Children & Firearms: Definitions and Demographics Make All the Difference

We’ve all read the headlines, “Guns are the number one killer of kids in America.” Unfortunately, that headline is grossly misleading.

To better understand children and firearms, we must first understand the definitions of adolescents and exactly what gun violence is. Looking at data with clearly defined terminology is the first step to having an effective conversation on this topic — otherwise, we will never get to the root of the problem.

Our research focuses on children and adolescents <1-17 to paint a clearer picture of adolescents and guns in the U.S.

Report Highlights:

  • Children, as defined, are individuals at or below the age of 13, and, therefore, the top three causes of injury-related deaths in children are suffocation, motor vehicle accidents, and drowning.
  • Children have a 0.0009% chance of dying due to a firearm-related injury based on data from the CDC in 2022.
  • Teens ages 14 to 17 comprise 78% of all firearm-related deaths in the <1-17 age group.
  • 70% of all firearm-related deaths in the <1-17 age group occur in metropolitan and urban areas with more than 250,000 people.
  • Gang membership often begins at 14 years of age, and this is the age when firearm-related deaths become more prevalent.

It’s our goal to be as transparent as possible while conveying data related to this topic. The difference between a child and an adolescent is marked by puberty, environmental factors, and independence.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is marked by “rapid physical, cognitive, and psychosocial growth” according to the World Health Organization. This has significant impacts on their emotional state, how they make decisions and interact with their environment.

According to the CDC, puberty typically occurs between the ages of 12 - 14.

It should be emphasized that it is illegal for an individual <1-17 to possess a handgun in 49 states; however, 30 states allow minors to possess long guns for hunting and recreational activities with parental consent.

You can see a comprehensive list of our sources here.

Are firearms the leading cause of death for children?

No, firearms are not the leading cause of death for children. Rather, it is the leading cause of death for adolescents in urban centers with a high prevalence of gang membership.

Many studies on adolescents and gun violence include individuals who are between 18 and 19 years old. Others include individuals up to age 24. Unfortunately, this adds a layer of complexity to the topic of gun violence and children.

Nuanced terminology skews the data and distracts conversations away from root problems.

Children, Firearms, and Urbanization

Firearm deaths are not something that affects children nationwide. Rather, firearm-related deaths are concentrated in urban areas. 70% of all adolescent firearm deaths occur in areas with more than 250,000 people (including suburban areas with large populations).

Zooming in even further, urban areas are the most dangerous for adolescents aged <1-17. In fact, urban areas account for 40% of all adolescent firearm deaths.

The second most dangerous places for children and teens are medium populations or urban areas with between 250,000 and 999,999 people. Rural and suburban areas (including those with 1,000,000+ people) account for the least amount of firearm-related deaths in the <1-17 year age group.

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Great article!!! Thanks for sharing!