Whenever something moves up the list in “cause of death” studies, it’s generally due to a popularity issue. For example, drug overdoses in the 80’s were mostly cocaine, and now it’s heroin. Three-wheeled motorcycles saw a significant rise in fatalities in the 90’s. There are a hundred analogs to the concept, but the basic premise is that the more widely-used something dangerous is, the likelier it will produce an increase in deaths. There’s really only one product out there that’s been consistently near the top of these lists since its inception: Guns.
Recently, the medical journal Pediatrics released the latest study on gun fatalities among children in America. I’d like to say the results were startling, but unfortunately, they aren’t. One aspect was jarring, at least: According to the study, more than one in twenty-five children in the United States has witnessed a shooting. That means in your average kindergarten class, at least one kid has seen someone get shot.
Other results were predictable: Rates of gun homicides among children are higher in the American South. Young children died at the hands of a family member, while deaths among older children were more likely to be crime-related. These results can only make you shake your head as you read about more children dying just this month: A 6-year-old shot a 4-year-old in South Carolina, a dad in Indiana killed his 9-year-old daughter, and a boy in Mississippi, 8 years old, was shot in the chest.
There’s no simple answer on “what to do about guns.” Gun ownership is a federally-protected right, and no high court has stepped in with any permanence on what that means as far as what kind, how many, and at what age. There have been temporary bans on certain types of weapons, but nothing codified into American law like there is in so many other countries around the world.
Maybe the new data on children will change all of that, but I won’t hold my breath. Holding your breath until something’s done about an epidemic in America has to be at least in the top 25 causes of death. It seems, however, that enthusiasm for guns is waxing, not waning. The national dialogue about guns supports this. The NRA, once a club for gun safety and trained ownership, now primarily partners with gun manufacturers to sell more guns, no matter the outcome.
Our politicians aren’t helping. After the shooting at a congressional baseball practice last year, the Representative who was standing at home plate when gunfire erupted came out and praised guns as the solution to the tragedy:
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) June 14, 2017
Note that Bishop identified the shooter’s weapon as “clearly meant for the job of taking people out.” Maybe we could just do something about those guns to start with.
After the horrific shooting in Florida on Wednesday that killed 17 people, including children, maybe Washington will finally get their heads out of their collective asses.
But again… I won’t hold my breath.
Featured image via Chris Livingston/Getty Images