In March, 10-year-old Justin Simms and six-year-old Jumyrin Smith were discovered dead alongside their mother Monique Smith in New Orleans after a quadruple shooting rocked their Gentilly neighborhood. A third child, 12-year-old daughter A’Miya, was left in critical condition.
In August 2016, five-year-old Melvin Brady was accidentally shot and killed in Marrero, marking the third time a child had died in metro New Orleans in such an incident that year, according to reports.
And in 2015, Lake Charles resident Casey Mercer made headlines when he was arrested after his three-year-old daughter Alexis found a loaded gun he had left on the couch. She died after she shot the firearm straight through her eyelid, reports said.
Unfortunately, such tragedies are hardly rare in Louisiana. A study published in June by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the Pelican State had the second-highest rate of child firearm mortality in the country.
During a five-year period from 2010 to 2014, there were an average of 4.2 children up to the age of 17 killed by gun deaths in the state for every 100,000 kids, the study found.
The study didn’t examine data specifically in the metro New Orleans area. But data collected by NOLA.com in a murder timeline for 2017 shows that so far this year, seven children up to the age of 17 had been killed in the city, out of a total of 92 murders so far.
That means about one in every five murdered this year has been a child, and that doesn’t even count other accidental shootings involving children.
Throughout the nation, an average of 1,297 children die annually from injuries caused by firearms, making guns the second-leading cause of death for children in America, the study found. They were the second leading cause of injury-related death for people under the age of 17, surpassed only by motor vehicle injury deaths.
Another 5,790 children on average seek emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year in the United States, the report found. About 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional.
The authors of the report urged better preventative measures through policy, local law enforcement and institutions such as schools.
“Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children,” the authors wrote. “Understanding their nature and impact is a first step toward prevention.”
Before the study came out, firearm-related deaths had already been determined to be the third-leading cause of death overall among American children aged one to 17 years and the second-leading cause of injury-related death.
The new comprehensive analysis of firearm-related deaths and injuries among American children delved further into that statistic, examining trends over time and state-level patterns.
The report also found trends regarding the ages of the victims.
Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in instances where there were multiple victims, the study found, and involved an intimate partner or family conflict, whereas older kids were found to be dying because of crime and violence.
Firearm suicides were often precipitated by situational and relationship problems, according to the research.
Unintentional shooting deaths usually happened because the child was playing with a gun, and that was true for older and younger children, the report found.
Boys accounted for a whopping 82 percent of all child firearm deaths, the report found. The annual rate of firearm death for boys from 2012 to 2014 was 4.5 times higher than the annual rate for girls.
African-American children were found to have the highest rates of firearm mortality overall, with more than four per 100,000 becoming a victim.
The disparity came from differences between racial and ethnic groups in firearm homicide, the report found. From 2012 to 2014, the annual firearm homicide rate for African-American children was nearly twice as high as the rate for American-Indian children, four times higher than the rate for Hispanic children and about 10 times higher than the rate for white children and Asian-American children.
Unintentional firearm deaths usually happened because children were playing with guns, the report found. That was the case with 60 percent of firearm-related deaths among younger children and 49 percent among older kids.
Older children more often died because they were showing a gun to others and/or mistakenly thought the gun was unloaded or the safety was engaged, the authors found.
A gun was mistaken for a toy in 16 percent of younger children’s deaths. The majority of both younger and older children were fatally injured in a home.
Authors said if there was a common takeaway from all these incidents it was this: violence, especially seen against and by children, is interconnected from incident to incident.
“Firearm violence does not stand in isolation when developing preventive interventions,” the authors wrote.
By Della Hasselle
Louisiana Weekly reporter
New America Media