Gun violence is set to overtake car accidents as the leading cause of death among young people in 2015 in the United States, according to a new study.
In 2010 6,201 Americans aged 15-24 were killed with a gun. Deaths involving car accidents and dangerous driving killed marginally more in this age group, 7,021. That figure has been steadily declining over the past ten years, while the number of young Americans killed with a gun in that time has remained stable. According to a major new study from the Center for American Progress, if current trends continue gun violence will overtake incidents involving cars as the leading cause of death for young Americans some time in 2015.
The website Think Progress pointed out that the spectacular decline in deaths involving cars, from a high of 12,000 in 1990 to today’s figure, was not an accident, but the result of a massive public campaign to improve road and car safety:
“[B]illions of dollars have been spent on public health and safety research to understand motor vehicle accidents and how to prevent them from becoming fatal. This research has resulted in design innovation, changes to cars and roadways, and new laws that have led to a significant and steady decline in such fatalities among all age groups, including young people. There was no silver bullet for reducing vehicular death: airbags, seatbelt laws, anti-lock brakes, better signage, and tough drunk driving laws all contributed to it.”
Conversely in that same period the number of deaths involving firearms has remained steady, even while violent crime as a whole has been significantly reduced over the past twenty years. Unfortunately, as ThinkProgress noted, scientific investigations into gun violence have been the subject of intense political resistance:
“Restrictions on such research imposed by Congress have had a substantial chilling effect, which has resulted in the almost total abandonment of this issue by our nation’s public health research institutions. Without this research, policymakers, legislators, community leaders, and parents are left without much direction regarding how to best protect children and teenagers from gun violence.”
In the past, public health issues have demanded the marshaling of America’s resources to combat them. The Clean Water Act, the National Institute of Health and laws governing road safety are examples of when lawmakers in the United States recognized the need to tackle an issue or a crisis in order to protect the public. Gun violence is no different to any of the above examples. Thousands of Americans are killed every year with a gun, and thousands more are injured, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Every single one of these deaths is preventable. No one needs to die because of guns in the 21st Century in the wealthiest and most advanced country on Earth. The American public need to insist and demand that their elected representatives take action to combat the disease that is gun violence. If nothing is done then America will pass a grim and disgraceful milestone in 2015, and will do so in the full knowledge that it could have been prevented and even reversed.