The message from high school students following last week’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting is clear: We are suffering and dying because Congress has failed to enact stricter gun laws.
“I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war,” Samuel Zeif, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, at the White House this week. “Let’s never let this happen again, please, please.”
Zeif is among the thousands of student protestors who, through grief and fear, are mobilizing across the country in a renewed push to end America’s epidemic of gun violence.
They are right to demand action: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health database, when it comes to causes of deaths in US adolescents ages 15 to 19, firearms are an alarmingly common contributor.
Over at PWC, Alex Gaffney crunched the data to see exactly how many high schoolers are dying by guns. He found a staggering 2,300 deaths per year on average in the period 2010 to 2016:
If you think that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. To put the numbers into context, we took a look at the 15 leading causes of death in high schoolers for 2016. Injuries, suicide, and homicide were the top three causes of death, killing more than 8,000 teens in 2016. Gaffney’s data shows 2,665 of those were related to firearms in 2016. Meanwhile, the next 12 causes led to only 1,500 deaths combined. Among them:
- cancer killed 596 high schoolers in 2016;
- heart diseases killed 293;
- chronic lower respiratory diseases killed 80;
- influenza and pneumonia killed 54;
- diabetes killed 54.
So guns led to more deaths than the next 12 leading causes of teen deaths combined.
Arming teachers or bolstering mental health programs, as Trump has suggested, isn’t going to fix this problem. As Vox’s German Lopez has written, America has more gun deaths than any other country — and it also has more guns. The problem isn’t the mental health status of Americans. It’s that our gun control laws are too lax. And until that’s fixed, guns will remain a key contributor to the death of young people.
For more on America’s gun problem, read Vox’s explainer.
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