Speed Reads

Body counts

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for U.S. children

For more than 60 years, the leading cause of death for Americans age 1 to 19 was car crashes. In 2020, firearms took the lead, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in late April, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Causes of death in kids 1 to 19

Fatalities, age 1-19

New England Journal of Medicine

The trend lines had been converging for a while, with automobile deaths dropping and firearm fatalities rising. But then from 2019 to 2020, "firearm-related deaths of all types (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) among children and adolescents [jumped] 29.5 percent — more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population," the researchers said. Most of those deaths were homicides.

Relatively few of the roughly 4,500 youth firearm deaths in 2020 were from school shootings. But with Tuesday's murder of at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, more kids have been shot dead at school this year than police officers have been killed by guns — 24 children versus 20 cops — as Brian Tyler Cohen notes.

"There have been dozens of shootings and other attacks in U.S. schools and colleges over the years, but until the massacre at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999, the number of dead tended to be in the single digits," The Associated Press reports. "Since then, the number of shootings that included schools and killed 10 or more people has mounted. The most recent two were both in Texas." 

Before the Uvalde shootings, a 17-year-old gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School outside Houston in May 2018, three months after a 20-year-old gunman murdered 14 students and three staff at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And there were more overall school shootings in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since the Columbine murders, The Washington Post reports. "So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day."

"Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized," the Post adds, and last month the number of kids who had experienced a school shooting since Columbine passed 300,000. "The count now stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools," the Post says. About 70 percent of the school shooters were under age 18.