Firearm-related deaths in school-age children have continued to increase at an alarming rate in the United States, a country that already holds the world's highest rate of gun-related child deaths. Now, a new study has found guns killed more children in 2017 than on-duty police and active-duty military personnel.
"It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms," the study's senior author Charles H. Hennekens said in a news release from Florida Atlantic University.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine examined data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics' (NCHS) Multiple Cause of Death Files and found that from 1999 to 2017 nearly 40,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18 were killed in firearm-related deaths. According to researchers, the majority of children reported to have been killed in firearm-related deaths fell among the older side of the spectrum.
Of the 38,942 firearm-related deaths reported to have occurred in the 18-year span in children age 5 to 18, 32,478 of the deaths occurred in kids reported to be 15 to 18 years old. The remaining 6,464 deaths occurred in children reported to be between the ages of 5 and 14. That means, an average of 2,050 kids age 15 to 18 died each year in firearm-related deaths compared to a yearly average of 340 for children 5 to 14 years old.
According to researchers, black children were found to have experienced a statistically significant increase in firearm-related deaths beginning in 2013. Overall, black children accounted for 41 percent of gun-related child deaths, according to Florida Atlantic University's news release. Male children were also found to be disproportionately affected, with 86 percent of the deaths involving boys.
Hennekens' research is the latest study to show that firearm-related deaths are on the rise. In December, The Hill reported that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database had revealed that gun deaths had hit a record 40-year high in 2017 with a recorded 39,773 firearm-related deaths. By comparison, firearm-related deaths totaled 28,874 in 1999.
What's more, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December found that guns were the second largest cause of death among young people in the United States after vehicular accidents. According to NPR, researchers behind that report said the United States trailed behind both rich and poor countries when it came to providing children with a safe environment.
In a statement to CNN, Hennekens argued that the research should result in public policy reform. "We need more analytic studies on this, but in the meanwhile, we believe that trying to combat the epidemic of homicide due to firearms without addressing firearms is like combating the epidemic of lung cancer due to cigarettes without combating cigarettes," the cable news outlet reported he said. "To me, it's tragic that this is going on."