NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The number of Tennessee children dying by homicide and firearms has continued to increase over the past few years, according to a new report released by the state health department.
The Tennessee Health Department’s 2023 Child Fatality Annual Report, which reviewed the 926 child deaths reported statewide in 2021, found that the rate of child firearm deaths increased 17% during the four-year period between 2017 and 2021.
That puts the state’s rate of child firearm deaths at 36.4% higher than the national average, with 85 Tennessee children killed by guns in 2021. According to the report, 67 children died by homicide — an 18.9% increase between 2017 and 2021.
Overall, homicide was the leading cause of death among Tennesse’s children in 2021 — far outnumbering suicides, drownings, fires, falls and poisoning deaths — and guns were the leading external factor with firearms involved in 86% of homicides.
Black males aged 15 to 17 years were also disproportionally represented in homicide and firearm deaths, with the number of male victims of homicide being three times greater than that of females and 61% of all homicide cases occurring within that age group.
Approximately 93% of all firearm deaths were deemed “probably preventable” by the Tennessee Health Department. Motor vehicle crashes and transportation-related deaths represented the second leading external cause of death among Tennessee children in 2021.
Notably, the report also showed a 29% decrease in the rate of suicide among Tennessee children from 2017 to 2021. According to the health department, 51 suicides were reported in 2017, and the number steadily dropped to 37 in 2021.
Firearm deaths among children were mostly due to homicides at about 65%, while 24% were linked to suicides and only 5% were deemed accidents.
As a result, the Tennessee Health Department has recommended increasing awareness and promotion of safe firearm handling and access to safe storage mechanisms, as well as early intervention services across the state.
Some of those recommendations may look like further partnerships between the health department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Department of Education. To see the full 2023 report, click here.