CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Two-thirds of all pediatric deaths from firearm injuries in the Tri-County area are homicides according to the Medical University of South Carolina.

The issue in part stems from children’s access to firearms increasing over time.

“There’s a public health problem here when we think about firearm violence,” said Christa Green, the Program Director for Turning the Tide Violence Intervention Program. “With the availability of more firearms there’s increased risk in exposure and unfortunately we are seeing the consequences of that now.”

According to Green, South Carolina has had a 73% higher rate of gun violence than the rest of the United States.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that from 2010 to 2020 the number of deaths from firearm injuries has increased among children in South Carolina. Of the almost 600 deaths in that time, 54% of them were homicides.

Another reason for the increase is that children at risk of being involved in gun violence likely have several issues.

“Things like socioeconomic status, income, education levels, poverty, housing instability, food instability. These are all factors that are going to contribute to an elevated risk for violence,” Green said.

Those are factors to the problem that North Charleston Police Chief Reginald L. Burgess sees in his community. He wants people to stay alert and let someone know about any issues.

“If you look at the definition of vigilant it talks about keeping careful watch for possible danger. That’s what I’m expecting from every citizen,” Burgess said.

Whether the intent of an injury is intentional or unintentional, gun safety advocates say that work needs to be done to educate the public.

Experts, like Mary Beth Vassy, urge people to lock firearms in a safe with ammunition in another area of their house. Ensuring guns are not left in your car is another safety measure to prevent theft.

“We need to do a lot of education and advocacy work on safe storage of firearms,” said Vassy, the Injury Prevention Coordinator at Safe Kids Charleston. “Usually in these firearm injuries that involve children if it’s the child who shoots the firearm most of the time another child is on the other end.”

Other prevention efforts, including the NCPD’s work to seize illegal guns off of the street, are making positive impacts.

“Most of the guns that we find have a round in the chamber and a clip,” Burgess said. “I’ve never seen so many rounds in these clips. Every bullet that we take saves a life.”