By a Biometrica staffer
Gun violence has steadily been claiming the lives of, or injuring, an increasing number of American children and teenagers over the years, the Associated Press reported, citing data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). Shootings involving the young appear to be following a similar trend this year too.
Experts say idleness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shares the blame with easy access to guns and disputes that too often end with gunfire, according to the Associated Press report.
So far in 2021, 1,181 children (defined as those aged 11 and below) and teenagers (those aged 12–17) have been killed because of gun violence, according to the GVA’s latest data, as of Oct. 12. In 2019, the total number of young people under 17 killed by firearms was 991. That number spiked to 1,375 in 2020, the Associated Press said.
In Missouri, for instance, four-year-old LeGend Taliferro was visiting his father and stepmother when someone shot through the window. The bullet hit the little boy, who was sleeping on the floor and later succumbed to the injury.
Operation LeGend, a federal partnership with local law enforcement addresses the increase in homicides and violent crime in Kansas City, Missouri. The operation was named in honor of the little boy, who became “one of the youngest fatalities during a record-breaking year of homicides and shootings,” as the Justice Department puts it.
This trend of spiking gun violence appears to be corroborated by data in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Unified Crime Report for 2020, which showed the number of homicides increased by 30% from the previous year. There were more than 21,500 homicides reported last year, a height last reached in the 1990s, per the FBI’s data.
According to the GVA statistics, 848 children have been injured or killed by gun violence in 2021. That’s not very far off from the total number of children in the same age-category who were either injured or killed by firearms last year. The total for 2020 (999) was the highest in at least seven years (since 2014), according to the GVA’s Seven Year Review.
When it comes to teenagers (i.e., 12–17 years old), in total 3,637 have been either killed or injured due to gun violence in 2021. That compares with 4,142 for all of 2020, which, once again, happened to be the highest total in at least seven years per the GVA. Barring dips in a couple of years, overall the number of children and teenagers either injured or killed by gun violence has been on the rise in the last seven years per the GVA’s Seven Year Review.
One expert, the Associated Press article says, suggested adopting a threefold strategy that addresses legislation via strengthening background checks and weapon storage safety; investing in after-school programs, mental health support for young people, and other social service programs; and creating more economic opportunities including summer jobs.
Studies have shown that victims of violence are at an elevated risk of becoming violent themselves. Thus, St. Louis Children’s Hospital developed its Victims of Violence program that seeks to reduce recidivism by pairing surviving shooting victims with mentors and offering counseling, mediation and a link to social service agencies, the Associated Press article added.