Why we need to research the impact of gun violence on kids

Education
Health

Kindergarten students lie on the floor during a classroom lockdown drill February 18, 2003 in Oahu, Hawaii.Phil Mislinski / Getty Images

Time and again, society betters itself through research. Children’s car seats were once just burlap sacks that hung from the passenger seat’s headrest. Research gave us seatbelts and car seats. Doctors once featured prominently in cigarette ads. Thanks to research, we now know the dangers of smoking, saving countless lives every year.  

We are in urgent need of continued research on gun violence, which plagues our country every day. The United States has had more mass shootings than days in 2023. More children died from gun violence in 2020 and 2021 than from any other type of injury or illness and these rates include dramatic racial disparities. Similarly, more U.S. children die each year by gunfire than on-duty police officers or active-duty military. There were 46 school shootings in the U.S. in 2022, a record high. While the public largely has become numb to these statistics, it is vital to remember that this is not normal. The United States has by far the largest child firearm mortality rate among countries with similar sizes and wealth. Gun violence is not even among the top four causes of death for children in any other large, wealthy country. The United States is an extreme outlier.   

To decrease the alarming levels of gun violence, President Biden recently announced the creation of an office of gun violence prevention. We applaud this effort and urge the Administration to use this office to prioritize the impact of gun violence on children and to support research as a preventive measure.   

It is crucial that the U.S. funds gun violence research as part of the effort to stop these preventable deaths. While gun violence prevention remains a contentious political issue, research on gun violence prevention, including work to reduce suicide, funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, has had bipartisan support in recent years. This research funding has produced vital studies that aim to protect children, such as research on firearm safety and prevention during early childhood and preventing firearm-related violence and injuries among Black youth. The House of Representatives’ version of the Labor-HHS Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bill would eliminate this funding, signaling that decreasing the prevalence of gun deaths is not a priority for some leaders in Congress.  

Cutting this funding would halt necessary research and be a radical departure from the funding Congress has provided in recent years to help stop the gun violence epidemic. First Focus on Children joined more than 400 other groups in sending a letter to Congress supporting increased funding for gun violence prevention research to reduce firearm-related suicides, violent crimes, and accidental shootings. We again urgently call on Congress to continue funding this research and work to avoid the preventable gun deaths of children.