Study on Gun Safety Shows Too Many Kids Are Getting Shot by Accident

Over half of firearm injuries in children under 15 are accidents.

Originally Published: 
Close up of forensic science evidence box containing gun from crime scene

While plenty of gun-owning parents teach their kids about firearm safety, it seems not enough of these lessons are landing. More than 5,800 children in the U.S. were hospitalized for gun injuries in 2012, according to a study due to be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. And in children under the age of 15, more than half of those injuries were accidental.

“While gun related issues can be very politically charged, we all must agree that children should not have to be victims of gun related injuries,” lead author Dr. Alyssa H. Silver, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, told Fatherly.

flickr / Ray Dehler

For the study, Silver and her team turned to the Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), which tracks inpatient hospital stays for children in the United States. In 2012 the data suggests that victims between the ages of 15 and 19 were typically attacked, while children under age 15 were most often shot by mistake. Nearly 90 percent of patients admitted with gunshot wounds were male, more than half were black, and 53 percent were living in low-income neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the latter set of findings are nothing new—gun violence has long been associated with marginalized communities.

But the study also followed the money. Silver and colleagues demonstrated that the average hospital stay for a gunshot wound (about 6 days) costs more than $22,644 per patient—a total of about $130 million per year. To put that into perspective, only $2.2 million federal dollars were earmarked to prevent gun violence in 2016. And since that figure represents funding for gun violence research for both children and adults, Silver says the gap between funding and treatment costs could be even larger.

Dr. Silver recommends better promotion of safe storage, more research into smart gun technology, and of course, an increase in funding for gun violence research. “This is an issue that is clearly underfunded when it comes to addressing the substantial burden in our country of pediatric firearm related injuries.”

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