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Tighter Firearms Legislation Reduces Children's Gun-Related Injuries


Stephen Luntz

Stephen has a science degree with a major in physics, an arts degree with majors in English Literature and History and Philosophy of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication.

Freelance Writer

kid with a gun

More than 20,000 children visit the hospital each year in America for gun injuries, and most are accidents. bg_knight/Shutterstock

Depending on where you stand on gun control, the following statement may be either utterly obvious or so outrageous you refuse to believe it: In areas with stricter gun-control, fewer children are killed and injured by guns. Irrespective of your opinions, however, the conclusions come from a detailed study of 111,839 visits to hospital emergency departments for gun injuries among those aged under 21. For those on one side of the debate, the most remarkable thing is that no one had checked data like this before.

Dr Monika Goyal, from Children's National Health System, used records of hospital visits in America for gun-related injuries from 2009 to 2013, excluding those caused by unregulated weapons such as paintball and air guns. The raw statistics alone are shocking – there are more than 22,000 cases a year, with 6 percent of victims dying and 29.8 percent being admitted to hospital. Half of those who are hospitalized leave with a disability, in addition to psychological damage.


Most cases, 62.8 percent, were registered as being from accidents, rather than self-harm or deliberate violence. Despite this, between the ages of 10 and 19, suicide by firearm is the third most common cause of death in America. For older teens, the homicide rate is even higher.

“Firearm-related injuries are a leading cause of injury and death among children and represent a significant public health concern," Goyal said in a statement prior to presenting her research at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition. "This study provides compelling data that an evidence-based approach to public policy may help to reduce firearm-related injuries among children."

The extent of the problem varies greatly by region. Children in the West of the United States are 2.5 times as likely to attend hospital for gun-related injuries than those in the Northeast. Although factors such as whether they lived in an urban or rural area mattered, Goyal found a clear connection to their ease of gun access, as measured by the Brady Campaign, an anti-gun violence organization.

The as-yet unpublished research is an extension of work Goyal published in Hospital Pediatrics earlier this year. That paper reported that parents are astonishingly ignorant about their children's access to guns, with 40 percent wrongly thinking their children don't know where they have stored guns in the house.


"The stark differences in how parents perceive their children would act and the children's own recollections to researchers underscore the importance of the combination of counseling parents to talk to their children about firearms and instituting safe storage practices for household guns," Goyal said. She noted that doctors are among the people parents are most likely to listen to about safe gun storage and that interventions could help prevent some of these accidents.


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