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This special collection brings together evidence and insights from nonprofits, foundations, and research organizations working to understand the full impact of firearm use and gun violence in the US. By providing us with analyses of current state and federal laws as well as valuable data on suicides, homicides, accidents, and mass shootings, these organizations seek to inform sound public policy and to curb this ongoing public health epidemic.

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"Gun Violence" by M+R Glasgow licensed under CC 2.0

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The Effects of Firearm Violence on Children: Implications for Its Prevention in Our Schools and Communities

August 31, 2022

Exposure to firearm violence persists as an urgent public health problem because of its prevalence and impact. In the United States, firearms are now the leading cause of death among all children, ages 1-19 years old, and nonfatal firearm assaults occur at more than twice the rate for youth compared to the general population. Furthermore, recent work has highlighted that 92 percent of all firearm-related deaths of 5- to 14-year-old children in high-income countries occur in the US. Firearm violence affects children not only through direct exposure, such as being threatened, injured, or killed by a firearm, but also through indirect exposure by hearing or witnessing incidents or by losing a peer or family member to this form of violence. Tragically, the burden of firearm violence falls disproportionally on children of color, particularly young Black men between the ages of 15 and 24 in urban settings. Research further illustrates that Black children between the ages of 5 and 17 years were exposed to violence in their neighborhoods 4.44 times more frequently than white children prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that these stark disparities have become even more pronounced since. An analysis of homicides in Washington, DC, in 2021 found that 89 percent of children of color (compared to 57 percent of white children) lived within a half mile of a homicide. In this brief, we describe the impact of exposure to violence on youth, review factors that are protective, highlight prevention and interventions for this urgent issue, and provide implications for policy.