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A young girl cries outside the Willie de Leon Civic Center, where grief counseling will be offered after 19 students and two teachers were slaughtered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022. (Photo: Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images)

26,000 Kids Could Be Alive Today If US Had Same Gun Mortality Rate as Canada

The United States is home to 97% of the gun-related child deaths that have occurred in one dozen of the world's wealthiest nations in recent years.

Kenny Stancil

The lives of roughly 26,000 children could have been saved since 2010 if gun deaths in the United States occurred at rates seen in Canada, according to a new analysis published Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While firearms recently became the leading cause of death among children in the U.S., KFF found that they rank no higher than fifth in 11 similarly large and wealthy nations—behind motor vehicles, cancer, congenital diseases, and other injuries, and often trailing other conditions such as heart disease.

Guns—including accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides—killed 4,357 kids between the ages of 1 and 19 in the U.S. in 2020, or 5.6 per 100,000 children.

Canada had the next highest child and teen firearm mortality rate among high-income countries, at 0.8 gun deaths per 100,000 kids—seven times lower than its heavily armed southern neighbor.

According to KFF:

Combining all child firearm deaths in the U.S. with those in other OECD countries with above median GDP and GDP per capita, the U.S. accounts for 97% of gun-related child deaths, despite representing 46% of the total population in these similarly large and wealthy countries. Combined, the 11 other peer countries account for only 153 of the total 4,510 firearm deaths for children ages 1-19 years in these nations in 2020, and the U.S. accounts for the remainder.

Firearms account for 20% of all child deaths in the U.S., compared to an average of less than 2% of child deaths in similarly large and wealthy nations.

The child and teen firearm mortality rate in the U.S. soared by 81% from 2013—when it reached a recent low of 3.1 gun deaths per 100,000 kids—to 2020, when it hit 5.6 per 100,000.

The U.S. is the only country among its peers that has seen child firearm deaths increase over the past two decades, climbing 42% since 2000.

Comparably large and wealthy countries' combined average child and teen firearm mortality rate declined by 56% between 2000 and 2019, from 0.5 to 0.3 gun deaths per 100,000 kids.

Since 2000, Child Firearm Deaths Have Increased in US, Decreased in Peer Nations

The 2020 surge in child gun deaths in the U.S. was "primarily driven" by an uptick in violent assaults, which are responsible for 65% of the nation's child and teen firearm mortality, KFF reported. "The child firearm assault mortality rate reached a high in 2020 with a rate of 3.6 per 100,000, a 39% increase from the year before."

There have been more than 3,500 mass shootings in the U.S. since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, including dozens since 19 students and two teachers were slaughtered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.

However, "not all firearm deaths are a result of violent attacks," KFF noted. "In the U.S., in 2020, 30% of child deaths by firearm were ruled suicides, and 5% were unintentional or undetermined accidents."

The child firearm suicide mortality rate is on the rise in the U.S., increasing by 13% from 2019 to 2020, 31% since 2000, and 89% since the recent low in 2010.

"Not only does the U.S. have by far the highest overall firearm death rate among children," KFF pointed out, but it "also has the highest rates of each type of child firearm deaths—suicides, assaults, and accident or undetermined intent—among similarly large and wealthy countries."

KFF added:

In the U.S., the overall child suicide rate is 3.6 per 100,000 children, and 1.7 per 100,000 children died by suicide from firearms. In comparable countries, on average, the overall child suicide rate is 2.8 per 100,000 children, and 0.2 per 100,000 children died by suicide from firearms. If the U.S. child firearm suicide rate was brought down to 0.2 per 100,000 children (the same as the average in peer countries), 1,100 fewer children would have died in 2020 alone.

Although President Joe Biden recently signed into law a watered-down gun safety bill, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation to meaningfully reform the nation's gun laws, thanks in large part to the opposition of Republican lawmakers bankrolled by the National Rifle Association.


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