In the wake of the Newtown massacre, President Obama told America that it had been through such tragedies too many times. Even by the standards of gun violence, Newtown was unusually arresting. The president himself was seemingly moved to weep for the victims, in particular the 20 small children whose lives had been so cruelly snatched from them by a deranged, pathetic individual.
Now Mother Jones magazine has revealed that despite the president’s appeal, a staggering 194 children under the age of 12 have been shot to death since the Newtown massacre in December last year, 72 of them being killed by another child. The average victim was just six years-old.
Mother Jones has analyzed various records and studies, and has demonstrated that one of the most important factors in child-on-child gun deaths in America is the lack of secure storage. Of the 194 deaths recorded, 52 of them the result of a child using an unsecured firearm.
Sixty children were killed by their own parents: 90% of these were homicides.
The deaths are spread across 43 different states, but the majority of them took place in the Southern U.S., where 92 deaths occurred. Although it is too early to link the two directly, it is worth noting that the NRA and their political allies are more active and powerful in this area than any other part of the country. Forty-four deaths took place in the Midwest, 38 in the West, and 20 in the Eastern states.
These figures are shocking, but are consistent with other studies. The Center for Disease Control estimates that over the past decade an average of 200 under-12 year-olds have died from gun violence. Attempts to find the true figure have been hampered since the gun lobby successfully tried to end federal funding for gun violence research. Perhaps more disturbing are the results of a study by two surgeons in Boston. They analyzed pediatric records from hospitals and they put the true figure at 500 under-12s dead per year, with a further 7,500 hospitalized.
America is use to being top of some rather unpleasant international league tables, but few are as shaming as its child-gun death rate. The death rate for children and teenagers from gun violence is four-times higher than Canada, and 65-times higher than Britain and Germany.
So many of these deaths are preventible. It is estimated that 43% of gun-owning homes in America have at least one unsecured firearm. One-third of 8-12 year-olds admit to having pulled the trigger of a firearm they found. Both the American Association of Pediatrics and the New England Journal of Medicine have advocated tight home controls on guns, and advised that doctors consult their patients on how best to prevent accidents. This did not stop the NRA in Florida making it illegal for doctors to speak to their patients on issues involving gun safety.
After Newtown, President Obama asked Americans to do more to take the fight to the gun lobby and protect its children. For those who support tight controls on firearms, the question is: how much of this are you willing to take?
For those who oppose such measures, a much more sobering point must be put to them: are the deaths of these children worth it so you can feel like your right to own a gun has been protected?