The State of America's Children® 2020

Gun Violence

>>>The State of America’s Children 2020 – Gun Violence
The State of America’s Children 2020 – Gun Violence2021-05-03T21:16:05-05:00

U.S. Gun Violence Epidemic is Killing More Children, More Often



Eddie Hill IV was a bright student with a bright future. By the age of 10, he had already skipped a grade and earned a reputation for being “wise beyond his years.”1 He loved math and dreamed of becoming an engineer when he grew up—but he never had the chance. Just weeks before he was set to begin fifth grade, Eddie was struck and killed by a stray bullet while sitting outside on his front porch. He had been planning to run for class president in the fall.

Tragically, Eddie is just one of a growing number of children and teens robbed of their childhoods, lives and futures by gun violence. In 2017, 3,410 children and teens were killed with guns in America—the greatest number since 1998 (see Table 36).2 While mass shootings caught fleeting public and policymaker attention, routine gunfire killed more children and teens every week than the Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres combined. Children in America are under assault.

  • 2014 reversed a seven-year trend of declining child and teen gun deaths. 2015, 2016 and 2017 continued that disturbing upward trend.3
  • In 2017, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day in America—one every 2 hours and 34 minutes.4
  • Gun violence was the second leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19 and the leading cause for Black children and teens, claiming more child lives than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDS and opioids combined.5
  • Since 1963, 186,239 children and teens have been killed with guns on American soil—four times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.6

The relentless slaughter of children is a uniquely American phenomenon. Eddie was just one of 18 children killed with guns in his hometown of St. Louis last summer alone—more children than were killed in an entire year in 29 countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).7 Children and teens in the U.S. are 15 times more likely to die from gunfire than their peers in 31 other high-income countries combined.8

  • The child and teen gun death rate in the U.S. was more than 3 times higher than that in Turkey, the country with the next highest rate; 11 times higher than in Israel; 19 times higher than in Switzerland and 85 times higher than in the United Kingdom.
  • American children and teens accounted for a third (34 percent) of all children and teens in these countries but 88 percent of child and teen gun deaths.

Shamefully, gun deaths reflect only part of the devastating toll of America’s growing gun violence epidemic. Many more children and teens are injured than killed with guns each day in our nation.

  • For every child or teen fatally shot in 2017, another five suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds.9
  • An estimated 18,227 children and teens were injured with guns in 2017—a six percent increase from 2016.10

Children of color, boys and older teens are most likely to be killed or injured with guns. Black boys like Eddie are at greatest risk.11

  • Black children and teens had the highest gun death rate in 2017 (11.2 per 100,000) followed by American Indian/Alaska Native children and teens (5.6 per 100,000).
  • Black children and teens were four times more likely to be killed or injured with a gun than their white peers.
  • Although Black children and teens made up only 14 percent of all American children and teens, they accounted for 41 percent of child and teen gun deaths.
  • Eighty-six percent of children and teens who died from gunfire in 2017 were boys. Boys were six times more likely than girls to die in gun homicides. Black boys were 17 times more likely to be killed in gun homicides than white boys.
  • 84 percent of gun deaths and 91 percent of gun injuries among children and teens occurred among 15- to 19-year-olds. Infants and toddlers were not immune, however. Guns killed twice as many children under 5 as law enforcement officers in the line of duty.12

No child is safe in a nation with easy access to deadly weapons. Guns lethalize hate, anger and despair—increasing the odds a senseless act of violence turns into an irreversible tragedy.

  • American civilians own 393 million firearms—more than one gun per person. In contrast, U.S. military and law enforcement agencies have 5.5 million.13
  • Americans account for less than 5 percent of the global population, but own nearly half (46 percent) of all civilian guns in the world.14
  • Guns make violence more deadly. The use of a gun in family or intimate assaults increased the risk of death 12 times.15 An estimated 41 percent of gun-related homicides and 94 percent of gun-related suicides would not occur if no guns were present.16

Until we as a nation decide we value children’s lives more than guns, we will continue to bury too many of our loved ones before their time. We must urgently pass new common sense gun violence prevention measures and strengthen existing ones to ensure all children the chance to live, learn and play free from violence and fear. With a child or teen killed or injured every 24 minutes, we don’t have another moment or life to waste.

Immigrant Children are America’s Children: Gun Violence

Ten-year-old Madison was at the El Paso Walmart to sell fresh-squeezed juice and chicharrones and fundraise for her soccer team. It was Saturday, it was early and it was hot. Summer break was winding down and the store was busy with back-to-school shoppers. Then, a man fired a gun. Madison heard her dad yell, “Run!” so she ran, ran, ran—through the store, out a back door, past a street, up a hill and over a barrier to safety.17

The shooter Madison fled killed 22 people and injured another 25, including parent volunteers and coaches from her team. Their recovery continues, days, weeks and months beyond the day of the shooting. All 10 players from her team escaped the gunfire, and their recovery continues, too. When teammate Emylee heard a door slam at school the other day, she started running.18

Minutes before the shooting, the shooter posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online spewing poisonous rhetoric about a “Hispanic invasion.” Authorities say he drove more than 10 hours from Allen to El Paso, Texas, a border city and two-country community. This was a tragedy about gun violence and hate; words and action. “The hatred that motivated the shooter did not start that day,” testified El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal at a Congressional field hearing, noting the similarity between the language used by the shooter and inflammatory language used by President Trump.

“Bigotry and hate—in the form of speech and government conduct—have fueled the flames of violence and we are the target. This simply should not be the role of government or its leaders,” she said.19