New data shows gun violence is leading cause of death in Alabama kids

Experts share tips on how to talk to your children about it
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 10:51 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - New CDC data shows that gun violence is now the leading cause of death in children across the country and in Alabama.

Eight kids in the state died from guns in 2021 - that is the last year the CDC has updated data.

But experts said with recent events, it’s important to talk to your children about gun violence to try and stop the cycle.

Data shows that Children’s of Alabama treated 73 patients with gun injuries in 2022. That’s down from 82 in 2021, which was a record high.

Children’s of Alabama clinical psychologist Dr. Daniel Marullo said it’s important to check in with your kids right now and make sure they understand the dangers of this kind of violence.

“It’s very helpful for children to have information, even the truth, even when the truth is very painful,” Marullo said.

Marullo said a child who has experienced a traumatic event can have short term symptoms, and kids directly involved can have long term symptoms. This can look like irritability, sleep disturbance, nightmares, or changes in appetite. He said you can even see anxiety and depression.

Marullo said it’s better to tell school age children the truth about gun violence and what’s going on, because they may need to talk through what they are reading or seeing.

“School age kids will hear things, but they don’t really understand the full context, so by having accurate and basic information, it can relieve a lot of their fears,” Marullo said. “Sometimes, the imagination is worse than the actual event. Teenagers, they can take in more information and process it. They may actually need to have a discussion about what is going on, so the first thing is just to give good information that your child can use.”

He said it can also sometimes take weeks after a traumatic event before symptoms appear in kids.

“You may see an increase in kids being much more reactive, irritable, more fusses and fights,” Marullo said. “With a little bit of time, we kind of forget to connect the dots a little bit. I think we are all pretty good at focusing on the immediate aftermath of these events, but sometimes we forget that the psychological effects may not be noticeable for weeks or months.”

CDC data also shows that Alabama has the fourth highest death rate by firearms for all ages.

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