A new KFF analysis of provisional 2022 data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the recent increases in firearm death rates among children and adolescents ages 17 and under were driven largely by gun assaults, which accounted for 66% of firearm deaths among young people in 2022, up from 54% in 2019.

Data also show that in 2022, seven children ages 17 and below per day died by firearm, similar to 2021. This caps a decade in which firearm death rates gradually rose until 2017, then slowed through 2019 before climbing sharply by 46% from 2019 to 2022. 

From 2012 to 2022, nearly 19,700 children ages 17 and younger died by firearm. The analysis shows that both the national rise in overall firearm-related deaths and those specifically involving gun assaults have disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic children and adolescents. In 2022, the rate of firearm deaths among Black youth was 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people – higher than any other racial and ethnic group and six times higher than White youth.

Additionally, since the onset of the pandemic, the gap in gun assault death rates between Black and White children and adolescents has significantly widened. As a result of worsening trends in firearm deaths, in 2022, Black youth accounted for 48% of all youth firearm deaths although they made up only 14% of the U.S. youth population. Exposure to gun violence disproportionately impacts Black youth and gun violence exposure is linked to poor mental health and substance use outcomes.

Overall, as in 2021, more children and adolescents in the U.S. now die by firearms than from any other single cause, including motor vehicle crashes. Compared to its peer countries, the U.S. has by far the highest rate of child and teen firearm mortality. 

Other key findings include:

  • Male children and adolescents are over four times more likely than their female peers to die by firearm. From 2018 to 2022, the rate of deaths due to firearms increased by 50% among male children and adolescents but remained lower and stable among females.
  • Among child and adolescent firearm deaths in 2022, 27% were due to suicides and 5% were accidental. Suicides by firearm have increased over the past decade among children and adolescents, peaking in 2021 with 827 deaths before declining to 686 deaths in 2022.
  • Firearm death rates among children and adolescents vary by state; however, almost all states have seen a growth in these death rates in pandemic years. Louisiana, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia were the states or areas with the highest firearm death rates among children and adolescents, while Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York were the states with the lowest. 
  • Exposure to gun violence is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, in addition to other mental health concerns among youth. Gun violence may also lead to challenges with school performance, including increased absenteeism and difficulty concentrating.

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