The Public Health Crisis We Aren't Talking About

The Editorial Board of the New York Times wrote a piece last week calling attention to a public health crisis that does not get enough attention: the lethal combination of gun violence and children. According to a report in Pediatrics, cited by the Board, about 7,100 children are killed or sent to the hospital each year with gun-related injuries. That translates to about 25 children who are killed by guns each week. This rate is far beyond that of any other wealthy nation in the world.


The disparities among the pediatric victims are, discouragingly, along geographic and class lines.  African American children are at far greater risk for gun-related injuries, as are boys and children living in the South. At the same time, however, deliberate gun deaths among children are distinctly related to white or American Indian children, according to the study.


Even the most cursory research indicates that this is an American crisis, and one that does not show any signs of improving soon. However, the most striking aspect of this crisis is the inability of federal agencies to conduct meaningful research on guns in the country. The passing of a congressional amendment several years ago “forbid[s] federal money to be used ‘to advocate or promote gun control.’” In other words, the government of the most firearm-dangerous country for children in the world prohibits itself from researching the effects of its laws and policies.


Gun violence is a distinctly American crisis that affects children from all races and socioeconomic classes. In that regard, gun violence is an unparalleled public health crisis - gun violence impacts all facets of American society, and especially its most vulnerable citizens.