Gun violence has overtaken motor vehicle accidents as a leading killer of young people in the US—second only to drug overdoses, says the Center for American Progress.
Between January and April this year alone, 820 youths aged 12-17 were killed or injured with a gun, underlining the Center’s findings that young Americans are now especially at risk from firearms—whether as victims of homicides, police shooting, or suicides.
The figures were contained in a report entitled “America’s Youth Under Fire,” released jointly by the Center, a non-partisan Washington DC think tank, which advocates for a number of progressive-linked causes including gun safety, and Generation Progress, an advocacy group, as members of the National Rifle Association gathered last weekend for their annual convention in Dallas.
Using data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Crime Victimization Survey, researchers said nearly 12,000 deaths of individuals aged 15-29 were traced to gun use in 2016, and that close to 840,000 young people in that age group had been injured or killed as a result of firearms use between 2012-2016.
“When compared to other age groups, young people present the highest rate of victimization at a rate that is 69 percent higher than the national average,” the Center said.
The findings also showed disproportionately high rates of gun suicides among white and Native American youth, and of domestic-violence-related gun deaths among young women.
“Every day in America, 17 young people are murdered with a gun,” said Maggie Thompson, a co-author of the report and executive director of Generation Progress, in a release accompanying the report.
“Gun violence is shattering an entire generation, and policymakers must heed the young leaders risking their lives to make change.”
The report said the recent nationwide protests by young people sparked by the students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,Fl., scene of a Feb 14 shooting that left 17 dead, showed that youths “are not simply victims…(but) among the leading voices calling for change to the nation’s weak gun laws and deadly gun culture.”
The report also cited data collected by The Washington Post showing that 31 per cent of the 3,300 civilian victims of fatal shootings by police between January 2015 and April 2018 were between the ages of 18-29—and 34 percent of those were African-American.
Noting that while young people make up only a fraction of the total U.S. deaths every year—roughly 2.2 percent—researchers found they account for 50 per cent of gun-related homicides.
A breakdown of gun deaths of young people by states and by race shows wide variations in the toll.
“African Americans between the ages of 15 and 29 are 18 times more likely than their white peers to be the victims of a gun homicide,” the report said, adding that young Hispanics are gunfire victims at rates four times higher than their white peers.
Louisiana has the highest rate of gun homicides of youth in the nation, followed by Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama and Illinois, according to the report.
The report recommended six “policy options” to address gun violence affecting youth:
- Ban sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines;
- Remove restrictions on gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Require background checks for all gun sales;
- Support for local violence prevention and intervention programs;
- Ban on gun possession for all domestic abusers, even those subject to temporary restraining orders;
- Make “extreme risk” protection orders available in every state to allow the temporary removal of firearms from individuals who show signs of being at risk of harm to others or themselves.
“Comprehensive solutions must…work in tandem with efforts to reform the criminal justice system, improve police-community relations, and reinvest in affected communities,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president for Gun Violence Prevention at the Center, and a report co-author.
The full report can be downloaded here.