Every 72 minutes, one child or teen in the United Stated is hospitalized from firearm violence. Lead study author Dr. John Leventhal reports that of the 7,391 people younger than 20 years hospitalized from firearms, 453 (or 6%) died while in the hospital in 2009.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite declining rates over the past decade, firearm injuries remain the second leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle crashes, for individuals between the ages of 15 to 19. The study, published in Pediatrics, found that more than half of the firearm injuries involved an attack on the child, however, nearly one-third were unintentional. Also, three of four hospitalizations of individuals younger than 10 resulted from unintentional injuries.
"Three firearms-related patients each day are younger than 15 years of age," Leventhal, Yale professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital child abuse program, said. "This is a tragedy. There are substantial injuries to these children that may have lifelong consequences."
The study also found that nine boys were shot with a firearm for every one girl shot. The study also noted a significant racial gap: Black children and adolescents comprised 47% of all hospitalizations, 54% of hospitalizations resulting from assaults, 36% from unintentional injuries and 54% from undetermined causes. An African American boy is 10 times more likely (44.77 per 100,000 people) to be hospitalized from a firearm than a Caucasian boy.
The most common types of firearm injuries included open wounds (52%), fractures (50%) and internal injuries of the chest, abdomen or pelvis (34%).
"People have firearms at home for a variety of reasons. Some people think they are safer with them, but the evidence shows that's not the case," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said. "Far too often, there was a firearm under a mattress or a parent who put a firearm up high in the closet, way in the back -- but that's exactly where a child will look."
"The [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommends that the safest home for a family is a home without guns," said co-author Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and director of the division of family and child advocacy at Boston Medical Center. "If there is a gun in the home, the gun should be stored unloaded and locked, and the ammunition should be stored separately."