At least 26,000 children and teenagers younger than 18 were killed by gunfire in the United States between 1999 and 2016, according to mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the world's wealthy nations, the United States accounts for 91 percent of all firearm deaths of children younger than 15, according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Medicine.
This weekend, survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — in which 14 students and three educators were killed by a former student armed with a military-style rifle — will lead marches nationwide to demand action to protect American children from gun violence.
“Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives,” the organizers of the March for Our Lives write in their mission statement. “The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”
Since hitting a low of 1,258 fatalities in 2013, the number of children killed by guns in the United States has increased by 30 percent, to 1,637 fatalities in 2016 — more than four deaths per day.
Teenagers bear the brunt of this gun violence: Teens 13 through 17 account for nearly 85 percent of child firearm fatalities, the CDC data show. “Firearm homicides among older children were more likely to be precipitated by another crime, to be gang-related, and to have drug involvement,” last year's Pediatrics study said.
Gun violence cuts short the lives of many younger children too. From 1999 to 2016, 184 infants under the age of 1 died from a gunshot wound, as did 223 1-year-olds and 294 2-year-olds. All told, 1,678 children age 5 and under died of gunshot wounds from 1999 to 2016, according to the CDC data.
Most (15,407, or 59 percent) of the 26,000 childhood gun fatalities since 1999 are homicides. There were 8,102 childhood gun suicides over this period, 1,899 unintentional shooting fatalities and 450 shooting deaths of undetermined intent. Since 1999, 142 children and teens have been killed by law enforcement officers in the course of legal interventions. All but five of those fatalities involved teens 13 or older, according to the CDC data.
The availability of firearms is closely related to childhood gun fatalities. At the state level, for instance, there's a clear correlation between rates of gun ownership, as tallied in a 2015 study in the journal Injury Prevention, and rates of childhood gun fatalities, as tallied by the CDC: more guns, more childhood gun deaths.
State laws play a role, too. States with stringent background check policies and mandates on safe storage tend to have lower rates of childhood gun death than states without those policies (as Axios has noted, a similar correlation exists between background check policies and gun deaths for residents of all ages).
A massive recent study by the Rand Corp. found that universal background checks and child access prevention laws were among the most effective policy interventions known to reduce the toll of gun violence in society.
This week, as the Parkland students prepared for their march, a disgruntled ex-boyfriend walked into a Maryland high school and shot 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey in the head. She was taken off life support and died Thursday evening.