The number of children killed with firearms fell by a third in Wisconsin from 1999 to 2009 but, since 2010, progress in preventing gun deaths has stalled.
Meanwhile, the president’s budget would weaken initiatives aimed at preventing gun violence.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, in its report “Death Toll” released in June, said 20 children in the state were killed with guns in 2015 — about one child every 18 days. That far exceeds the average of the past 16 years.
The number of children in Wisconsin killed with guns from 1999 to 2015 is 428, according to the Madison-based WCCF.
The review found that 48 percent of child deaths from firearms from 1999 to 2015 were classified as homicides and 45 percent were classified as suicides. Twenty-eight deaths were accidental.
Four out of 10 deaths took place in Milwaukee County.
For the period, firearms were the third leading cause of death for children in the state — but the leading cause for African-American children. That rate was 38 percent higher than the national average over this period.
Older children are the most likely to be killed with guns and about 83 percent of the children killed with firearms between 1999 and 2015 were boys.
Targeting prevention efforts
In its report, WCCF said, “Different approaches to protecting children may benefit different populations, in part because the characteristics of children killed with guns vary with race and ethnicity.”
Because 71 percent of white, non-Hispanic children killed with guns die from self-inflicted injuries, WCCF said, “white children would be the ones most likely to benefit from the suicide prevention efforts and mental health initiatives that state lawmakers have expanded in recent years.”
And the experts stressed that reduced access to guns is also key to suicide prevention.
“Research has shown that we can prevent youth suicides by reducing youth access to firearms,” said Cheryl Wittke of Safe Communities Madison-Dane County. “Because most suicides are impulsive, so putting time between a young person’s suicidal thoughts and their access to a gun can deter many tragedies.”
Children of color, according to the WCCF report, are more likely to die from homicide than suicide and “they would be the ones most likely to benefit from efforts to reduce violence, strengthen neighborhoods and expand economic opportunity.”
Such initiatives are often funded by the community development block grant money that President Donald Trump wants to eliminate.
“Solutions will vary from community to community but, ultimately we need to be investing in children, families and communities to ensure they are safe and healthy,” said Ken Taylor, WCCF executive director.