By Yasmeen Abutaleb
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly four times as many young murder victims in the United States were killed by firearms than by other methods such as stabbing, strangling or poisoning, in the past 30 years, according to a study released on Thursday.
The study comes three months after the U.S. Senate failed to pass several gun control measures, including expanded background checks on gun purchasers and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.
That effort followed a mass shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.
The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at the homicide rate for people aged 10 to 24 years from 1981 to 2010. Proportionally, guns were responsible for more murder deaths in the final period of the study, with nearly 4,000 of the 4,800 young murder victims in 2010 killed by firearms.
"This shows a growing need to focus on youth violence as a separate issue and focus specifically on the role played by firearms," Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a non-profit research and advocacy organization that studies gun violence, told Reuters.
The study also found that the youth murder rate peaked in 1993, then declined and hit a 30-year low in 2010, although the rate of decline has slowed since 2000.
"It's absolutely good news that we're seeing a decline and seeing a 30-year low, but this also shows us that we need to continue and increase our efforts," Corinne David-Ferdon, a behavioral scientist in the CDC's Violence Prevention and Injury Center and one of the study's authors, told Reuters.
"We need to continue and re-energize some of the declines we've seen over time and expand research and the use of prevention practices," she added.
The study found that males, people aged 20-24 and black people are murdered at higher rates than the overall average.
The study points to prevention strategies that it says are scientifically proven to reduce violence against youth, including school-based programs that stress communication over violence; parents or guardians setting rules and closely watching children's activities; and improving safety and offering children more social opportunities in their communities.
"We've demonstrated that we've made a lot of progress in reducing youth violence, but the study also points out that this progress is slowing and homicide is still a leading cause of death," David-Ferdon said.
"It's important we get these programs in place early in young people's lives to help disrupt the development of violent attitudes and behavior in early childhood and middle childhood."
(Editing by Karey Van Hall and Mohammad Zargham)