Listen to this article How The Pandemic Exacerbated Gun Violence As The Leading Cause Of Death Among US Children
Gun violence has long been a major problem in the United States, with a particularly devastating impact on children. In recent years, it has ranked among the leading causes of death for children in the country. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this problem even worse, pushing gun violence to the top of the list of causes of death for American kids. Gun violence during the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic, and Asian children, thus widening racial disparities.
Impact of the Pandemic on Gun Violence
A new study published in JAMA Network Open found that gun violence among children surged during the pandemic. Four major US cities saw Black children 27 times more likely to experience gun violence than white children before the pandemic. However, during the pandemic, this figure skyrocketed to 100 times more likely. The study also revealed that Hispanic and Asian children were more likely to be shot than white children during the pandemic.Overall, the pandemic was linked to a two-fold increase in firearm injuries among children. The study’s authors estimated that an extra 503.5 gunshot injuries occurred as a result of the pandemic.
Possible Explanations for the Increase in Gun Violence
The reasons for the increase in gun violence during the pandemic are not entirely clear, but the study’s authors hypothesize that community context plays a role. They suggest that the pandemic exacerbated inequities in access to health, employment, and educational resources. Research has also identified a correlation between pandemic-associated violence increases and neighborhoods with less racial and economic privilege.
Calls for Action to Address the Public Health Crisis
The increase in gun violence during the pandemic has prompted medical associations to renew their calls for action to address the public health crisis. In response to the tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, last year, several medical associations called for evidence-based strategies to reduce firearm injuries and deaths in children. These strategies include:
- Universal background checks
- Banning people convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun
- Licensing laws
- Restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public
- Gun safety education
- Restrictions on assault weapons
The American Medical Association declared gun violence a public health crisis in 2016, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has also called for increased funding for research into gun violence prevention and for common-sense laws that protect everyone in a community.
Addressing Structural Racism as a Fundamental Driver of the US Firearm Violence Epidemic
The authors of the new study also call for efforts to address structural racism as a fundamental driver of the US firearm violence epidemic. They note that Black children have been disproportionately affected by gun violence for many years, and that the pandemic has only made this problem worse. Addressing structural racism may involve implementing policies that promote equity in access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. It may also involve examining the root causes of gun violence and developing community-based solutions that address the underlying social determinants of health.