Gun-related deaths have overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of death of children in the United States, The New England Journal of Medicine reported in May.
The 45,222 firearm-related deaths in 2020—”a new peak,” according to NEJM—was a 13.5% increase from 2019, and is largely attributed to an increase in homicides rather than suicides. Of the deaths, 10% were children ages 1 to 19, making 2020 the first year that firearms were more deadly for children than auto accidents.
In light of the recent string of mass shootings in the United States, including the horrifying murders of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in May, it may be tempting to attribute this development to mass shootings. But Northeastern researchers say that doing so is a misunderstanding of the real risks involved with gun violence in the United States.
The general increase in gun deaths between 2019 and 2020 is somewhat of a mystery.
“In general, 2020 was sort of an unprecedented year for increases in homicides, particularly firearm homicides,” says Matthew Miller, professor at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences.
But, he says, “Nobody knows why.”