Children and Gun Violence



Note: This article was written and scheduled to publish before the horror of Uvalde. It needed to be updated to include the latest American tragedy.

2022 Guns are now the top cause of death in US children and teens

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, whose researchers analyzed current CDC data, there was a massive increase in gun deaths - 33% - in children and teens. Incredible and appalling...in the largest democratic nation on the planet...gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. Car accidents are the second cause of death, but death by motor vehicular accident is way down, driven by safety precautions built in to cars and laws governing car ownership and operation.


This appalling and tragic gun violence statistic is a massive increase from data published in a 2018 study in the New England Journal of Medicine which showed that gun violence is the second leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States (Cunnigham et al, 2018). In this thorough research, the researchers found that the rate of firearm deaths among children and adolescents is higher in the United States than in all other high-income and low-to-middle income countries on the entire planet. The rate is 36 times higher in the United States than in 12 high income countries combined. In 2022, of course it is now a higher rate than all developed countries.


In the United States, there are more than 280 million guns. One in three homes in the United States with children and adolescents in the household has a firearm.


A whopping 43% of these homeowners report they keep the firearm loaded and unlocked, which increases the likelihood of death.

The Washington Post reports the astounding statistic that EVERY DAY in the United States

41 children lose a parent to gun violence.


Because of the politicization of gun ownership in the United States, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the number gun deaths in America.


Read that again... American politicians take millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association and don't want to disturb their donors, so it is difficult to obtain accurate research statistics on gun deaths in the US.


According to the Brady Organization, the United States Senate has consistently declined to fund the Center for Disease Control in order to obtain accurate gun violence statistics. Note that data about motor vehicular death caused an increase in safety measures, which brought down the number of deaths dramatically. This same methodology could be applied to gun deaths, but researchers are hamstrung by Congress refusing to fund research about gun violence.


Brady recommends basing gun injury numbers on reliable data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). The HCUP uses data from more than 950 hospitals to create its own gun injury estimate, which contains much less uncertainty than the CDC’s. As such, HCUP data gives a much more accurate representation of gun violence in the United States.


According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 1,600 children and teens (ages 0 to 19) are shot and killed every year and there is a total of approximately 8,000 children and teens are shot and wounded, some survive, some do not.


That’s a staggering average of 22 American children and teens being killed or wounded every day by guns. But there is now an increase in 2022 and researchers have yet to put an exact number on daily guns deaths for children and teens in the United States. The total number of Americans per day dying by guns is now 100. Every day.


Gun violence and children in the US

Consider these alarming statistics:

  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, homicide and assault by firearm is one of the top ten leading causes of death and injury among children.

  • A 2015 nationwide study concluded that more than 8% of all children, ages 2-17, have experienced a shooting in their lifetime, by either directly witnessing it or by hearing gunshots nearby.

  • Another study discovered that 12.5 % of children had been directly victimized by someone with a weapon, with guns being the most common weapon.

  • According to a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America, over 25% of children have witnessed some form of violence in the past twelve months, either in their homes, their school or in their community.

  • According to the CDC, in 2016, 14,415 children, aged 0 to 19 years, died by gunshot.

  • In 2018, 88,702 children, aged 0 to 19 years, suffered a non-fatal gunshot injury.

  • According to the CDC, child deaths and injuries caused by firearms result in $4 billion annually in combined medical and workplace-related costs.


The impact of gun violence on US children

Research directed at evaluating the developmental impact on children from exposure to violence has been ongoing for many years. Teicher and his colleagues have discovered that trauma causes development delays in children, with actual brain changes and a "limbic irritability" recorded by the researchers. More recently, the consequences of exposure specifically to gun-related violence has been given increased attention.

Researchers have discovered that a child’s exposure to gun violence:

  • elevates a child’s risk of internalizing an array of short and long-term mental health- related disorders including anger, withdrawal, anxiety and depression

  • almost assures the onset of posttraumatic stress, which often develops into PTSD

  • contributes to diminished social competence

  • causes various school and learning-related problems

  • causes a generalized desensitization to all forms of violence

Research also shows that children who are exposed to other forms of violence, along with gun violence, are at a significantly higher risk of developing long-term psychological disorders.

Simply experiencing gunfire indirectly has enormous consequences. One research study collected data from a group of 630 children, from a combination of urban and rural environments. This group included children who had been indirectly exposed to gun violence, and another group that had not been exposed.

Among the group who had experienced gun violence, over half took some immediate protective action to avoid the danger, including hiding or running away from the threat.


Following the incident, over half the children showed fearful, avoidance, anger and anxiety symptoms that significantly interfered with their daily activities. The world no longer felt safe to these children. The children reported they limited the places they went alone. They took circuitous routes to get to school and other destinations. They began asking parents to move to a different location. The children stayed home from school. Some even asked to be able to carry a gun for protection.

The severity of the reactions were correlated with the age of the child. In addition, researchers found that children who came from distressed and dysfunctional family backgrounds experienced the highest levels of trauma and reactive sym

Mental health advocates believe that all of these children are in need of immediate clinical intervention; in particular trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness exercises. Younger children may be helped with role-play approaches, such as puppets, sand trays, or picture drawing.

Some communities have instituted special programs using street violence outreach workers and public education programs to teach concrete steps about what to do when someone encounters gunfire and ways to stay safe during and after an incident occurs. Many schools now offer safety and violence prevention programs.

The Columbine survivors are now in high school, still traumatized

Note: This article was written and scheduled to publish before the horror of Uvalde. It needed to be updated to include the latest American tragedyhorror.orror.rror.ror.or.r..ersary, the Sandy Hook elementary school was forced to evacuate. When Camille, a freshmen in high school, heard, she collapsed to the follow in her class, unable to move, hear or speak. Read more from John Woodrow Cox's excellent reporting in The Washington Post . t

Kathy Morelli, LPC, a therapist specializing in trauma, says


Symptoms of deep freeze, such as being unable to move or speak, are not uncommon in persons who have been severely traumatized. PTSD is biologically based and involves the nervous system, the mind and the emotions. The fight/flight/freeze/faint response is biologically based and emotionally hijacks the entire body. Camille has been through a severe trauma. And she is re-traumatized often as our society refuses to address gun violence but glorifies weapons instead of preserving life.

One example of a family shattered

John Woodrow Cox is a Washington Post journalist who has devoted the past five years documenting the stories of child gun violence survivors. His New York Times best- selling book, “Children Under Fire: An American Crisis”, earned him a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize.

One of his subjects was little 5-year-old My’onna Hinton who, in 2020, was shot in the neck by her 7-year-old cousin, Tee. My’onna’s mother had them with her while visiting at a friend’s apartment. Tee found the loaded, illegal gun in an unlocked drawer, and thinking it was a toy, pointed it at My’onna and pulled the trigger. My’onna is now permanently paralyzed from the waist down.


The relationship between these two cousin/friends is forever shattered. But how could a 7-year-old know that an innocently discovered gun was not a toy? Tee is in a perpetual state of shock. My’onna is too immature to grasp the concept of forgiveness. At home she asks her mom, “Why can’t I move”. Every day they dangle her from a harness like a marionette as she tries to exercise her legs on a treadmill.

Cox states that while the physical traumas and their aftermath are heart-breaking, the psychological after effects are often the worst aspect, and all-too-often overlooked.

The owner of the gun snatched it up soon after the incident, before police even arrived at the apartment, and disposed of it. The gun has never been recovered. He served a portion of an 18-month sentence. As a result of a new Maryland law, he will be eligible to have all charges relating to the incident expunged from his record before My’onna turns ten years of age.



Sources


Bates, J. (2022). Guns Became the Leading Cause of Death for American Children and Teens in 2020. Time Magazine. Retrieved May 7, 2022 from

https://time.com/6170864/cause-of-death-children-guns/


Brady United (2022). https://www.bradyunited.org/about


Cogan, M. (2022). The school shooting generation grows up. Vox. Retrieved April 17, 2022 from

https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22878920/school-shootings-survivors-columbine-mental-health


Cox, J.W. (2022). What school shootings do to the kids who survive them, from Sandy Hook to Uvalde. The Washington Post, Retrieved May 28, 20220 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/05/28/survivors-school-shootings-uvalde-sandy-hook/


Cox. J.W. (2022). Stories. Retrieved April 22, 2022 from http://www.johnwoodrowcox.com/stories


Cox, J.W. (2022). How many kids lose parents to gun violence in America? The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2022 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/interactive/2022/parents-killed-gun-violence-america/


Cunningham, R. M., Walton, M.A., Carter, P.M. (2018). Major causes of death in children and adolescents in the United States, The New England Journal of Medicine, 379:2468-2475

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsr1804754


Goldstick, J.E., Cunningham, R.M., & Carter, P. M. (2022). Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States, The New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved May 7, 2022 from

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2201761


McLaughlin, K., & Kar, J. A. (2019). Aftermath of the Parkland Shooting: A Case Report of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in an Adolescent Survivor. Cureus, 11(11), e6146. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.6146


Novotny, A. (2018). What Happens to the Survivors? APA Monitor.

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/09/survivors