In US states, where the laws governing the sale, purchase and use of weapons are stricter, half the number of children are killed by weapons, a new study shows.
Over the past two decades, more than 26,000 children and adolescents have been killed by rifles, responsible for more pediatric deaths than heart disease and cancer.
Weapons are the second most common cause of death among children in the US. The figure is worrying, but has done little to drive far-reaching arms reform.
But like so many other issues in the US, Americans disagree over how rigorously firearms should be restricted – and children's safety is also dividing in that direction, according to Stanford University's new study.
In the Midwest and South, where the gun laws are lax (dark red), far more children are injured or killed than in the western and northeastern states (bright red, where the gun laws are stricter).
After Nikolas Cruz shot down his classmates in February 17, Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida, became one of the rousing, young faces of armed force in the US – and tireless advocates of better gun regulation.
Three months later, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis killed 10 of his classmates at the Santa Fe High School in Dallas, Texas.
These are just two of 37 school shoots that have taken place in the US so far this year.
Although these intentional acts of violence are frightening, the 27 children killed in these incidents are only a fraction of the 560 children who were killed or injured in 2018 by Gun Violence Archive alone.
School shootings arouse tremendous (and guaranteed) media attention, but this coverage is far from the full story of guns and children in the US.
Undoubtedly, Americans as a whole want to stop violence against children, but opinions on how to do this vary, as do our laws.
The possession of firearms in the US is largely protected by the second amendment and about a dozen federal laws.
But each state has its own laws and regulations regarding firearms ownership, registration and use. From coast to coast, the weapons laws differ in number and severity.
California has 107 laws regarding weapons and Massachusetts has 101.
At the other end of the spectrum, Missouri, Idaho, and Mississippi each have only two laws related to weapons.
Researchers and pediatricians at Columbia University wanted to investigate the relationship between this legislation and the number of children who were shot or killed in every state.
Although the study is ongoing, the results presented in a paper abstract from the American Academy of Pediatrics paint a clear picture of the relationship.
In regions of the US where the gun laws are stricter – to the west and northeast – 7.54 out of 100,000 injuries to children are caused by weapons.
But 8.3 out of 100,000 injured children in states with loose weapon restrictions – in the South and the Midwest – are injured by firearms.
It is perhaps even more significant that in the more severe regions, half as many children are killed by weapons as in those where the weapons laws are lax.
"We have found a clear discrepancy in deaths that is consistent with the strength of federal state weapons legislation," said lead author of the study. Stephanie Chao, a Stanford pediatrician.
"In states with lenient laws, children die at alarmingly higher rates."
Dr. Chao pointed out that the finding of the study's discrepancy might suggest that policymakers have the most productive routes to firearms reform.
"While the Federal Firearms Act remains controversial and obstructive, we have found that federal state law is one way to prevent pediatric firearms deaths," she said.
In 2012, former President Barack Obama urged that the Senate pass a series of federal reforms following the shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed 20 young children.
None of the bills has come far. By 2013, the legislation was dead in the water.
After Parkland, President Trump promised a "big, beautiful" gun legislation that focused on restricting access to automatic weapons. But a speedy passage seems unlikely.
Florida, however, moved quickly after the massacre in Parkland and passed a bill to raise the minimum age for the purchase of a gun to 21. It banned certain firearms modules that allowed for faster and more continuous firing and that teachers, controversially, allow armed with the approval of local police.
The bill was passed only one month after filming.
It is still too early to say how effective the law will be to prevent the death of pistols in children, but it seems promising in the light of the new study.
"Our study shows that state-level legislation prevents children from dying on rifles," Dr. Chao.