The Washington Post examines shootings of American children by telling the story of Carter Hill, a 4-year-old Cleveland boy who survived a serious gunshot to the head during a road-rage shooting in August. On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015–about one per hour. About 8,400 children were hit, and 1,458 died. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade. Many of the shootings never become public because they happen in small towns, the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy, or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.
Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 child victims will exceed $290 million. Denise Dowd, an emergency room doctor at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, has treated at least 500 pediatric gunshot victims in a four-decade medical career that began as a nurse in Detroit. She’s written extensively for the American Academy of Pediatrics and several national medical journals, both about how to prevent children from falling victim to gun violence and, when they do, how it affects them, emotionally and physically. Dowd can rattle off number after number to illustrate the country’s crisis, but few are more jarring than a study of 2010 World Health Organization data published in the American Journal of Medicine last year: Among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by gunfire lived in the United States.