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Childhood Gun Injuries, Deaths on Rise in U.S.

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Posted October 31, 2013

Gunshot wounds put about 7,500 children in the hospital and cause 500 in-hospital child deaths each year in the United States, according to a new study.

And these pediatric shooting injuries and fatalities are increasing, the researchers said.

The analysis of national data also found a significant association between the percentage of gunshot wounds that occur in homes and the percentage of homes with guns, according to the study, which was presented Sunday at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Orlando, Fla.

“Handguns account for the majority of childhood gunshot wounds, and this number appears to be increasing over the last decade,” study lead author Dr. Arin Madenci said in an academy news release. “Furthermore, states with higher percentages of household firearm ownership also tended to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home.”

Child hospitalizations for gunshot wounds increased from about 4,300 in 1997 to more than 7,700 in 2009, the study found. In-hospital child deaths from gunshot wounds rose from 317 to 503 during that time.

Many current gun-control efforts focus on limiting the availability of military-style semi-automatic assault rifles. “[However], policies designed to reduce the number of household firearms, especially handguns, may more effectively reduce the number of gunshot injuries in children,” Madenci said.

Another study presented at the meeting examined the types of injuries among more than 450 gunshot victims younger than age 18 who were treated at an urban trauma center between 2005 and 2010. Of those patients, 78 were younger than 14 years old, 86 percent were male and 80 percent were black. The death rate was 7 percent.

Patients aged 5 to 9 years old were six times more likely than those aged 10 to 14 to have multiple injury sites.

Study author Dr. Phyllis Hendry said further analysis of firearm injury data found that children younger than 14 differ from older teens in several key areas.

“They are four times more likely to be shot at home and are much more likely to arrive by ambulance than by private car or walk-in,” Hendry said in the news release, noting that older teens often walk in or get dropped off at emergency-room entrances. “Over 60 percent of the time, the shooter and the type of firearm were unknown.”

The researchers said emergency records often lack important details that are needed to help develop effective crime and injury-prevention strategies. They recommend improving the links between emergency medical services, hospital and law-enforcement records.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release

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