Gun Violence: A Chronic Disease Affecting American Youth

Meghan Summer Perez Muir, MSN, RN, CNL


Pediatr Nurs. 2021;47(4):200-201. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


As the light at the end of the coronavirus pandemic tunnel draws nearer, a different chronic disease burdens our nation: gun violence. The year 2020 marked record increases in firearm-related deaths, with an estimated 20,000 Americans being killed and another 24,000 dying by suicide (Thebault & Rindler, 2021). These statistics reflect the dark upward trend of gun violence in recent years. Across major urban cities in 2020, homicide rates increased 42% during the summer and 34% in the fall compared to 2019 (Rosenfeld & Lopez, 2020). Gun assaults also increased by 11% in 2020 (from March through October) compared to the previous year (Rosenfeld & Lopez, 2020).

Alarmingly, the escalation in violence has not spared children. According to the Gun Violence Archive (2021), over 5,500 American children aged 0 to 17 years were killed or injured by guns in 2020. This equates to a 35% increase from 2019 in firearm-related deaths and injuries among children. Indeed, gun violence has become the leading cause of death among children and teens (Everytown Research & Policy, 2021). As with many health disparities, gun violence disproportionately affects children of color. In 2019, Black children and teens had the highest gun death rate compared to other children, followed by American Indian or Alaska Native children and teens (Children's Defense Fund, 2021). In fact, Black children and teens were 14 times more likely to die from firearm-related homicide compared to White youth (Everytown Research & Policy, 2021). Hispanic and Latino children and teens were three times more likely to die from gun violence than White youth (Everytown Research & Policy, 2021).