Gunshot wounds among kids on the rise

November 12, 2013

Hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths of children with gunshot wounds (GSWs) are increasing, up 81% and 59%, respectively, from 1997 to 2009.

 

Hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths of children with gunshot wounds (GSWs) are increasing, up 81% and 59%, respectively, from 1997 to 2009.

The findings, which were presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Orlando, Florida, come from a cross-sectional analysis of household gun ownership and childhood gun violence across the 50 states.

The researchers report that currently about 7,500 children are hospitalized annually for GSWs, including over 500 in-hospital deaths. They found that during the study period, assaults increased while accidents decreased. Although slightly over a fifth (21%) of the incidents occurred on the street, almost another fifth (19%) occurred in the home. Handguns were involved in more than three-quarters (77%) of the GSWs, followed by shotguns (19%) and hunting rifles (4%).

Not surprisingly, the investigators found significant associations between the percentage of GSWs occurring in the home and the percentage of households with children containing a firearm, the percentage of loaded firearms, and the percentage of unlocked loaded firearms in the home.

The states with the lowest and highest reported rates of gun possession were New Jersey (10%) and Montana (62%), respectively. The states with the lowest and highest rates of loaded gun possession were Massachusetts (1%) and Arkansas (14%), respectively, and the states with the lowest and highest rates of unlocked loaded gun possession were Massachusetts (<1%) and Arkansas (7%), respectively.

Compared with other emergency hospitalizations in 2009, GSWs were associated with 6 times greater mortality and more than 3 times higher mean hospital charges per hospitalization.

The researchers comment that while legislation to limit military-style semi-automatic assault weapons is important, handguns remain the leading weapon involved in childhood GSWs.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, one child or teenager dies or is injured from guns every 30 minutes.

 

 

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