Guns have become the leading cause of death among young Americans, surpassing traffic accidents, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This reflects a sharp rise in gunshot homicides in the United States, such as the Texas school shooting that killed 19 schoolchildren on Tuesday, May 24.

4,036 deaths have been attributed to traffic accidents among young Americans under the age of 19, by comparison, 332 more deaths have been caused by a firearm. Homicides account for almost two-thirds of these deaths.

The gap has gradually narrowed with the decline in traffic accidents due to road safety improvement measures over the years, while firearm deaths have increased. The two curves crossed in 2020, the latest statistics available, and the results were analyzed in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

Not all are equal when it comes to firearms

The CDC chart shows that nearly 30% of deaths were suicides, with just over 3% of deaths accidental, and causes undetermined for 2% of cases. A small number of these are referred to as “legal intervention”, i.e. deaths that occur during interactions with law enforcement.

Young African Americans are disproportionately victimized by firearms, with four times the risk of being shot dead, compared to young white people, for whom road accidents pose a greater threat. The second most affected group is the Native Americans.

Men are also six times more likely to die from a gun than women. Geographically, the rate of gun death is highest in the US capital Washington, followed by Louisiana and Alaska.

These figures underscore that while mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas cause public dread, they represent only a small fraction of youth gun deaths.