U.S. gun deaths among children up 50% in recent years, study finds

Atlanta follows trend with 19 children and teen homicide victims in 2022
A funeral is held for 12-year-old Zyion Charles at First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta on Saturday, December 10, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A funeral is held for 12-year-old Zyion Charles at First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta on Saturday, December 10, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of children and teens killed by bullets increased 50% in the United States, according to a national research study.

The number and rate of children and teens killed by gunfire in 2021 were both higher than at any point since at least 1999, the earliest year for which information about those younger than 18 is available in the CDC’s mortality database, the Pew Research Center determined. The majority of gun deaths among children were homicides, the study found.

“The rise in gun deaths among children and teens is part of a broader recent increase in firearm deaths among Americans overall,” Pew researchers stated. “In 2021, there were 48,830 gun deaths among Americans of all ages – by far the highest yearly total on record and up 23% from the 39,707 recorded in 2019, before the pandemic.”

The findings aren’t entirely new: gun violence and homicides increased throughout the country during the height of the pandemic. Atlanta has seen the homicide county climb for the past three years. But that means many of those victims have been young, a troubling trend that has the city’s leaders and police department pleading for help from parents.

“There’s just too many guns in the hands of our youth,” Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said after a Midtown shooting right after Thanksgiving that killed a 12-year-old and 15-year-old.

Last year in Atlanta, 19 children and teens were homicide victims, according to data released by APD. Just weeks into the year, Grayson Matthew Fleming-Gray, who was 6 months old, was in his car seat when his mother’s car was struck in a drive-by shooting.

In 2021, 16 Atlanta homicide victims were children and teens in 2020, that number was 22.

According to the Pew findings, boys and older children and teens are most likely to be killed by gunfire — a trend also seen in Atlanta.

So far this year, homicide numbers are down in Atlanta, and that has city leaders optimistic. By April 1, police had investigated 22 homicides, down from 43 on April 1, 2022.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens called on community leaders to continue furthering the city’s legacy by supporting young people in his second State of the City address in late March.

“I was once like them: a child of Atlanta,” Dickens said. “The leaders who came before me left their mark on this city. I am living proof of their legacy. I’m standing here because of the city they built.”

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