Guns Are Now The Third Leading Cause Of Death For U.S. Children

by Maria Guido
Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Guns kill nearly 1300 children each year

Gun Control: The two words feared most by gun-loving Americans and the NRA. The problem is, most sensible gun owners and Americans are calling for gun safety, not control. Measures like strict background checks, mandatory waiting periods for purchases, and safe storage laws are things no American should be against.

Yet, they are. And why? Our kids are dying, and instead of taking a look at the real reasons why, we turn to failsafe arguments like “Bad guys will get guns anyway.” Gun related deaths are rising for our kids, and it’s not because of the convenient argument that more bad guys have guns.

A new study drawing on data from 2002 to 2014 reveals that an average of 5,790 children in the United States were taken to an emergency room each year for a gun-related injury. About 21% of those injuries were unintentional. In that same period, 1,297 children died annually from a gun-related injuries in the U.S. Gun related injuries are now the third leading cause of death for U.S. children, behind illness and unintentional deaths like drowning or car accidents.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics this week, paints a very disturbing picture. The objective of the study was to examine fatal and non-fatal injuries among children aged 0 to 17 in the United States, “including intent, demographic characteristics, trends, state-level patterns, and circumstances.” Fatal injuries were studied using data from the National Vital Statistics System and nonfatal injuries by using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

It’s been proven time and time again that the presence of a gun in a household makes everyone less safe — not the contrary. And it was proven again in this study. Although homicide rates are down, suicide rates are climbing. Between 2007 and 2014, suicides rose by 60 percent. “It’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s state of mind and if they’re depressed,”Dr. David Wesson, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital tells CNN. “Just having access to a gun in a situation where you’re upset with what’s going on at school or with your friends, or your own internal emotional state, it unfortunately can lead to suicide. It’s very important for parents to be aware of that, particularly if they have guns in the home.”

As far as homicides, “Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict,” the study states. “The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both younger and older children.”

A 2016 report showed toddlers had shot themselves or another person once every week for two years straight. That has everything to do with how those firearms were stored in the home. Fewer than 20 states have enacted laws to hold adults criminally liable if they fail to store guns safely and children access them and cause harm to themselves or others. Why? The simple answer could be that there just hasn’t been enough research for those advocating safe storage laws to prove their case.

For years there was a sort of self-imposed ban in place by the CDC, restricting the research of gun violence. You can thank the NRA (and a Congress that can be bought) for that. In 1996, the NRA accused the CDC of promoting gun control and Congress threatened to strip the agency’s funding. The Obama administration ordered the CDC to resume research after Newtown, but the effects of the ban remained. “Almost no one wanted to pay for gun violence studies,” reported the Washington Post. “Young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers.”

According to the data in this study, 19 children die from or are treated for gunshot wounds each day.

Dr. Ruth Abaya, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spoke to CBS News about the study. “The findings were staggering,” she said. “Unfortunately, not surprising. Their numbers verified a lot of observations we’ve seen in regards to gun violence, gun death and unintentional injury to children over the years. It was very telling.”