A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics says firearm deaths among children reached a new record high in 2021.
"It doesn't surprise me but it's disappointing — you know it's definitely disappointing," said Kamau Martinez, who owns The Ktone Cares Foundation (KCF).
The study showed 4,572 kids were killed by guns in 2021, a rate of 5.8 per 100,000 people. That's an 8.8% increase from the year before.
"'Cause I was one of those kids as well, that could have went any direction," said Martinez.
Martinez runs a youth foundation in Denver dedicated to keeping kids away from violence by using music education, and he has been fighting against youth violence for a decade. He says there are many reasons why this trend is increasing.
The study showed that between 2018 and 2021, the firearm death rate rose 41.5% for children.
Researchers wrote that "the spikes in firearm purchasing during the pandemic were substantial, resulting in roughly 30 million children living in households with firearms, a known risk factor for pediatric firearm injury."
White males under 19 were most likely to use guns in suicides, but the study reports gun homicides among kids disproportionately affected communities of color — in particular Black boys. That's something Martinez is far too familiar with.
"Where do we start? I feel like systematically we were set up to go to prison instead of going to work, the school-to-prison pipeline, to take responsibility as a Black man we have a lack of male presence, consistent male presence with our youth. And our kids. There's a lot of reasons for the increase," said Martinez.
Which is why Martinez says more gun control and policy reform is needed on the federal level. However, he says it's more important than ever that communities and programs like his exist to keep kids away from violence.
"I have a music program where we teach kids how to express their feelings and train them how to learn guitar, and I know that's an outlet for these kids. Instead of being upset and angry they can talk about their anger and then learn the instrument, which is a healing instrument you know what I mean? They could have went out and expressed their anger out in the streets," he said. "They're important because even if you save one life, that's a life that's worth it."
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