Guns kill nearly 1300 children in the United States every year, making them the third-leading cause of death for those under 18 years of age, a new study has found.
The Centres of Disease Control and Prevention study published in the journal Pediatrics examined trends in national US Government data from 2002 to 2014 and found on average 5790 children were treated for gunshot wounds each year between 2012 and 2014.
Children from southern states and the Midwest faced higher rates of firearm homicide than other parts of the country.
Nationwide, data indicated that 4.2 per cent of children in the US had witnessed a shooting in the past year.
Boys accounted for 82 per cent of all child firearm deaths while African American children were some 10 times more like to die from gunshots than white and Asian American children.
Approximately 19 children per day were killed by or treated in an emergency department because of gunshot wounds.
After 20 children and six adults were shot and killed in a massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, then US president Barack Obama ramped up efforts to tighten gun control.
But his efforts to introduce measures such as universal background checks for gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons failed to pass the US congress under persistent pressure from the National Riffle Association.
Since then the gun massacres have continued, including the worst in US history in June 2016 at a nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead, and the more recent shooting of a special education teacher and her eight-year-old student in a classroom at an elementary school in California in April this year.
The US congress has met each new tragedy with a steadfast refusal to act on gun control while President Donald Trump has made it clear he firmly supports the NRA’s opposition to such measures.
In February the US Senate repealed Obama-era rules that required extended background checks for gun purchases by some social security recipients with severe mental disabilities.
US gun activists are also seeking to expand firearms rights to include carrying concealed firearms in public and the NRA opposes a blanket ban on gun purchases by people on the US no-fly list.
Many gun control advocates in the US have called for similar restrictions to those Australia imposed in 1996 following the Port Arthur massacre, banning military-style automatic and semi-automatic firearms while strongly limiting the availability of other types of rifles.
Philip Alpers, as associate professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, said the lack of action following so many massacres in the US made it clear the shocking figures in the CDC study would not have little impact on the gun control debate in the US.
“Its also very hard to see how a country can change when the country is simply saturated with firearms. There are probably more guns in the United States than people,” he said.
“I think it’s a sad fact that its going to have to get a lot worse in the United States before it gets better.”
A large proportion of child shootings in the US happened unintentionally when kids found guns in draws at home or were caught in disputes, Assoc Professor Alpers said.
The CDC study found younger child gun victims in the US were more likely to be caught in crossfire as opposed to older children, who were more often shot following another crime.
Findings drew on data from the US’s National Vital Statistics System and National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.