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CLM Releases Statement on National Gun Violence Awareness Month

June 29, 2023
June 28, 2023

As we reach the end of National Gun Violence Awareness Month, we ask our members and policymakers to not let the harm to children and youth caused by gun violence be something we attend to just once a year. Please see our statement below:


The Children’s League of Massachusetts, comprised of nearly 60 providers and advocates, promotes the welfare of children and their families in the Commonwealth by influencing public policy. 

But how can we ensure the health and safety of a child when, across the country, the reality remains that thousands of children lose their lives every day due to gun violence? In the United States, gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and youth under the age of 20 years old, accounting for nearly 19% of all childhood deaths in 2021.1 Every year, nearly 4,000 children and teens are shot and killed, and 15,000 are shot and wounded.2 These numbers are astounding, as the United States accounts for 97% of total gun-related childhood deaths when grouped with other similarly large and wealthy OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.3 We cannot risk standing idly by as this crisis continues to fester and claim more children’s lives. 

Gun violence is a public health crisis and on the rise. Gun deaths among children and teens rose 50% in just two years, from 1,732 in 2019 to 2,590 in 2021.4 Countless children lose their lives due to accidental shootings, domestic violence incidents, school shootings, or suicide. How do these numbers break down across populations of youth? 

  • 65% of gun-related deaths of children are homicides and 35% are suicides.5 Most homicides disproportionately involve Black children, a disparity that has sharply increased since 2013, while white children are more likely to kill themselves.6 Black children and teens in Massachusetts are seven times more likely to die by guns than their white peers.7 
  • Boys accounted for 83% of all gun deaths among children and teens in 2021, while girls accounted for 17%.
  • While data reporting for LGBTQ+ youth is inadequate, various studies indicate that LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to die by suicide compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, suggesting that firearm suicides disproportionately affect transgender and LGBTQ+ youth.

These tragic statistics illustrate that gun violence not only robs children of their right to a safe and healthy childhood, but also devastates families, schools, and entire communities. 

Children and youth exposed to gun violence experience lasting psychological trauma. It is estimated that three million children witness a shooting each year.10 Research shows that children exposed to gun violence are at a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression, dissociation, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological disorders. Moreover, the level of stress experienced can be so overwhelming for some young children that it impedes the proper development of the prefrontal cortex.11 Further, the constant fear and uncertainty resulting from living in communities plagued by gun violence can hinder their ability to focus, learn, and succeed in school. This impacts a child’s mental and physical health, affects educational trajectories, and further widens the opportunity gap for these children. 

As an advocacy organization that represents children, families, and providers in Massachusetts, we call on our state leaders, fellow states, and our federal government to fight for stricter gun control measures and regulations, improved background checks, and investments in community-based violence prevention initiatives. While Massachusetts has one of the lowest gun death rates in the United States due to housing some of the strictest gun control measures in the country (3.4 deaths per 100,000 people),12 gun violence still takes a devastating toll on Massachusetts residents and disproportionately impacts communities of color, as 49% of the state’s gun homicide victims are Black despite representing only 7% of the state’s population.13 

We must advocate on behalf of the children, youth, parents and communities who live in fear and are still at risk of gun violence every day when traveling, working, or going to school within and beyond our state’s borders, as well as on behalf of our fellow Americans living in locations where the statistics are much more grim. Our decision-makers and policymakers must be held accountable for their role in perpetuating gun violence and trauma towards children, who are among the most vulnerable members of society. 

For our legislators to hear our calls to action, we must collectively work together to mobilize our communities, policymakers, and stakeholders and demand for the adoption of policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of our children.

Protect children – our youth's future depends on it. 


Stay Informed and Get Involved!
Check out these organizations leading the conversation on gun violence prevention and reform
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence offers three simple action steps with automated emails to urge our legislators to pass the following critical gun safety and violence prevention measures: 
1. Expand background checks
2. Demand a ban on assault weapons
3. Promote safe gun storage

They offer additional ways to take action here. 
Everytown for Gun Safety shares a wealth of information, including: 
1. Action Steps
2. Evidence-based Solutions
3. Massachusetts Facts
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) provides Action Steps to “Protect Children Not Guns!” as follows: 

Raise Awareness: Set up a table in a central location with information about gun violence, sensible gun safety legislation and other opportunities to protect children, reduce violence, and care for their health and mental health. Compile and distribute CDF’s 2016 Child Gun Deaths Factsheet and Truth About Guns 2018 Factsheet along with contact information for your members of Congress and the White House. 
Demand Action: Contact policymakers persistently until they take real action to protect children, not guns. Also consider attending local public meetings—such as city council, school board, PTA or town hall meetings—to call attention to the issue of gun violence against children. Challenge leaders to hold a moment of silence to honor children in your community who have lost their lives to gun violence. 
Host an Educational Forum: Organize an educational program or forum to discuss gun safety, inviting a guest speaker or speakers from your community. Many organizations have already developed materials on the topic that can be downloaded and shared, and many resources are available on our website. 
Plan a Community Vigil: Partner with local organizations and congregations to hold a community vigil. Gather the names and numbers of children and teens lost to gun violence in your community. Remember each child lost to gun violence with poems, prayers and song. 
Serve: Volunteer at a local organization which seeks to reduce violence and promote conflict resolution and peacemaking. Options may include after-school programs, in-school programs, juvenile detention facilities, domestic violence prevention programs, crisis hotlines and family support programs. 

CDF also provides an overview of the problem and these priority gun safety and gun violence prevention measures

Implement Universal Background Checks: Current federal law does not require background checks for gun sales at gun shows, on the internet or between private individuals. Background checks do not prevent legal gun purchases but they could prevent child and teen gun deaths. We must extend background check requirements to cover all gun sales. 
Prohibit Firearm Access for High-Risk Groups: We must keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them to harm children, families and communities. People convicted of domestic abuse or other violent crimes should have restricted gun access. 
Enact Child Access Prevention Laws: Child and teen gun deaths are preventable and child access prevention laws can reduce accidental shootings of children by as much as 23 percent. We must require that guns be stored safely so children and teens cannot access them unsupervised. 
Require Child Safety Features for Every Gun: It is outrageous that the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate the sale and manufacture of teddy bears and toy guns but not real guns. We must subject all guns to safety regulations, including childproof safety and child lock requirements. 
Ban Assault Weapons: Military-style weapons have no place in our communities. We must ban assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other devices which allow shooters to increase the rate of fire in semi-automatic weapons. 
Fund Gun Violence Prevention Research: To tackle the gun violence epidemic in America, citizens need more information, not more guns. We must increase federal funding for research on gun violence and its causes.

Sources:

  1. Children and Teens Are More Likely to Die by Guns Than Anything Else, CNN. 
  2. The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Teens, Everytown.
  3. Child and Teen Firearm Mortality in the U.S. and Peer Countries, KFF. 
  4. Gun Deaths Among U.S. Children and Teens Rose 50% In Two Years, Pew Research Center. 
  5. Firearms Overtook Auto Accidents as the Leading Cause of Death in Children, npr. 
  6. Childhood’s Greatest Danger: The Data on Kids and Gun Violence, The New York Times. 
  7. Gun Violence in Massachusetts, Everytown. 
  8. Gun Deaths Among U.S. Children and Teens Rose 50% In Two Years, Pew Research Center. 
  9. Gun Violence Statistics, Brady United Against Violence. 
  10. The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Teens, Everytown. 
  11. Crime Guns in Impacted Communities, Brady United Against Gun Violence. 
  12. National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. 
  13. Massachusetts Gun Violence, Center for American Progress. 

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