Dr. Annie Andrews-led research team finds firearms now the leading cause of death in US youth
"People often ask me why gun violence prevention is such a big part of my campaign, the implication being that running on this issue in a purple district in a red state is not good politics. This is precisely the reason we have failed to pass meaningful gun safety legislation at the federal level. Too many politicians are afraid of the issue, even though the majority of Americans support common sense policies like expanded background checks. As a pediatrician and gun violence prevention researcher my focus on this issue isn’t politically motivated, it is informed by my experience caring for children who have been shot, and the data and science behind this public health crisis. When I started my career as a pediatrician, I never envisioned that I would be caring for so many children with bullet holes. As the urgency of the crisis of pediatric gun violence became increasingly apparent to me through my work in the hospital, I shifted the focus of my research to addressing this issue. I, together with a team of researchers at MUSC, decided to analyze the trends in gun violence deaths among youth, in the hopes of bringing more attention to the crisis we bear witness to in the hospital. In our new study, published in Pediatrics, we illustrate that in 2019, firearms became the leading cause of death for youth aged 0-19 in the US. For many decades, motor vehicle collisions have been the leading cause of death for kids in this country, but due to a comprehensive public health approach to this problem, the rate of kids dying in car crashes has declined precipitously. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a public health approach to gun violence, over this same time period, the rate of death from firearm injury continues to climb, driven primarily by an increase in suicide and homicide. Even more troubling, the rate of death from firearm injury is increasing faster for Black youth, who already share a disproportionate burden of these injuries, when compared to White youth. These findings are distressing, but not surprising. Our failure to act on this issue is costing children their lives, every single day in the US. These deaths are preventable, we just have to have the political will to act. When I am in Congress, I will approach problems like I do in the hospital, I will use data and facts and do what is right, politics be damned. I will fight for expanded background checks, a federal secure storage law, federal funding for hospital-based violence intervention programs, and an increase in federal funding for gun violence prevention research. The solutions to the gun violence crisis are right in front of us, the science is clear, all we need is leaders with the will to act."