Your kids and the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S.

Choosing to raise your kids abroad could save their lives, given the prevalence of gun violence in the United States.

That may sound dramatic, but it may not be unreasonable, given that guns killed more kids in the U.S. in 2020 than car crashes, cancer, or drug overdoses.

More than 4,300 children in the U.S. died in 2020 due to firearm-related injuries, a 29 percent increase from the previous year. Of those gun deaths, homicides, rather than suicides, made up the majority of fatalities among children and teens, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The U.S. is failing to protect its youth against gun violence, and more and more people are looking to other countries for their safety and their children’s.

Earlier this year, Bennie, an eighth-grader at an Albuquerque middle school, chose to stand up to bullies picking on a younger classmate. The next day, one of those bullies pulled a gun from his backpack and pumped six bullets into Bennie’s body, killing him. This was just one of 42 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses in the U.S. this school year alone.

How did schools in the U.S. become so unsafe?

The U.S. has been on a gun-buying spree over the past couple of years, spurred by many reasons including fears during the pandemic, social and political unrest…even the mere talk of background checks for gun purchases makes people buy guns.

According to a report published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than 7.5 million people became new gun owners between January 2019 through April 2021 in the U.S. Unfortunately, that means exposing more than 5 million children to a household with firearms. 

Of those 7.5 million new gun owners, more than half were women—women who no longer feel safe in their own country.

The staggering numbers continue. There were 693 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2021, which defines more or more gun injuries.

In 2012, when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators with an AR-15-style rifle in Newtown, Connecticut, you would have thought things would change. Yet the U.S. Senate failed to pass even modest gun control legislation after the massacre. Instead, the change we have seen is an upward trend in the number of murders each year.

The U.S. experienced its most significant increase in the annual murder rate from 2019 to 2020 since the F.B.I. began national record-keeping in 1960. Overall, 20,720 people died from homicides in 2021. And the sad truth is that mortality data doesn’t capture the full scale of gun violence. Non-fatal gun injuries account for an average of 71,000 visits to the emergency room each year—a number that is undoubtedly rising.

Many countries worldwide offer a safe haven to live and raise a family. According to the Global Peace Index, in 2021 the top 10 most peaceful countries were Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, and Canada. In addition, the murder rates in these countries are minuscule compared to the U.S. And mass shootings are virtually non-existent when they do occur, such as the one in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, where a gunman opened fire at a mosque and killed more than 50 people. As a result, New Zealand swiftly enacted new legislation to combat firearms violence and keep its citizens safe.

The New York Times recently reported that a surge in U.S. shootings shows no sign of easing, an epidemic that “we can’t endure,” an ominous harbinger for the months ahead (summertime is typically America’s most violent period). Lax gun laws in the United States are only one of a number of reasons one should consider a move abroad, particularly if you have children. Our team of expats raised children outside of the United States. The experience could be the best gift you could ever afford them: the gift of perspective, a big worldview, and a much more carefree lifestyle (where a kid can still be a kid) are priceless.