Guns now leading cause of death for Virginia children, teenagers in 2020

Virginia saw a 68% jump in gun-related deaths that year

Losing a loved one is a goodbye no one wants to say, especially not a parent.

“The loss is tremendous,” said Lorraine Cunningham, who works with families at Oakey’s Funeral Service & Crematory in Roanoke. She said no matter the circumstance, it never gets easier.

“Just a tremendous emotional experience for them. Just shock and not knowing what to do and how to move forward,” said Cunningham.

Unsettling new statistics from the CDC show that nationally, firearm-related injuries were the leading cause of death for kids and teenagers (ages 1 to 19) in 2020, including homicides, suicides, and accidents. That is up 29.5% from 2019.

It’s a tragic trend that hits home in Southwest Virginia.

Back in 2020, 17-year-old Phillip Davis was shot in the parking lot of a Roanoke hotel after going to a party with some friends. He later died in the hospital. 10 News spoke with Davis’ family after his passing.

”He didn’t deserve to die like that,” said Davis’ mother, Dena Barbour.

“He should be laughing amongst his family. He’s only 17. You didn’t even get to graduate and walk across that stage and make your family proud. We had to say goodbye to you in a casket,” said Monica Scott, Davis’ cousin.

10 News is working for you to learn more about the trend in Virginia. According to data from the Virginia Department of Health’s forensic epidemiologist, the total number of firearm-related deaths for kids and teenagers jumped from 88 in 2019 to 129 in 2020.

That’s a 68% jump.

Homicides jumped from 52% to 75%. Suicides rose from 32% to 46%.

Before 2020, motor vehicle crash-related deaths had been the leading cause of death for children and teenagers aged 1-19 since 1999

Cunningham said Oakey’s staff has noticed an increase in suicides since the pandemic started.

“I don’t know whether it’s due to isolation, depression or all of the above,” said Cunningham.

She said it’s a wake-up call.

“Sometimes we don’t listen enough or look for signs,” said Cunningham. “We need to try to intervene if we can.”

About the Author:

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!