The Impact of Gun Violence on American Children and Teenagers

August 15, 2018

Gun violence has a devastating impact on American children and teenagers. Over 2,700 children and teens (ages 0-19) are shot and killed and nearly 14,500 are shot and injured every year – that’s an average of 47 American children and teens shot every day.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data reflects a 5 year average, 2012-2016. Available at: http://bit.ly/2XlMGxh. And the effects of gun violence extend far beyond those struck by a bullet: gun violence shapes the lives of the millions of children who witness it, know someone who was shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.


CHILD AND TEEN GUN DEATHS PER YEAR, BY INTENT:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data reflects a 5 year average (2012-2016) of gun deaths by intent. Homicide intent includes gun deaths by homicide and legal intervention.
Teen Children Graph


Gun violence is now the second leading cause of death for American children.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, Leading Causes of Death, United States. Data from 2016. See also: Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017; 66(5).
This is a uniquely American problem. Compared to other high-income countries, American children aged 5-14 are 14 times more likely to be killed with guns; and American adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns.Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries, 2010. American Journal of Medicine. 2016; 129(3), 266-273.

When American children and teens are killed with guns, 60 percent are homicides—about 1,600 per year.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data reflects a 5 year average (2012-2016) of gun deaths by homicide and legal intervention. Available at: http://bit.ly/2ClMGxh. For children under the age of 13, these gun homicides of children most frequently occur in the home and are often connected to domestic or family violence.Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Gutierrez C, Bacon S. Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017; 140(1).

Another 35 percent of child and teen gun deaths are suicides—over 900 per year.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data reflects a 5 year average: 2012-2016. Available at: http://bit.ly/2ClMGxh. When children under the age of 18 die by gun suicide, they are likely to have used a gun they found at home: over 80% of child gun suicides used a gun belonging to a parent or relative.Johnson RM, Barber C, Azrael D, Clark DE, Hemenway D. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 2010; 40(6): 609-611. For people of all ages, having access to a gun significantly increases the risk of death by suicide and homicide.Anglemyer A, Horvath T, Rutherford G. The Acessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann. Internal Med. 2014; 160(2), 101:110.



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This is a uniquely American problem compared to other high-income countries, American children aged 5-14 are 14 times more likely to be killed with guns. American adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns.


Gun violence disproportionately impacts black children and teens, who are 4 times more likely than white children and teens to be killed with guns.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data reflects a 5 year average: 2012-2016 for fatalities, and 2011-2015 for injuries. Available at: http://bit.ly/2ClMGxh. This is driven by a substantial disparity in gun homicide rates: Black children and teens are 15 times more likely than white children and teens of the same age to die by gun homicide.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports. Data reflect a 5 year average (2012-2016) of gun deaths by race. Analysis includes: ages 0-19, and non-Hispanic only and homicide including legal intervention. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for Black children and teens.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, Leading Causes of Death, United States. Data from 2016. Children and teenagers aged 1-19, Black defined as non-Hispanic, number of deaths by known intent (homicide, suicide, unintentional deaths). Age 0-1 calculated separately by the CDC because leading causes of death for new borns and infants are specific to the age group. See also: Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017; 66(5).

An estimated 3 million American children witness gun violence every year.Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Gutierrez C, Bacon S. Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017; 140(1). Everytown analysis derives the 3 million number by multiplying the share of children (ages 0-17) who are exposed to shootings per year (4.2%) by the total child population of the US in 2016 (~73.5M). Witnessing shootings can have a devastating impact. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.Finkelhor D, Turner HA, Ormrod R, Hamby S, Kracke K. Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; 2009. Morris E. Youth Violence: Implications for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Urban Youth. National Urban League. Published March 2009. Accessed May 18, 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2KBpOyg.

In America, children and teens are victimized by gun violence every single day. No child should experience this—not in their schools, not in their homes, and not in their communities.