Over the past several years, the gun control debate in the United States has become more and more urgent. There are shootings in schools, malls, and movie theaters all too often. And according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun violence is now a leading cause of death for children in the United States.
CDC researchers compiled statistics from three different national databases over a period of 12 years to calculate the risk of gun violence to children ages 0 to 17. The results showed that gun violence is now the third leading cause of death for this age group — and that every day, 19 children in America are shot.
There's an important caveat hidden in the statistics, too. Infants in their first year of life are more susceptible to accidents and other causes of death such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, slightly skewing the data. But for ages 1-17, gun violence is actually the second leading cause of injury-related deaths — only car accidents kill children more frequently.
According to the study, nearly 1,300 children die from shootings per year, and almost 6,000 are medically treated for gun-related injuries. Of those deaths, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, 6 percent were accidental, and 3 percent were linked to law enforcement or were undetermined. For children who survived their injuries, about 71 percent of non-fatal shootings were assault, 21 percent were unintentional, 5 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined, and about 3 percent were from self-harm.
These risks aren't universal across race, gender, or age. The vast majority of these victims — 82 percent for gun deaths and 84 percent for non-fatal shootings — were boys. "The majority of these children are boys, 13 to 17 years old, and African-American in the case of firearm homicide, and non-Hispanic white and American Indian/Alaska Native in the case of firearm suicide," Katherine Fowler, the study's lead author, told CBS News.
According to Fowler's data, American Indian children commit suicide at a rate of more than 2 per 100,000, the highest among the ethnic groups identified in the study, while African-American children are more than four times more likely to be murdered with a gun than the next nearest ethnic group.
Many Americans can probably name a few of the victims who became statistics in the study — Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot by Cleveland Police while playing with a toy gun, Ana Marquez-Greene and the 19 other children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, or Jonathan Martinez, the 8-year-old with Williams Syndrome who was killed during a school shooting in San Bernardino earlier this year.
Their stories make the news for a few days or weeks, then fade and resurface when something relevant to their case happens. But with this study, so universal that it's specific, these young victims can't help but be brought to mind.