FRIDAY, May 27, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Days after the second-deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history, experts note that guns are now the leading cause of death for American children.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed at the shooting massacre in Uvalde, Texas, spurring calls for urgent action to reduce such deaths.
"We must reverse this deeply troubling and unacceptable trend in youth firearm fatalities, especially among youth of color," said Dr. Karen Sheehan, co-author of a commentary published May 26 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
It pointed to an 83% increase in gun deaths among young people age 19 and younger over the past decade. Nearly two-thirds were homicides.
Between 2019 and 2020, there was an unprecedented 40% increase in gun deaths among Black youth, according to the commentary.
On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and opened fire in a classroom. News that he had legally bought two AR 15-style rifles and ammunition for his birthday stepped up calls for stricter gun laws.
Sheehan, medical director of the Institute for Healthy Communities at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, underscored the urgency in the new commentary.
"We need more funding allocated to research-based prevention efforts so that we can save young lives before it's too late," Sheehan said in a hospital news release.
The authors noted that rates of gun deaths started to rise in 2014, but the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic likely accelerated this trend by increasing stress and despair among youth.
They noted that funding into research on the threats posed by guns has been lacking.
Congress effectively halted federal funding of firearm research in 1996. In 2019, $25 million in funding for it was made available, but that's much less than amounts allocated for other health risks to children and teens, the commentary pointed out.
Congress provided the same funding for gun research for the last three years, but the commentary noted studies suggest that $600 million is needed for the fiscal years 2022-2026.
Dr. Samaa Kemal, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Lurie Children’s Hospital and co-author of the commentary, said the need is urgent.
"In addition to better understanding the risk and protective factors for firearm injuries and deaths, more funding is essential to develop, implement and evaluate firearm injury prevention interventions at the individual, hospital, community and policy levels," Kemal said in the release.
There's more on U.S. gun policy at the Pew Research Center.
SOURCE: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, news release, May 26, 2022
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