GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thirty-four superintendents from around West Michigan have signed a statement expressing their concern about the number of gun-related deaths among kids.

Gunshots are now considered the leading cause of death for American children, killing about 19,000 of them annually, the statement pointed out. The figure has jumped by 50% since 2019.

“As superintendents, we are deeply concerned about the dramatic increase in gun-related deaths among our youth. The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, and we have an obligation towards preventing the tragic and senseless loss of life,” the superintendents’ statement released Friday reads.

The superintendents acknowledged the complexity of factors surrounding gun violence and recognize that there “are no easy solutions.” But they say that “meaningful conversations” among stakeholders about gun control, mental health and social and emotional learning are necessary to find solutions.

“Through greater training and education, enhanced safety protocols and common sense policy changes – we know we can make a difference,” the statement reads in part.

It does not list specific policies.

The statement concludes that cooperation is necessary to stem the violence and create safe environments.

“Our children deserve no less,” it says.

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Steve Matthews told News 8 the first thing district leaders plan on doing is having a conversation on what the appropriate measures are to reduce gun violence.

“We recognize that the Second Amendment is a protected right of Americans. But we also recognize that guns are a problem within the United States,” Matthews said. “We hope to create an opportunity to have a conversation: What can we do as a community, what can we do as a county, what can we do as a state to help protect our students, so that they don’t have a fear of being a victim of gun violence.”

— News 8’s Taylor Morris contributed to this report.