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Report: Firearm injuries leading cause of death in 15-17-year-old Arizonans

Firearm deaths also went up across children of all ages in 2021.

ARIZONA, USA — More children died by a firearm in Arizona in 2021 than in 2020, according to Arizona's Child Fatality Review, released this month. 

Not only did gun deaths increase for kids of all ages, but for teens aged 15 to 17, a firearm injury was the number one cause of death in 2021, according to the report. 

"It's alarming, and you know, I think it's preventable," David Lujan, President and CEO of Children's Action Alliance, a nonpartisan and nonprofit lobbying organization. 

The report also details how every child who died from gun violence had access to a firearm all 56 cases, adding most weren't stored properly. 

The report also adds that every one of the children's deaths was preventable. 

As for the most common deaths, 30% were self-harm. 

"We know that when these impulsive thoughts happen, if they don't have access, they can't complete," Katey McPherson, a youth mental health advocate in the Valley, said. 

McPherson points to additional risk factors also outlined in the report, including substance abuse, which was involved in 55% of the firearm injury deaths last year, and relationship issues, which was involved in 43% of the deaths. 

RELATED: Loved ones gather to honor Valley teacher, coach killed in Phoenix shooting

"Especially for 15 to 17-year-olds, there's a lot of firsts," McPherson said. "And then for 17-year-olds, there's some finality. Some of those kids are graduating at age 17 and going to college. So even though that's a very exciting time, it's also a scary time to think of, like, I'm leaving home, and I'm going to this university and the pressure of that as well." 

McPherson said research has shown the best prevention is limiting kids' access to guns. 

"Please put away your meds, please lock up your guns, even if your child has taken the gun safety class, even if they know that combination to your safe and they're a good kid. Good kids make impulsive moves when they're distressed," McPherson said. 

Right now, Arizona doesn't have any laws that penalize adults for allowing kids access to guns. 

"I think when states that have passed, you know, reasonable gun control measures to keep guns out of the hands of children when they shouldn't have them, they've shown that those things produce results," Lujan said. 

Lujan said those kinds of policies could offer solutions that the legislature could change. 

"The question is: Is there the will in our legislature to get something like that done?" Lujan said. 

However, Lujan notes that gun control isn't the only answer. 

"We have got to do a better job of providing counselors in schools and access to behavioral health services for teens," Lujan said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is hope and help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now active; simply call 988. 

Other resources available include:

  • Teen Lifeline: 602-248-8336. Texting to the line is available from noon to 9 p.m. on weekdays or from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. The hotline is also open for calls daily.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Community Referrals: 211Arizona.org
  • Statewide Resources: https://www.azspc.org/resources.html
  • Crisis Teams: 480-784-1500
  • Maricopa County Crisis Hotline: 602-222-9444
  • Free Zoom Community Meetings on mental health in youth can also be found here.

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Silent Witness: 

Arizona's Silent Witness program allows people to send in tips and share information about crimes happening within their local communities. 

The program shares unsolved felony case information in multiple ways, including TV, radio and social media. 

Anyone who has information on a crime or recognizes a suspect described by the program is asked to call 480-948-6377, go to the program's website online or download the Silent Witness app to provide a tip. The identity of anyone who submits a tip is kept anonymous. 

Calls to Silent Witness are answered 24/7 by a live person and submitted tips are accepted at all times. Submitted tips are then sent to the detective(s) in charge of the specific case. 

Individuals who submit tips that lead to an arrest or indictment in the case can get a reward of up to $1,000. 

Have a tip? Submit it on the Silent Witness tip form here. 


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