Better World

This Is the First Step Toward Ending Childhood Firearm Deaths

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Firearm injuries are the second-leading cause of death for children in the United States, behind only car accidents. Gun-related injuries kill 2,500 children each year, and gun-related deaths have grown 44 percent since 2013 for kids and teens aged 19 and younger. However, the federal funding granted to conduct research into these common causes of death among young people is way out of proportion, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

Their analysis of research grants during the decade from 2008 to 2017 shows that an average of $88 million per year was granted toward research on children and motor vehicle crashes, and $335 million was granted toward research on pediatric cancer (the third-leading cause of death for children)—but only $12 million per year was granted to firearm injury research. 

Funding for firearm injury prevention among children and teens would need to increase thirtyfold to match up to the mortality burden.

Adequate funding would allow research into safety, prevention, and treatment.

Because there’s not enough funding, there aren’t enough studies tackling the issue of pediatric firearm deaths, including suicides, homicides, and accidents. The Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens (FACTS) consortium of researchers has been looking into what types of research are missing.

A team of more than two dozen experts from the FACTS consortium recently put together a list of the 26 most pressing questions that studies need to address. The questions include: 

  • How do children and teens gain access to firearms?
  • How are firearms stored in homes where children and teens live?
  • How effective are various programs for improving firearm handling, and reducing firearm violence and suicide?
  • What effect do existing public policies on firearms have on firearm injuries and deaths among children and teens?
  • How can we use data technology to provide near real-time information on firearm injuries and deaths among young people?

More high-quality, in-depth research answering these questions would set the stage for more evidence-based solutions—so that we can point to the facts instead of just relying on politics and emotional responses when it comes to gun-related issues in this country.

Luckily, experts in many different fields agree on the urgent need to become more informed: “There’s been a giant momentum shift in the number of researchers, policymakers and organizations interested in having this information, and the number of clinicians deciding that this is their ‘lane’ and seeking to use proven approaches in their practice with families,” says Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., one of the leaders of FACTS. “This is very much parallel to what happened in the late 1960s and 1970s with automotive safety research.” 

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.