Study reveals “staggering” toll of guns on US kids – CBS News

 In Health
The tragic headlines are all too common: A toddler got his hands on his mother’s gun and fatally shot his 2-year-old brother in Colorado earlier this month. Two girls caught in the crossfire were wounded in a shooting during a picnic at a Chicago elementary school on Friday. And out of the glare of the headlines, more teens took their own lives.

Now a new report gives the most complete picture yet of the grim toll gunfire takes on American children every year. 

Overall, nearly 1,300 children in the U.S. die in shootings each year and another 5,790 survive gunshot wounds — from handguns, rifles and shotguns — according to the study published today in the journal Pediatrics.

The tally makes gunshot wounds the third leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 17 years.

For the report, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on injuries and deaths from gunfire in kids ages 0 to 17, compiling information from three national databases that track details such as nonfatal firearm injuries reported by hospital emergency rooms, death certificates connected to gun violence, coroner and medical examiner records, law enforcement reports, as well as details on homicides, assaults, suicides/self-harm, or unintentional injuries linked to guns. They also examined sex, age, race/ethnicity and year of death.

“About 19 children a day die or are medically treated in an emergency department for a gunshot wound in the U.S.,” study author Katherine Fowler, a behavioral scientist at the CDC, told CBS News.

More than half (53 percent) of deaths due to guns among children were homicides, she said. More than a third (38 percent) were suicides. Six percent were unintentional shooting deaths.  

Boys are especially vulnerable to gun violence, accounting for 82 percent of all child firearm deaths and 84 percent of all non-fatal gun injuries.

“The majority of these children are boys, 13 to 17 years old, and African-American in the case of firearm homicide, and non-Hispanic white and American Indian/Alaska Native in the case of firearm suicide,” Fowler said.

African-American children have the highest rates of firearm mortality overall — 10 times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white and Asian-American children, according to the report.

When it comes to suicide by gun, rates among young people have climbed significantly since 2007, rising 60 percent, the study found. 

In about a third of those cases, the child suffered from a depressed mood, and about a quarter had a clinically diagnosed mental health problem. Twenty-six percent told someone in advance of their intent to die by suicide.

Other research has found that suicides involving either handguns or long guns are especially prevalent in rural areas.

“The current report’s analyses confirm that suicides often occur in response to short-term crises. The availability of a firearm may be especially critical for an impulsive teenager in such moments of crisis,” Dr. Eliot W. Nelson of the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, in Burlington, Vermont, wrote in an accompanying editorial in Pediatrics entitled “Confronting the Firearm Injury Plague.”

While there have been previous studies on firearm injuries and deaths in children, this report is “the most comprehensive” to date, Fowler said. “It examines overall patterns of firearm-related death and injury, patterns by type of firearm injury — interpersonal, self-directed, and unintentional — trends over time, state-level patterns, and circumstances surrounding these deaths.”

Dr. Ruth Abaya, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CBS News, “The findings were staggering.”

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