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Most Gun Violence Against Kids Occurs at Home, Not School

A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that more than two-thirds of parents worry their children could be shot at school, but that risk to them is far higher in their own homes, The Trace reports. In the five years ending in 2022, three times as many children were shot in domestic violence incidents as in school shootings and eight times as many died, according to an analysis of data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. Much of the violence was hidden, often playing out inside homes across America and receiving a fraction of the media coverage devoted to school shootings. The median age of the victims over the five-year period was 10; 167 of the victims were younger than 5. One was a newborn. Child domestic shootings jumped amid the pandemic, rising 61% from 2019 to 2020 with family tensions on the rise and children separated from school and other outside activities where problems at home can make their way to authorities.

Overall, two-thirds of shooting victims survive, but for child victims of domestic gun violence, those outcomes are flipped. Seventy-two percent of the children in The Trace dataset died of their wounds. Child domestic violence shootings are more lethal than other types of gun violence partly because the shooter has chosen the victims, not opened fire indiscriminately. “If someone intends to kill their family, they will make targeted shots and make sure they kill,” said April Zeoli, an associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. If a woman is being threatened, her children are probably in danger as well. “We know that domestic violence toward the mother is the No. 1 indicator of child abuse,” said Jordyn Lawson, senior director of residential services at Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas. “So anytime there is violence in the home, we know that the children are unsafe.” Another factor: the pandemic-related surge in gun sales, which brought millions more firearms into American homes – 19 million in 2020 alone. At the same time, families were stuck indoors together, and business closures generated financial stress, a potentially deadly mix in already abusive situations. The presence of guns in an abusive household raises the likelihood of homicide by 500%, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “If there's a domestic violence incident, and there's a gun right there – easily picked up, usually not stored safely – that increases the chances that what might have been a physically abusive incident becomes a homicide,” said Jacquelyn Campbell, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing who’s heading up a study on the role of guns in domestic violence.


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