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Why Firearm Deaths Surpass Car Accident Deaths Among The Young

Since 2017, kids and young adults aged one to 24 have been more likely to die from guns than car accidents, the New England Journal of Medicine reports. Injuries, of which gun-related deaths and car accidents are both a part, have long been the leading cause of death among children and young adults. In recent years, injuries have caused more deaths in this age group than all other causes combined. In 2017, forces converged to make gun deaths more common than those seen in car accidents, which came after more than 60 years of car accidents being the leading cause of injury-based death. In that year, rising gun deaths surpassed car accident deaths, which have been falling as a result of greater vehicle safety. In the five years since, the country has yet to cross back over the line. Experts say this trend is a prime example of what happens to health crises when they receive robust attention and regulation or, conversely, are neglected. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of firearm-related deaths among people one to 24 increased from 6998 (7.30 per 100,000 persons) to 10,186 (10.28 per 100,000 persons), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, car deaths went down from 13,049 deaths among young people (13.62 per 100,000 persons) in 2000, to 8,234 motor vehicle traffic deaths (8.31 per 100,000 persons) in 2020.

Public health experts maintain that various injuries can be can be prevented through the principles of harm reduction, which include the development of safer products as well as policies that lessen the occurrence of hazardous situations. While motor vehicle companies have begun to take the initiative by competing on safety, guns have become more dangerous. Additionally, the gun manufacturing industry has not taken serious steps to innovate on the basis of safety. Some critics say they should have made "smart guns," which fire only when in the hand of their owner, more of a priority. Not only can these guns not be stolen to commit crimes, they help to reduce accidents in and suicides by other people in the same house as the gun's owner. For many years, efforts to create a database of gun deaths were thwarted at the same time that federal officials were successful in creating a public system to track all motor vehicle–related deaths occurring on public roads. The National Violent Death Reporting System now exists, but the political will to make other policy choices around guns is still insufficient to combat the rising tide of death. In addition to regulating guns via government action, some harm reduction experts believe that eliminating tort protections for gun manufacturers could encourage manufacturers to reduce harm and innovate on the basis of safety.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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