2021 was the peak year for gun-related deaths of U.S. children, with firearms killing 4,752 young people, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis found. More than 80% of the gun deaths were among males 19 and younger, NBC News reports. Black male children were more likely to die from homicide, while white males 19 and younger were more likely to kill themselves with guns. “This is undoubtedly one of our chief public health crises in this country,” said Dr. Chethan Sathya, the study's lead author. “The most likely reason that your child will die in this country is at the hands of a firearm. That’s not acceptable.”
It was the second consecutive year in which gun-related injuries have solidified their position as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, surpassing motor vehicles, drug overdoses and cancer. From 2018 to 2021, there was a nearly 42% increase in the rate of children killed by guns. Researchers had expected to see a decrease in gun-related deaths among children in 2021. Those projections were not realized. Out of the 2021 fatalities, 64.3% were homicides, 29.9% were suicides and 3.5% resulted from unintentional injury. The burden of gun homicides among children has disproportionately affected communities of color. Black children accounted for 67.3% of gun-related homicides. White children accounted for 78.4% of gun-related suicides. Overall, Black children represented half of all gun-related deaths. Southern states and Montana bore a greater burden of fatalities, although researchers are beginning to see increasing rates in the Midwest.