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As New Research Highlights Alarming Rates of Childhood Gun Deaths, Gun Ownership Continues to Rise

Gun Sales Reached the Highest Numbers in Two Decades During the Pandemic – And the Nation Saw a Record Number of Gun Deaths, Too 

CHICAGO — A new paper published this week in the journal Pediatrics revealed an alarming increase in gun deaths for Americans younger than 20. Guns overtook motor vehicles as the leading cause of death for children and teens in 2019, with a significant number of children dying in homicides as well as gun suicides. The new study is consistent with recently released CDC data, which stated that a record number of Americans died because of gun injuries in 2020. As gun deaths rise, gun sales have also increased. During the Covid-19 pandemic, gun sales reached record highs, putting millions more Americans at risk of experiencing gun violence.

Rising rates of gun deaths are closely linked to increases in gun ownership. The presence of a gun dramatically raises one’s risk of gun injury or death. Access to a gun triples the chances that someone will die by suicide – and that elevated risk applies to everyone in a household with a gun – not just the gun owner. The presence of a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will die in a domestic violence situation – even if it’s her gun. The risk of homicide is three times higher if a home has a gun in it, and the risk of unintentional shootings rises, too. Since the beginning of the pandemic, unintentional shooting deaths by children have increased by 31%, with millions of children living in homes with guns left accessible to them.

“When so many lives hang in the balance, Americans deserve to hear the truth: our homes and communities are safer without guns,” said Nina Vinik, founder and executive director of Project Unloaded. “We need to address rising gun sales and gun deaths head on by reaching out to young people, who are buying guns at elevated rates, and arming them with the facts they need to make an informed decision about gun ownership. Ending gun violence won’t happen overnight, but we can make future generations safer by urging young people to choose to live unloaded.”

Project Unloaded, which launched in early 2022, is working to change the cultural narrative about gun ownership and safety. The organization’s first campaign reaches young people, the majority of whom say they’re interested in gun ownership, on the social media platforms where they already are to educate them on the risks of using guns. By flipping the script on gun culture and pushing back directly on the idea that more guns make us safer, the organization believes it can save lives.

Other key findings from the Pediatrics report:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of gun-related death across all young people, but suicide also represents a large proportion of firearm deaths in people 10 to 19-years-old.

  • In 2019, Black youth were 14 times more likely to die as a result of gun homicide than their white peers. 

  • American children are uniquely impacted by gun violence. In 2015, more than 90% of all gun deaths among children ages 0 to 14 in high income countries occurred in the United States.


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