The number of young people killed by gunfire has risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers describe the increase as a consequence of rising nationwide homicide rates, untreated traumas of Covid-19 and a surge of gun-buying that is putting more children into close contact with guns — both as victims and those wielding guns, the New York Times reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the rate of gun deaths of children 14 and younger rose by 50 percent from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020. More than 1,500 children and teenagers under 18 were killed in homicides and accidental shootings last year, compared with about 1,380 in 2020, says the Gun Violence Archive. While children die of gunfire at far lower rates than adults, the rise in young lives cut short has raised alarms with police officials and families.
"We keep seeing the same thing over and over again,” said Keith Meadows, the police chief in South Fulton, Ga, where two young children recently died of accidental shootings. “When the pandemic hit, we just had this big influx of people getting gun permits. People are buying these weapons without getting the right type of education.” Larger cities like Philadelphia tormented by rising youth violence are putting millions of dollars into violence-intervention programs, youth leadership groups and community groups. For the most part, adult gun owners are not charged when their weapons are involved in shootings that kill children and teenagers. Some families said they were frustrated that the shootings — which disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic children and teenagers in poorer neighborhoods — did not seem to stir much wider concern. Researchers say public health agencies and schools strained by two years of the pandemic are now falling behind in addressing the surge in violence affecting children. “We hoped that as life resumed things would go back to the way they were,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group funded largely by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor. “It’s clearly not happening.”