The Other Firearm Mortality Crisis

Earlier this month, Jeremiah Ellis was shot and killed while sitting on a blanket in his grandmother’s apartment in suburban Chicago, just two days after his 9th birthday. Cook County authorities say the boy was shot 11 times.

Police have arrested three individuals for what authorities believe was a targeted attack, intended for adults in the apartment. One of the suspects is 16 years old.

The story made news in Chicago, but barely warranted a mention elsewhere. Single shooting deaths do not carry the same shock and horror as mass murders like the one in Uvalde, Texas.

But they add up.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that “firearm injury” is now the leading cause of death for youth ages 1-to-19 in the United States, surpassing vehicle accidents. The mortality data include all deaths from firearms—homicide, suicide and accidental. However, three out of five deaths are murders (35 percent are suicides, four percent are unintentional).

Our country stands out because of this morbid statistic. The study says “youth in the United States have a higher risk of dying by firearms injury compared with their peers in other countries. In 2015, the United States accounted for 90 percent of all high-income country firearms deaths among 0- to 14-year-old children.”

The fact that young Jeremiah was Black is not surprising. The AAP study found Black youth are “14 times more likely to die from firearm injury compared with their white peers.” However, white youth are more likely than other groups to use a gun to commit suicide.

The mass murder of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary has again raised the cry to “do something.” A bi-partisan group of Senators is meeting to see if they can find common ground on any gun safety measures.

Maybe they can, but that has historically been difficult. Additionally, whatever modest gun control measures that can be achieved may not deter the next motivated killer.

Mass killings are a uniquely horrific form of violence. But there is another kind of gun violence in our country that is so common that it has produced a kind of cultural numbness to the cause and effect.

There will be no national outpouring of lamentations or cries to “do something” following the murder of Jeremiah Ellis, but he is just as dead as the children in Uvalde.





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