In the end, the duo identified a 30% rise in risk over the 2010 to 2019 study timeframe. During that period, suicides among young Americans rose by 63%. Among girls, gun-related deaths rose by 46%. Risk also rose by 45% among white youth and by 36% among Black youth.
But the increase in risk played out differently, depending on geography.
For one thing, 18 states had so few gun-related deaths among youth overall that no conclusions about risk trends could be drawn, the study authors noted.
At the same time, while young Americans across the South saw their risk of dying after an interaction with a gun rise by 52%, California and three northeastern states (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) experienced no risk increase at all, the findings showed.
A number-crunching analysis suggested one possible reason why: All four states had relative strong laws on the books dedicated to limiting a child’s access to guns.
Looked at in reverse, six out of the seven states with the highest jump in gun-related deaths among kids either had no child access gun laws of any kind or only very weak laws in place. Those states included South Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and Indiana.
Khubchandani said that trend suggests that “reforming regulations and looking at firearm access are a major part of the equation directly responsible for youth gun-related deaths.” At the same time, he acknowledged that poverty, crime, household gun ownership rates and difficulties accessing mental health care likely also play a role.
Absent a major shift in these factors, “we can probably see this trend of youth firearm deaths escalating further,” he warned.
The findings were published recently in the American Journal of Medicine Open.
Ari Davis is a policy analyst with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, based in Washington, D.C. Davis cautioned that the current analysis, on its own, doesn’t prove that tighter gun laws actually lower risk among young people.
“However, there is a body of research showing that strong gun laws are linked to reductions in gun deaths,” noted Davis. “Access prevention laws reduce youth suicides, homicides and unintentional injury.”