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Descriptive Epidemiology Of Firearm Injury In US Children Published In Pediatrics

Commentary Calls Firearm Injury A Plague

Approximately 19 children a day die or are medically treated for a gunshot wound in an Emergency Department in the US. That is one of the sobering statistics to be found in the twin publication of a new report and  a commentary on firearm injury published in Pediatrics.

The authors,  Katherine Fowler and colleagues at CDC and Sarah Bacon at the University of Texas, Austin, of the report call it the most comprehensive examination of current firearm-related deaths and injuries among children in the United States to date. An accompanying commentary by Eliot Nelson from the University of Vermont, asserts that 1 out of every 7 children age 1 to 19 who died of anything died of a gunshot wound—homicide, suicide, or unintentional firearm injury. It is the third leading cause of death among all children 1 to 17. Stated bluntly, firearm injury is “an all too common way of death for children and youth in the United States.” Stated succinctly, “firearm injury is a plague,” according to the commentary.

- On average, nearly 1300 children (1297) died each year in the US between 2012-2014 and 5,790 were treated for gunshot wounds

- Firearm related deaths are the third leading cause of death overall in children 1-17 and the second leading cause of injury related death (behind only car crashes).

- Some 91% of firearm deaths of children 0-14 years among all high income countries worldwide occur in the US.

- Homicides accounted for 53%, suicides for 38%, unintentional firearm deaths for 6%, legal intervention or undetermined intent for 3% of firearm deaths between 2012-2014

- Firearm homicide death rates are highest in the District of Columbia and in Louisiana.

- The majority of these children described above are boys 13-17, African American in the case of firearm homicide, and white and American Indian in the case of firearm suicide.

-Homicide rates have decreased in recent time periods while suicide rates have been on an upward trend.

-Firearm homicides tend to occur at higher rates in the south and parts of the Midwest.


At the community level, prevention efforts called for in the commentary are child access prevention laws and comprehensive background check requirements which have been shown to reduce certain types of firearm deaths. Finally, the commentary states “the underfunding of research on gun violence remains inexcusable; we must continue to demand support commensurate to the policy brief on on firearm violence prevention currently in preparation by the International Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology is expected to address this research deficit.  ■

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