Dustin Racioppi, The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Most victims of gun violence in 2010 were not on a battlefield or remote hillside in the Middle East fighting in a war. They were, like 6-year-old Brandon Holt, children and teenagers in America, according to the Children's Defense Fund.
Brandon was shot in the head by his friend and neighbor, an unidentified 4-year-old boy, on Monday night. He is now also a statistic of gun violence.
In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms - three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in the war in Afghanistan, according to the defense fund.
Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
"We see guns as much of a threat in their life as we used to see bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Judith S. Palfrey, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the co-author of the New England journal report. "If you look at what's actually killing children and disabling children, guns is one of the major things."
Accidental firearms injuries have been on the decline nationwide. In 2001, 5,091 children ages 19 and under were injured by a firearm. Those numbers steadily decreased through 2009, when 3,587 children under 19 were reported injured by a firearm, according to the defense fund.
A national issue
Monday night's shooting in Toms River comes during a high-profile period for guns and politics. Congress is set to vote on a series of gun-control measures aimed at reducing gun violence.
Meanwhile, gun violence persists. Since the shooting on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., 58 children have been killed by guns, according to the online magazine Slate. On Saturday in Tennessee, a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed the wife of a sheriff's deputy.
"Gun violence right now is an epidemic in our country," said Raymonde Charles, a Children's Defense Fund spokeswoman. "It's a moral imperative for us to really come together, work together to reduce gun violence."
It was not clear Tuesday how the Toms River boy got access to the rifle.
Nicola Bocour, director of Ceasefire NJ, which advocates for stricter gun laws, said the shooting underscores the need for a societal shift in attitudes toward guns.
"I think what it really shows is that the state of the gun culture in this country right now, the way it's approached, is not healthy," Bocour said.
Statistics on shootings
- In 2010 in the U.S., 606 people died from an unintentional shooting.
- In 2011,14,675 people were wounded in an unintentional shooting but survived.
- In 49 percent of unintentional shooting deaths, the victim is shot by another person.
- Thirty-three percent of U.S. households have a gun, and half of gun-owning households do not lock up their guns, including 40 percent of households with kids under age 18.
- A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11 times more likely), a criminal assault or homicide (seven times more likely), or unintentional shooting death or injury (four times more likely) than in a self-defense shooting.
- Most unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home (65 percent), based on data from 16 states. The most common context of the death (30 percent) was playing with the gun.
Source: Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence