,000. It was flat for more than a decade starting in 2000, and most years fewer than three in every 100,000 children were killed by guns. In 2014, the rate began to creep up, and by 2020 guns became the leading killer.
Last year was a particularly violent one: 3,597 children died by gunfire, according to provisional statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate from guns was the highest it has been in more than 20 years. While the statistics for this year are incomplete, it is clear that the carnage has not receded.
Annual gun deaths, ages 1 through 18
In May, the nation watched as horror unfolded in Uvalde, Texas. Yet another school ripped apart by bullets — yet another group of children to mourn. Yet another shooting in a long line of school shootings. And though the number of school shootings has recently risen to the highest level on record, the overall picture is so much worse; these shootings account for less than 1 percent of the total gun deaths suffered by American children.