Giffords Law Center Releases Report on Impact of Gun Violence Against Children and Solutions to Prevent the Next Parkland

March 7, 2018—In the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the issue of gun violence—and its impact on young people —has once again been thrust into the spotlight. However, according to a new report released by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, school shootings represent just a fraction of the gun violence experienced by

American youth. Beyond physical injuries, gun violence has life-altering implications for the children who witness or survive shootings, particularly with regard to their mental health. Yet, the substantial impact of gun violence can be mitigated with the adoption of gun safety laws that ensure firearms stay out of the hands of minors and those who may be a threat to themselves or others. This report coincides with today’s hearing by the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee that explores policies that can better protect children against gun violence.

“The dangerous impact of the gun violence epidemic in this country cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, school shootings represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the exposure our children have to gun violence,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Just because the country has moved on from a mass shooting does not mean that the thousands of kids affected by gun violence in our country have. As the brave students from Parkland pointed out, there are well-researched gun safety laws and intervention programs proven to reduce gun violence and save lives. Children should not have to experience this kind of trauma—regardless of the nature of the violence—and it’s clear our elected leaders need to do more to protect our kids from both mass shootings and the everyday gun violence pervasive in too many communities in our nation.”

As outlined in the report, Protecting the Parkland Generation: Strategies to Keep America’s Kids Safe From Gun Violence, the impact of gun violence on young people is staggering:

  • Since Columbine alone, more than 150,000 students in at least 170 elementary, middle, and high schools have experienced school shootings.

  • 91% of children in high-income countries who are killed with firearms live in the United States.

  • Guns are now the third-leading cause of death for all Americans under age 18.

  • For Americans ages 14–17, the rate of lifetime exposure to shootings (including hearing gunshots as well as seeing someone shot) is 17%.

  • In real economic terms, the annual cost of gun violence to children alone is at least $21 billion.

  • Nearly 60% of all high school students report fears of a shooting at their school or in their community.

  • Nearly 40% of children exposed to a shooting will develop PTSD.

  • 7th and 8th grade students who reported direct exposure to gun violence had a 36% increase in the number of recent aggressive episodes.

And there are concrete solutions to preventing gun violence, including:

  • Mandating Safe Storage of Firearms: With 1.7 million American minors living in homes where guns are kept loaded and unlocked, it is critical that firearms are safely stored.

  • Passing Child Access Prevention (CAP) Laws: Rather than explicitly requiring a gun to be locked when not in use, CAP laws impose criminal liability on adults who allow minors unsupervised access to firearms.

  • Incentivizing Gun Safety Technology: Gun safety technology could significantly reduce unintentional child shootings and youth suicides, as it would make it easy for owners to reliably secure their guns from children or by teens at risk for harming themselves.

  • Empowering Pediatricians to Discuss Gun Safety: Due to intimidation tactics by the NRA, many physicians do not talk about firearm storage or safety during visits even though they discuss other injury prevention practices such as helmet use, child passenger safety, or childproofing.

  • Enacting Risk-Based Gun Removal Laws: Several states have passed legislation that temporarily prohibit a dangerous person from purchasing or possessing firearms. This law allows family and household members to ask a court for an order disarming a person who is clearly at-risk for committing violence. Under the law, police officers can also petition a court for an order.

  • Closing Loopholes that Allow Domestic Abusers to Access Guns: With approximately 54% of mass shootings committed by domestic abusers, it is clear that preventing these individuals from accessing a gun is critical to mitigating gun violence.

  • Requiring Background Checks on All Gun Purchases: 97% of Americans want background checks to be required for all gun purchases, including purchases from private or unlicensed individuals. Yet federal law only requires licensed dealers to perform background checks, allowing guns to easily fall in the hands of dangerous individuals.

  • Investing in Community-Based Violence Intervention: In high-crime urban areas across the country, community-based intervention programs have substantially decreased rates of gun violence.

Read the full report: Protecting the Parkland Generation Strategies to Keep America’s Kids Safe From Gun Violence.

Experts Available for Comment