WASHINGTON -- Before 20 first-graders were massacred at school by a gunman in Newtown, Conn., first-grader Luke Schuster, 6, was shot to death in New Town, N.D. Six-year-olds John Devine Jr. and Jayden Thompson were similarly killed in Kentucky and Texas.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, died in the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., while Kammia Perry, 6, was slain by her father outside her Cleveland home, according to an Associated Press review of 2012 media reports.
As he mourned with the families of Newtown, President Barack Obama said the nation cannot accept such violent deaths of children as routine. But hundreds of young child deaths by gunfire suggest it might already have.
Between 2006 and 2010, 561 children age 12 and under were killed by firearms, according to the FBI's most recent Uniform Crime Reports. The numbers each year are consistent: 120 in 2006; 115 in 2007; 116 in 2008, 114 in 2009 and 96 in 2010. The FBI's count does not include gun-related child deaths that authorities ruled as accidental.
"This happens on way too regular a basis and it affects families and communities -- not at once, so we don't see it and we don't understand it as part of our national experience," said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
The true number of small children who died by gunfire in 2012 won't be known for a couple of years, when official reports are collected and analyzed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to release its 2011 count in the spring.
In response to Newtown, the National Rifle Association, the nation's largest gun lobby, suggested a way to protect children from gun violence was putting an armed police officer in every school by the time classes resume in January.
Webster said children are more likely to die by gunfire at home or in the street.
None of the 61 deaths reviewed by The Associated Press happened at school.
One week before the Newtown slayings, Alyssa Celaya, 8, bled to death after being shot by her father with a .38-caliber gun at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California. Her grandmother and two brothers also were killed. The father shot and killed himself amid gunfire from officers.
Delric Miller's life ended at 9 months and Angel Mauro Cortez Nava's at 14 months.
Delric was in a home on Detroit's west side Feb. 20 when someone sprayed it with gunfire from an AK-47.
Angel was cradled in his father's arms on a sidewalk near their home in Los Angeles when a bicyclist rode by on June 4 and opened fire, killing the infant.
Gun violence and the toll it is taking on children has been an issue for years, particularly in minority communities.
The NAACP failed in its attempt to hold gun makers accountable through a lawsuit filed in 1999. Some in the community raised the issue during the presidential campaign and asked Obama after he was re-elected to make reducing gun violence, particularly as a cause of death for young children, part of his second-term agenda.
"Now that it's clear that no community in this country is invulnerable from gun violence, from its children being stolen . . . we can finally have the national conversation we all need to have," said Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP.