On December 14, 2012, a mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, left 26 people dead. Twenty of them were children. The collective shock and outrage after such an unspeakable massacre was enormous, and the call for gun regulation grew stronger. It seemed the murder of 20 children would finally move the needle in favor of curtailing access to firearms in America.
Just over a decade later, on March 27, 2023, yet another elementary school shooting, this time in Nashville, Tennessee, left seven dead, including three children. It’s just one of more than 130 mass shootings to happen in the US so far this year, 13 of them in schools.
But to say that nothing has changed since Sandy Hook would be wishful thinking. Things have gotten much worse.
Nothing kills more US children than guns
In 2012, firearms injuries killed 2,694 children in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The annual number had climbed to 4,368 by 2020, an increase of 62%. In 2020 alone, such deaths amounted to nearly 260,000 years of potential life lost, if the children who were killed had lived until age 75.
Overall, in the eight years following Sandy Hook (official data on gun violence is only available through 2020), more than 25,000 children died from gun injuries. Most lost their lives to assault (64%), about a third to suicide (30%), and the rest to negligence, such as poorly stored guns in their homes.
Firearms kill so many American children that they are now the leading cause of mortality under age 19, ending the lives of 5.3 kids in every 100,000 and surpassing even motor vehicle deaths, which are 4.8 per 100,000.
Not only can no other peer nation claim guns as its top cause of child deaths, but firearms mortality rates for children are dramatically lower in other high-income countries, which all have much stricter gun control laws than the US. In Canada, which ranks second, the rate is 0.8 per 100,000; in France, it’s 0.5. On average, in comparable countries, it’s 0.3 per 100,000.