Children’s Lives in the Crosshairs: The Shocking Rise in US Gun Deaths

2021 will be remembered for many things, but one haunting reality will be hard to shake off: guns claimed the lives of more American children than ever before. While we were all grappling with the impacts of a global pandemic, another silent killer lurked in the shadows, racking up a devastating score.

A total of 4,752 kids tragically lost their lives to gun violence in that year. That’s an 8.8% surge from 2020, and a heart-wrenching 41.5% leap since 2018. Picture that – almost 42% in just three years. By 2020, firearms had even dethroned car crashes as the leading child killer in the US. Yes, you read that right: more children met their end due to bullets than car accidents or even the virus that disrupted our world.

Diving deeper, this isn’t just a random or dispersed crisis. Black children, despite making up less than 14% of the US population, constituted 50% of young gun victims in 2021. An astonishing 67.3% of the firearm homicides in this age bracket claimed Black lives. And it doesn’t stop there. The data paints a grim picture of children in high-poverty states being more likely to be ensnared in the clutches of this violent epidemic.

So, why is this happening?

Many of the states that top the charts in child gun deaths are also pretty lax with their gun legislation. The likes of Mississippi, Alabama, and Montana, for instance, seem to be a tad too generous in their firearms policies, as per Everytown for Gun Safety’s ratings.

“The most likely reason that your child will die in this country is at the hands of a firearm. That’s not acceptable,” voiced Chethan Sathya, a prominent pediatric trauma surgeon in New York and lead researcher of the study. He, like many of us, expected a downturn in gun fatalities as pandemic lockdowns eased and kids ventured outdoors more. Yet, the numbers swelled, indicating a harrowing new norm we can’t ignore.

With 46 school shootings recorded in 2022, next year’s data doesn’t promise any respite. Let’s not forget, 2021 also marked the highest gun-related deaths overall in the US, with 48,830 lives lost.

Yet, while we’re buried in these tragic statistics, what are our lawmakers doing? It appears conservative factions are hell-bent on further loosening gun regulations. Just after the heart-wrenching Uvalde elementary school shooting in Texas, 2022 saw legislators churn out 93 gun-linked bills. Over half aimed to broaden gun access or pad the gun industry.

It’s high time for a reckoning. As we arm ourselves with knowledge and demand change, let’s aim for a safer future for our kids, because every child deserves to grow up, not just the lucky ones.