The sisters in Ohio, both in elementary school, were shot by their father. The boy in Texas was shot at home by someone in a passing car. The ninth-grader in Arkansas was shot at school by a friend. The girl in Kansas was shot by a toddler, who didn’t mean to do it. The teenager in South Carolina shot himself, but he did mean to do it.
All of them were killed in an epidemic unique to the United States, where, on average, at least one child is shot every hour of every day. Many survive, but many others do not. In the nation’s capital, nine children were killed in gun homicides last year. In Los Angeles, 11 were fatally shot. In Philadelphia: 36. In Chicago: 59. Those figures don’t include the hundreds of other kids who died in accidental shootings and by suicide.
Just how many were taken by gun violence last year will remain unknown until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases its data months from now. But in 2020, the number exceeded 2,200 — by far the highest total in the past two decades — and 2021′s tally is expected to be worse.
The children featured below are broadly representative of those killed every year in America. Even babies are shot to death, but the vast majority of young victims are teenagers. Black kids are more than four times as likely to die in shootings as White ones, according to CDC data, though White kids are much more likely to use guns to take their own lives.
Often, children killed by bullets are memorialized only by brief news reports or anguished obituaries. But the way they lived matters as much as the way they died.
The 13 children profiled here were funny: the 6-year-old who wanted to be a doctor so she could give shots to all the doctors who had given her shots. They were generous: the 12-year-old who used his chore money to take his family out to McDonald’s. And they were ambitious: the 15-year-old who wanted to be a nuclear physicist.
These are their stories, one for each month of a violent year.
John Harden and Steven Rich contributed to this report.