As the nation reels in the aftermath of recent horrific mass shootings, a New Mexico State University researcher has found that firearm deaths involving American youths have rapidly increased across most of the United States over the past decade.
The finding comes from an extensive analysis of federal firearm mortality data conducted by Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health sciences at NMSU, and James H. Price, professor emeritus of health education and public health at the University of Toledo.
Their research, published in the American Journal of Medicine Open, tracks changes in firearm mortality trends among individuals 19 years old and younger in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019.
Since most existing research on youth firearm mortality often focuses on a single year of data, Khubchandani said he and Price sought to examine overall mortality trends over time, by race and gender, and within individual states.
Their findings show that the nationwide firearm mortality rate per 100,000 youths grew by 30% between 2010 and 2019. Firearm deaths among white and Black youths had the highest increases, rising by 45% and 36%, respectively.
Twenty-six states saw significant increases in youth firearm deaths over the past decade, according to the study. In South Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and Indiana, youth firearm mortality rates skyrocketed by 70% percent or more, while rates declined in New York, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The rate in New Mexico jumped by 45%.
The findings also show that over the past decade, youth firearm deaths increased in the South by 52% and decreased in Northeast by 28%. Youth firearm suicides also spiked by 63% during the same period, and firearm deaths involving female youths grew by 46%.
“The data indicates a worsening epidemic of firearm mortality in youths and most states,” Khubchandani said. “Our findings are consistent with previous research on youth firearm-related hospital encounters and community-based studies from other data sources. Hospital data nationwide specifically indicate higher rates of firearm injuries in males, Black youths, older youths and those living in the South.”
In previous studies published throughout the pandemic, Khubchandani and his collaborators found that the rates of depression and anxiety among Americans have increased exponentially and that firearm sales in the U.S. reached an all-time high.
“It remains to be seen over time how these changes affect firearm-related mortality nationwide,” he said.
Khubchandani said the latest evidence on injury-related deaths indicates that firearms are now the leading cause of death in children.
“Our findings were a precursor to what is happening now,” he said.
In 2019, three of the top 10 leading causes of death for children 1 to 12 years old were unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides, according to research examined by Khubchandani. In each case, firearms were the leading method of death. In the same year, the three top leading causes of death for teens 13 to 19 years old were unintentional injuries, suicides and homicides, with a majority caused by firearms.
“Recent school shootings have been devastating for communities and families, but we must also consider firearm deaths in children and adults at a much broader level,” Khubchandani said. “The vast majority of youth firearm deaths occur away from schools, with nearly 10 children dying of firearms in communities every day. We must take a comprehensive approach with firearm mortality prevention practices and policies.”
To read the study, visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667036422000012.