As an individual who grew up almost exclusively in suburban areas, I have had very little personal experience with rural communities. When I was really young I associated rural areas with "the country," which at the time I believed was composed of ranches filled with beautiful horses. I would dream of the day I could own my own land and have as many live horses as I did plastic ones (which was a truly excessive amount). As I grew older and was exposed to more media portrayals of rural communities, my association with rural communities changed from horses to guns. It seemed like anytime I watched a movie or read a book that involved individuals living in rural areas, they were always either hunting or shooting at each other.
As I did not see I gun in real life until I was twenty-two, reading about and seeing the casualness with which both adults and children handled guns was completely alien to me. While I have begun to understand rural communities more as I have grown older and met individuals from such areas, I still am baffled by the protectiveness (both rural and urban) individuals tend to feel for their gun rights as well as their comfortableness with a weapon that can so easily kill or injure. I especially remain particularly perplexed by how often children are allowed, and sometimes even encouraged, to handle these potentially deadly weapons.
Given how many different aspects there are of the culture surrounding children and guns in rural communities, this will be the first of several posts regarding this topic. This first post will deal with the basics of children gun deaths in rural v. urban communities in America. In later posts I will take a deeper look at the issues surrounding rural children and guns in terms of hunting, suicides, and accidents.
The basics of children gun deaths in rural v. urban communities.
In the US, an average of seven children are killed by guns everyday and American children are killed by guns eleven times as often as children in other similarly high-income countries. Indeed, firearms are one of the leading causes of death among children, killing more minors than cancer and heart disease. Additionally, in 2007, eighty-five pre-school-aged children died a gun related death in the United Stated, which was more than the amount of police officers who were killed in the line of duty that year. According the Everytown for Gun Safety, a movement of Americans attempting to end gun violence, there have already been at least thirteen child shootings in 2017.
While children gun deaths happen in all regions and states in the US, there is a general trend that where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths for all types of intents (including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings). In a 2013 Gallup poll, rural Americans were more than twice as likely to have a gun in their home than those living in urban cities.
Children in rural communities often grow up around guns and are taught gun safety. While sometimes these gun safety lessons are taught by family members, there are even gun safety classes offered to rural children, which some believe is a way to pass on the communities' tradition of gun ownership. Indeed, many American families view guns as a way to bring the family together.
There is a commonly held belief that children in rural areas do not die due to guns at the same rate as their urban peers. However, a 2010 study completed by the American Journal of Pediatrics found that children in rural counties experienced a firearm mortality rate that was essentially indistinguishable to the rate at which children in urban counties die from guns. Indeed, in 2011, the "crude youth firearm death rates in the most urban counties... when compared with the most rural counties... [was] 4.64 and 4.04, respectively."
The main difference between child gun deaths in these communities is that children in urban counties tend to die more often from gun homicides while children in rural communities tend to die because of either gun suicides or accidents. My next blog posts will address the reasons for these differences.