ANN ARBOR, MI – April 1, 2022 – Firearm homicide surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among children and teenagers in the United States in 2020, according to a study from the University of Michigan using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A record 45,222 Americans died from firearm-related injuries in 2020 of which over 10,000 (22.5%) were people ages 1 to 19, according to a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Since 1960, motor vehicle accidents had been the leading cause of death of young people. The number has decreased since 2001. Meanwhile, firearm-related deaths have risen since 2013; there was almost a 30%increase from 2019 to 2020.
The main cause of gun-related deaths was interpersonal violence. Jason Goldstick, research associate professor at the University of Michigan and co-author of the letter, told USA TODAY, “The risk of firearmviolence in other countries is not even in the same league as it is in the United States.”
Goldstick said several factors may have contributed to the dramatic increase in deaths among young people. A 2019 study found handgun injuries rise after spikes in handgun purchases. There was an increase in the purchase of firearms after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
Patrick Carter, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan and a study co-author, said one reason motor vehicle deaths have fallen is because of new safety interventions despite an increase of cars on the road. These include changing driver behavior, safer vehicles, road improvements and driver education.
Carter said. “What we have seen with firearms is that we haven’t been able to, until just recently, been able to apply that same type of evidence-based research to the problem of firearms.” He promotes the importance of studying gun-safety interventions, like gun training education and finding ways to keep guns away from kids and teenagers, in order to achieve less gun-related violence and fatalities.
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