A study based on data from 2012 to 2014 suggests that, on average, 5,790 children in the United States receive medical treatment in an emergency room each year for a gun-related injury. About 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional.
From 2012 to 2014, on average, 1,297 children died annually from a gun-related injury in the US, according to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.
The study also revealed which states in the U.S. saw most of those deaths among children and which children may be most at risk for a gun-related injury.
Doctors also emphasize that there are methods available to safely secure and store firearms, away from children, and they recommend that parents employ those methods when keeping guns in the home.
Boys and guns
The researchers examined national data on fatal firearm injuries from death certificates in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System database.
For nonfatal firearm injuries, the researchers examined data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database.
Specifically looking at deaths and injuries among children up to age 17, the researchers analyzed the data for trends that may have occurred from 2002 to 2014.
They found that, among the deaths, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, 6 percent were unintentional, and 3 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined. Among the injuries, 71 percent were assault, 21 percent were unintentional, 5 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined, and about 3 percent were from self-harm.
Boys accounted for 82 percent of all child firearm deaths and about 84 percent of all nonfatal firearm injuries that were medically treated in the study. African-American children had the highest rates of firearm homicide, and white and Native American children had the highest rates of firearm suicide.
With boys being responsible for more than 80 percent of gun-related deaths, News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said it’s important for boys to safely get accustomed to how a gun works once their parent feels they’ve reached the appropriate age.
“Let them shoot the gun a few times because, once a child fires a gun a few times, then the curiosity is gone,” Smith said. “They’re not curious about the gun anymore. They know what it can do and they tend to not play with firearms if they have an understanding of how they work.”
Parent John Roberts told News4Jax that he’s taken that step, as well as other safety precautions.
“All four of them have shotguns. They’ve been to the shooting range. They’ve all done a little bit of hunting. So training, as well as just obedience in general, is very helpful,” Roberts said.
Those patterns of gun-related deaths appeared to fluctuate by state.
Where children die by firearms
While the District of Columbia and Louisiana had the highest rates of child firearm deaths, several states — including Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and New Hampshire — had 20 or fewer deaths, the researchers found.
The highest rates for homicides were concentrated in the South; across the Midwestern states of Illinois, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio; and in California, Nevada, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
In Jacksonville, there has been seven shootings this year involving children — two of them were deadly.
Serenity Allen, 5, was killed and another child was hurt in February when police said a gun being handled by an 8-year-old boy was discharged at a Northside apartment complex.
In May, Ramya Eunice, 12, was accidentally shot in the head by an 11-year-old boy, who said he found the gun at an unlocked, unoccupied neighboring home, according to police. Eunice died a few weeks later.
For suicides, which were calculated only for children 10 and older in the study, the researchers found that incidents were widely dispersed across the country. However, separate research has found rates of suicide by firearm to be disproportionately higher in rural compared with urban areas.
For Dr. David Wesson, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital who was not involved in the new study, the rates of suicide that emerged in the data were among the most disturbing trends.
“It’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s state of mind and if they’re depressed,” he said. “Just having access to a gun in a situation where you’re upset with what’s going on at school or with your friends, or your own internal emotional state, it unfortunately can lead to suicide. It’s very important for parents to be aware of that, particularly if they have guns in the home.”
Overall, the researchers found that older children, those 13 to 17, had a rate of fatal firearm injury that was more than 12 times higher than the rate for children 12 and younger.
“These are preventable injuries that have a major public health impact on early death and disability among children,” said Katherine Fowler, a behavioral scientist for the CDC and lead author of the study.
Yet she added that some promising trends also appeared in the data.
“Although firearm homicides of children significantly increased between 2002 and 2007, they significantly declined between 2007 and 2014,” Fowler said.
“This is a very encouraging trend. There are many evidence-based programs and policies that have been found to be effective in preventing youth violence, including youth homicide,” she said. “Preventing such injuries and ensuring that all children have safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments remains one of our most important priorities.”