It was less than an hour into 2022 when the first child was shot. The 14-year-old girl was standing outside watching fireworks in St. Louis when a bullet hit her in the arm.
In the year since, more than 6,000 children and teens were injured or killed in shootings, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. That’s the most in a single year since the database began tracking nine years ago.
As the epidemic of gun violence continues to wreak havoc on the nation, here’s how shootings affected America’s children in 2022.
What to know about child gun deaths, injuries in 2022
- More than 1,300 teens (ages 12-17) were killed and nearly 3,800 injured in 2022, according to the archive. More than 300 children (ages 11 and younger) were killed and nearly 700 injured. Those figures include homicides, accidental discharges and more but do not include suicides.
- Though the number of children injured and killed by gun violence has remained steady in recent years, the number of teens has been rising each year since at least 2019, according to the archive.
- A decade since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, took the lives of 20 first-graders and six staff members, dozens of kids were killed at school, and there was a record number of shootings on school grounds.
Number of kids killed or injured in 2022 is most on record
What’s contributing to the rise in gun violence?
The increase in firearm deaths and injuries among kids is being primarily driven by a large increase in homicides, said Mark Bryant, executive director of the Gun Violence Archive.
That’s partly the result of increasing access to firearms, said Dr. Lois Lee, an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. Firearm purchases increased over the last two years, and some states eased rules on purchasing and carrying firearms, Lee said. A Supreme Court decision in June also made it easier to carry firearms and inspired an avalanche of laws and lawsuits.
“As more and more households buy guns for whatever reason, more and more teens have ready access to improperly stowed weapons,” Bryant said. He noted firearm conflicts between teens often result in others caught in the crossfire.
Dr. Samaa Kemal, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, said contributing factors also include the worsening mental health crisis among kids and lingering harships of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as financial stresses, decreased community-based resources and increased social isolation.
What about school shootings?
Of all kids affected by gun violence last year, a small percentage were shot at school.
In 2022, there were 50 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths, according to Education Week. At least 31 children were killed in the shootings, including 19 murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The K-12 School Shooting Database, which uses a broader metric, said the U.S. saw more shootings on school grounds – with more victims wounded or killed – in 2022 than any other year since 1970.
Last year was also notable because there were three “worst-case-scenario planned attacks,” said David Riedman, lead database researcher:
“In each of these cases, the shooter knew the school’s plan for an active shooter and figured out how to defeat it,” Riedman said.