DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Shootings topped car crashes as the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. in 2020, according to a recent study. Groups in the Miami Valley that deal with the affects of violence first-hand are working to prevent statistics like this.

In 2020, 4,300 children and teens in the U.S. died from firearm-related injuries, according to a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The number surpassed deaths caused by crashes, drug overdoses and cancer.

The study found most of those deaths were linked to homicides.

Dayton YWCA Vice President of Mission, Brand & Programs Audrey Starr said the organization sees the connection between guns and violence every day.

“The presence of a gun in an abusive relationship makes it five-times more likely that a homicide will occur,” Starr said. “So, we know that is also more likely to start that abuse in the teen years.”

The YWCA works to prevent these outcomes with prevention programs Girls LEAD and AMEND Together. Both serve as intervention, skill building and mentorship for middle and high schoolers.

In less than two years since it started, AMEND Together has already served nearly 1,000 young men.

“We work with them on everything from goal setting, what do healthy relationships look like and feel like, what does consent and boundaries mean, how do you communicate in intrapersonal relationships,” Starr said.

In a statement to 2 NEWS, Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims, Jr. said the Dayton Police Department is working to address and minimize gun violence in the city:

“Getting guns off the streets is one of our Police Department’s highest priorities,” Mims said. “I believe the recent police reorganization that was approved by the Commission will allow for increased community policing to further prevent incidents of gun violence, especially among our youth. It’s also vital that we as a community provide young people more productive pathways with their out of school time. We have to keep them busy doing the right thing and that is very important to my agenda.”

According to gun safety advocacy organization Everytown and Moms Demand Action, over 4.6 million children in America live in homes with unsecured firearms

A statement to 2 NEWS from Moms Demand Action Ohio Lead Kristi Woodworth said:

“This research says what we at Moms Demand Action have known for years: easy access to firearms can increase the likelihood of gun suicide, unintentional shootings, school shootings and other types of gun violence among children. Only in the United States are guns the leading cause of death for children and teens, because only in the US do we allow for such easy access to guns. That’s unacceptable and we don’t have to live like this.”

Woodworth said Moms Demand Action and Everytown developed the Be SMART program to help adults talk to kids about gun safety and how to prevent gun-related tragedies.

Starr said the best way to prevent violence in kids, teens and adults is by starting prevention education sooner than later.

“A lot of times people don’t think it’s an issue that impacts them until, unfortunately, it has,” Starr said. “So to be proactive, and sign your kids up for summer camp, sign your kids up for our summer collabs, get them connected to those friends, those networks that will support them.”