Guns Leading Cause of Death Among Youth

The firearm homicide rate in the United States reached its highest level, and guns became the leading cause of death among children and teens in 2020, killing more people ages 1 to 19 in the United States than vehicle crashes, drugs overdoses or cancer. Almost 60% of teen gun deaths are homicides.

Data published this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed some disturbing statistics:

  • The US firearm homicide rate in 2020 was the highest recorded since 1994.
  • Between 2019 and 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate increased 35%.
  • In 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, which is higher than during the preceding five years.
  • The largest increases in 2020 occurred among Black boys and men ages 10 to 44 and American Indian or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44.

With gun deaths spiking, it’s important that parents take steps to protect their teens. Here are some tips:

  • If there are guns in your home:
    • Store guns unloaded in locked cabinets. Store ammunition in a different location from the gun, also locked. Keep keys for both in another separate, safe location, and do not share that location with your teen or other children.
    • Make sure that every gun in your home has a high-quality trigger lock.
    • Take a course in the safe operation and storage of guns.
    • If your adolescent uses guns recreationally, make sure that he or she takes and passes a firearm safety course. In addition, establish these firm rules:
      • Only use the gun with a responsible adult.
      • Always assume a gun is loaded.
      • Never point a gun at someone, even if you think it’s unloaded or has the safety on.
  • Whether you own a gun or not:
    • Talk to your teen about the danger of guns, and establish these firm rules:
      • Don’t hang out with teens that carry guns.
      • Never touch or play with a gun.
      • Leave the area if you see a gun, even if it looks like a toy.
      • Tell an adult right away if you see or find a gun.
    • If someone tells your teen they have a gun or shows them a gun, advise your teen to:
      • Get away from the person quickly and quietly.
      • Tell a trusted adult immediately.
    • Check with neighbors, friends, relatives, and any place your teen visits to make sure safe gun storage techniques are followed.

Teaching teens what to do if they do come in contact with a gun is vitally important. Perhaps a friend’s parents don’t lock away their guns, or a peer brings a gun to a local hangout, or maybe this is the one instance an adult forgot to unload and lock up their gun; regardless of the situation, your teen needs to know to never touch a gun and to tell an adult right away. So many parents of childhood victims are shocked because they thought their child knew how dangerous guns were and would never touch one. Learn from their mistakes by making your expectations for your teen very clear.

Final Thoughts…

The best way to prevent gun injuries is to never keep guns at home and avoid homes that do keep guns. If you do keep a gun at home, keep the gun unloaded and locked up with the bullets locked up and stored separately.

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