The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) has released a report finding that, after falling to a record low, the number of children killed by guns in Wisconsin has risen in recent years.
The rate of children killed by guns in Wisconsin rose 31 percent between 2008 and 2010 and 2012-14, while the national rate dropped seven percent over the same period. Firearms are now the third leading cause of injury death for Wisconsin children, and they have killed more children than drowning, fires and falls combined.
According to the report: "Every time a child in Wisconsin dies from injuries inflicted by a gun, the loss is felt on multiple levels. The family suffers the most obvious loss, as it grieves the demise of one of its youngest members. But the community also loses, as it must bear the burden of recognizing that children in the community may not be safe, with African American communities bearing an especially large burden from losing children to gun violence. The entire state loses as well when the potential of a child who will never reach adulthood is wasted."
The report also says that Wisconsin has made significant progress in keeping children safe from firearms, but still has a long way to go. Between 1999 and 2014, 408 children in Wisconsin were killed by guns, including 21 children in 2014. Put another way, a child has died from injuries inflicted by a firearm about once every two weeks in Wisconsin since 1999.
Children of all races are killed by guns in Wisconsin, but African-American children are much more likely to be killed by guns than other children. Black children are nearly five times as likely to be killed than their white-non-Hispanic peers and are 42 percent more likely to die from guns than black children in other states.
It’s unclear what is causing the increase in child gun deaths and why there are higher rates among black children, but what is clear is that action must be taken or there is the risk that the number of children killed by guns will grow.
"People in our state hold passionate and differing opinions about guns, but we can all agree that no child should be killed by a firearm. Let’s protect our children by working together to find common sense solutions that will prevent the death of Wisconsin’s youngest residents," said Ken Taylor, WCCF executive director.
There are a number of policies and practices that can be adopted to push the number of child deaths to a new low and ultimately reduce the number of child fatalities to zero, including:
- Directing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on the best ways to keep children and others safe from guns
- Designing guns in way that would make them more difficult to operate by children and other unauthorized users
- Improving storage techniques of guns in homes
- Encouraging families to talk to their doctor about gun safety and storage
- Broadening penalties for owners who are careless with their guns
"The somewhat cavalier approach that this state and our nation as a whole are taking in the light of the epidemic of gun related violence and death is appalling. We must redouble our effort to require licensing, competency, education and training of any and all purchases of firearms," said Reverend Willie Brisco, president of Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope.