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Homicide Is 3rd-Leading Cause Of Death for Youth, C.D.F. Says

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A "classroomful'' of children die in gun-related incidents every two days, according to a Children's Defense Fund report.

Homicide has become the nation's third-leading cause of death for elementary and middle school children, the children's-advocacy group noted in a study issued late last month.

The report, entitled "State of America's Children Yearbook 1994,'' calls for a "cease fire'' in the gun violence afflicting children.

"Our worst nightmares are coming true,'' said Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the C.D.F. "After years of family disintegration, the crisis of children having children has been eclipsed by the greater crisis of children killing children.''

Between 1979 and 1991, nearly 50,000 children under age 19 were killed by guns, a death toll that the report points out is equivalent to the number of American battle casualties in the Vietnam War.

In addition to the increase in the number of children victimized by violence, the number of juvenile arrests for weapons possession and murder has also increased, the report notes.

The number of juveniles arrested for murder and manslaughter climbed 93 percent from 1982 to 1991, while the number of adults arrested for the same crimes rose only 11 percent.

Society must hold youth offenders responsible through "swift, effective, and fair punishment,'' Ms. Edelman said, while adding that adults must be judged responsible for the "culture of violence we've created.''

'Educational Security' Urged

The C.D.F. report recommends 10 steps that communities, schools, and political leaders can take to stop the "war against children.'' They include:

  • A commitment to "educational security'' by insuring access to Head Start and child-care programs for all children who need them;
  • School-safety plans and after-school opportunities, to protect children on the way to and from school;
  • A "massive'' education campaign to inform parents, young people, and the community about the danger of guns; and
  • A network of job-training opportunities for young people, such as school-to-work programs.

"It is adults who have manufactured and profited from the guns that have turned our schools into war zones, and it is adults who must give our children a stake in the future,'' Ms. Edelman said.

Copies of the report are available for $16.95 each from the C.D.F., 25 E St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001; (202) 628-8787.

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