AAP eBooks

Firearm-Related Injuries and Preventions

By American Academy of Pediatrics

The number of children and adolescents affected by firearm violence are staggering. To help you better understand the public health impact, order this print compendium of AAP editor-curated articles with quick access to the latest most salient studies.

https://shop.aap.org/pediatric-collections-firearm-related-injuries-and-preventions-paperback/

  1. Page 1
  2. Page 7
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Kavita Parikh, MD, MSHS, Hospitalist Division, Children’s National Medical Center, 111 Michigan Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010. E-mail: kparikh@childrensnational.org

    Pediatric firearm-related deaths and injuries are a national public health crisis. In this Special Review Article, we characterize the epidemiology of firearm-related injuries in the United States and discuss public health programs, the role of pediatricians, and legislative efforts to address this health crisis. Firearm-related injuries are leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in children and adolescents. Children are more likely to be victims of unintentional injuries, the majority of which occur in the home, and adolescents are more likely to suffer from intentional injuries due to either assault or suicide attempts. Guns are present in 18% to 64% of US households, with significant variability by geographic region. Almost 40% of parents erroneously believe their children are unaware of the storage location of household guns, and 22% of parents wrongly believe that their children have never handled household guns. Public health interventions to increase firearm safety have demonstrated varying results, but the most effective programs have provided free gun safety devices to families. Pediatricians should continue working to reduce gun violence by asking patients and their families about firearm access, encouraging safe storage, and supporting firearm-related injury prevention research. Pediatricians should also play a role in educating trainees about gun violence. From a legislative perspective, universal background checks have been shown to decrease firearm homicides across all ages, and child safety laws have been shown to decrease unintentional firearm deaths and suicide deaths in youth. A collective, data-driven public health approach is crucial to halt the epidemic of pediatric firearm-related injury.

  3. Page 21
    Abstract

    The absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents. Adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability. Safe gun storage (guns unloaded and locked, ammunition locked separately) reduces children’s risk of injury. Physician counseling of parents about firearm safety appears to be effective, but firearm safety education programs directed at children are ineffective. The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support a number of specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons; and the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use.

  4. Page 33
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to John M. Leventhal, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine, PO Box 208064, 333 Cedar St, New Haven, CT 06520-8064. E-mail: john.leventhal@yale.edu

    BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE Despite recent national attention on deaths from firearms, little information exists about children and adolescents who are hospitalized for firearm injuries. The objective was to determine the national frequency of firearm-related hospitalizations in the United States in children, compare rates by cause and demographics, and describe hospitalized cases.

    METHODS We used the 2009 Kids’ Inpatient Database to identify hospitalizations from firearm-related injuries in young people <20 years of age; International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, and external-cause-of injury codes were used to categorize the injuries and the causes as follows: assault, suicide attempt, unintentional, or undetermined. Incidences were calculated by using the weighted number of cases and the intercensal population. Risk ratios compared incidences.

    RESULTS In 2009, 7391 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6523–8259) hospitalizations were due to firearm-related injuries. The hospitalization rate was 8.87 (95% CI: 7.83–9.92) per 100 000 persons <20 years of age. Hospitalizations due to assaults were most frequent (n = 4559) and suicide attempts were least frequent (n = 270). Of all hospitalizations, 89.2% occurred in males; the hospitalization rate for males was 15.22 per 100 000 (95% CI: 13.41–17.03) and for females was 1.93 (95% CI: 1.66–2.20). The rate for black males was 44.77 (95% CI: 36.69–52.85), a rate more than 10 times that for white males. Rates were highest for those aged 15 to 19 years (27.94; 95% CI: 24.42–31.46). Deaths in the hospital occurred in 453 (6.1%); of those hospitalized after suicide attempts, 35.1% died.

    CONCLUSIONS On average, 20 US children and adolescents were hospitalized each day in 2009 due to firearm injuries. Public health efforts are needed to reduce this common source of childhood injury.

  5. Page 40
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Rebecca M. Cunningham, MD, University of Michigan Injury Center, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Dr, Suite H-3200, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-5570. E-mail: stroh@umich.edu

    OBJECTIVE To characterize youth seeking care for assault injuries, the context of violence, and previous emergency department (ED) service utilization to inform ED-based injury prevention.

    METHODS A consecutive sample of youth (14–24) presenting to an urban ED with an assault injury completed a survey of partner violence, gun/knife victimization, gang membership, and context of the fight.

    RESULTS A total of 925 youth entered the ED with an assault injury; 718 completed the survey (15.4% refused); 730 comparison youth were sampled. The fights leading to the ED visit occurred at home (37.6%) or on streets (30.4%), and were commonly with a known person (68.3%). Fights were caused by issues of territory (23.3%) and retaliation (8.9%); 20.8% of youth reported substance use before the fight. The assault-injured group reported more peer/partner violence and more gun experiences. Assault-injured youth reported higher past ED utilization for assault (odds ratio [OR]: 2.16) or mental health reasons (OR: 7.98). Regression analysis found the assault-injured youth had more frequent weapon use (OR: 1.25) and substance misuse (OR: 1.41).

    CONCLUSIONS Assault-injured youth seeking ED care report higher levels of previous violence, weapon experience, and substance use compared with a comparison group seeking care for other complaints. Almost 10% of assault-injured youth had another fight-related ED visit in the previous year, and ∼5% had an ED visit for mental health. Most fights were with people known to them and for well-defined reasons, and were therefore likely preventable. The ED is a critical time to interact with youth to prevent future morbidity.

  6. Page 50
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 10 West Edge Dr, Suite 106, Durham, NH 03824. E-mail: kimberly. mitchell@unh.edu

    OBJECTIVE To report the prevalence of weapons involved in the victimization of youth with particular emphasis on weapons with a “high lethality risk” and how such exposure fits into the broader victimization and life experiences of children and adolescents.

    METHODS Data were collected as part of the Second National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a nationally representative telephone survey of youth ages 2 to 17 years and caregivers (N = 4114) conducted in 2011.

    RESULTS Estimates from the Second National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence indicate that almost 14 million youth, ages 2–17, in the United States have been exposed to violence involving a weapon in their lifetimes as witnesses or victims, or >1 in 5 children in this age group. More than 2 million youth in the United States (1 in 33) have been directly assaulted in incidents where the high lethality risk weapons of guns and knives were used. Differences were noted between victimizations involving higher and lower lethality risk weapons as well as between any weapon involvement versus none. Poly-victims, youth with 7 or more victimization types, were particularly likely to experience victimization with any weapon, as well as victimization with a highly lethal weapon compared with nonpoly-victims.

    CONCLUSIONS Findings add to the field’s broadening conceptualization of youth victimization highlighting the potentially highly consequential risk factor of weapon exposure as a component of victimization experiences on the mental health of youth. Further work on improving gun safety practices and taking steps to reduce children’s exposure to weapon-involved violence is warranted to reduce this problem.

  7. Page 64
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Katherine A. Fowler, PhD, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341. E-mail: kafowler@cdc.gov

    OBJECTIVES Examine fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries among children aged 0 to 17 in the United States, including intent, demographic characteristics, trends, state-level patterns, and circumstances.

    METHODS Fatal injuries were examined by using data from the National Vital Statistics System and nonfatal injuries by using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Trends from 2002 to 2014 were tested using joinpoint regression analyses. Incident characteristics and circumstances were examined by using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.

    RESULTS Nearly 1300 children die and 5790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Although unintentional firearm deaths among children declined from 2002 to 2014 and firearm homicides declined from 2007 to 2014, firearm suicides decreased between 2002 and 2007 and then showed a significant upward trend from 2007 to 2014. Rates of firearm homicide among children are higher in many Southern states and parts of the Midwest relative to other parts of the country. Firearm suicides are more dispersed across the United States with some of the highest rates occurring in Western states. Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict; older children more often died in the context of crime and violence. Firearm suicides were often precipitated by situational and relationship problems. The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both younger and older children.

    CONCLUSIONS Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children. Understanding their nature and impact is a first step toward prevention.

  8. Page 77
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Patrick M. Carter, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, 2800 Plymouth Rd, NCRC 10-G080, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: cartpatr@med.umich.edu

    BACKGROUND The risk for firearm violence among high-risk youth after treatment for an assault is unknown.

    METHODS In this 2-year prospective cohort study, data were analyzed from a consecutive sample of 14- to 24-year-olds with drug use in the past 6 months seeking assault-injury care (AIG) at an urban level 1 emergency department (ED) compared with a proportionally sampled comparison group (CG) of drug-using nonassaulted youth. Validated measures were administered at baseline and follow-up (6, 12, 18, 24 months).

    RESULTS A total of 349 AIG and 250 CG youth were followed for 24 months. During the follow-up period, 59% of the AIG reported firearm violence, a 40% higher risk than was observed among the CG (59.0% vs. 42.5%; relative risk [RR] = 1.39). Among those reporting firearm violence, 31.7% reported aggression, and 96.4% reported victimization, including 19 firearm injuries requiring medical care and 2 homicides. The majority with firearm violence (63.5%) reported at least 1 event within the first 6 months. Poisson regression identified baseline predictors of firearm violence, including male gender (RR = 1.51), African American race (RR = 1.26), assault-injury (RR = 1.35), firearm possession (RR = 1.23), attitudes favoring retaliation (RR = 1.03), posttraumatic stress disorder (RR = 1.39), and a drug use disorder (RR = 1.22).

    CONCLUSIONS High-risk youth presenting to urban EDs for assault have elevated rates of subsequent firearm violence. Interventions at an index visit addressing substance use, mental health needs, retaliatory attitudes, and firearm possession may help decrease firearm violence among urban youth.

  9. Page 90
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Patrick M. Carter, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Suite H 3200, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. E-mail: cartpatr@med.umich.edu

    BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES Firearm violence is a leading cause of death among youth. The objectives of this study were (1) determine firearm possession rates and associated correlates among youth seeking care for assault in an emergency department (ED); (2) understand differences in risk factors for youth with firearm possession; and (3) identify firearm possession characteristics in this population: type, reason for possession, and source of firearms.

    METHODS Youth (14 to 24 years old) presenting to a Level 1 ED with assault were administered a computerized screening survey. Validated instruments were administered, measuring demographics, firearm rates and characteristics, attitudes toward aggression, substance use, and previous violence history.

    RESULTS Among 689 assault-injured youth, 23% reported firearm possession in the past 6 months. Only 17% of those reporting firearm possession obtained the gun from a legal source; 22% reported ownership of highly lethal automatic/semiautomatic weapons and 37.1% reported having a firearm for protection. Logistic regression analysis identified significant correlates of firearm possession, including male gender, higher socioeconomic status, illicit drug use, recent serious fight, and retaliatory attitudes.

    CONCLUSIONS ED assault-injured youth had high rates of firearm possession (23.1%), most of which were not obtained from legal sources. Youth with firearm possession were more likely to have been in a recent serious fight, and to endorse aggressive attitudes that increase their risk for retaliatory violence. Future prevention efforts should focus on minimizing illegal firearm access among high-risk youth, nonviolent alternatives to retaliatory violence, and substance use prevention.

  10. Page 99
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Linda A. Teplin, PhD, Health Disparities and Public Policy, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 710 North Lake Shore Dr, Suite 900, Chicago, IL, 60611-3078. E-mail: healthdisparities@northwestern.edu

    BACKGROUND Delinquent youth are at risk for early violent death after release from detention. However, few studies have examined risk factors for mortality. Previous investigations studied only serious offenders (a fraction of the juvenile justice population) and provided little data on females.

    METHODS The Northwestern Juvenile Project is a prospective longitudinal study of health needs and outcomes of a stratified random sample of 1829 youth (657 females, 1172 males; 524 Hispanic, 1005 African Amer-ican, 296 non-Hispanic white, 4 other race/ethnicity) detained between 1995 and 1998. Data on risk factors were drawn from interviews; death records were obtained up to 16 years after detention. We compared all-cause mortality rates and causes of death with those of the general population. Survival analyses were used to examine risk factors for mortality after youth leave detention.

    RESULTS Delinquent youth have higher mortality rates than the general population to age 29 years (P < .05), irrespective of gender or race/ ethnicity. Females died at nearly 5 times the general population rate (P < .05); Hispanic males and females died at 5 and 9 times the general population rates, respectively (P < .05). Compared with the general population, significantly more delinquent youth died of homicide and its subcategory, homicide by firearm (P < .05). Among delinquent youth, racial/ethnic minorities were at increased risk of homicide compared with non-Hispanic whites (P < .05). Significant risk factors for external-cause mortality and homicide included drug dealing (up to 9 years later), alcohol use disorder, and gang membership (up to a decade later).

    CONCLUSIONS Delinquent youth are an identifiable target population to reduce disparities in early violent death.

  11. Page 118
    Abstract

    Firearms are involved in the injury and death of a large number of children each year from both intentional and unintentional causes. Gun ownership in homes with children is common, and pediatricians should incorporate evidence-based means to discuss firearms and protect children from gunrelated injuries and violence. Safe storage of guns, including unloaded guns locked and stored separately from ammunition, can decrease risks to children, and effective tools are available that pediatricians can use in clinical settings to help decrease children’s access to firearms. Furthermore, several community-based interventions led by pediatricians have effectively reduced firearm-related injury risks to children. Educational programs that focus on children’s behavior around guns have not proven effective.

  12. Page 127
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Craig D. Newgard, MD, MPH, Department of Emergency Medicine, Center for Policy and Research in Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, mailcode CR-114, Portland, OR 97239-3098. E-mail: newgardc@ohsu.edu

    OBJECTIVE To describe the incidence, injury severity, resource use, mortality, and costs for children with gunshot injuries, compared with other injury mechanisms.

    METHODS This was a population-based, retrospective cohort study (January 1, 2006–December 31, 2008) including all injured children age ≤19 years with a 9-1-1 response from 47 emergency medical services agencies transporting to 93 hospitals in 5 regions of the western United States. Outcomes included population-adjusted incidence, injury severity score ≥16, major surgery, blood transfusion, mortality, and average per-patient acute care costs.

    RESULTS A total of 49 983 injured children had a 9-1-1 emergency medical services response, including 505 (1.0%) with gunshot injuries (83.2% age 15–19 years, 84.5% male). The population-adjusted annual incidence of gunshot injuries was 7.5 cases/100 000 children, which varied 16-fold between regions. Compared with children who had other mechanisms of injury, those injured by gunshot had the highest proportion of serious injuries (23%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 17.6–28.4), major surgery (32%, 95% CI 26.1–38.5), in-hospital mortality (8.0%, 95% CI 4.7–11.4), and costs ($28 510 per patient, 95% CI 22 193–34 827).

    CONCLUSIONS Despite being less common than other injury mechanisms, gunshot injuries cause a disproportionate burden of adverse outcomes in children, particularly among older adolescent males. Public health, injury prevention, and health policy solutions are needed to reduce gunshot injuries in children.

  13. Page 138
    Abstract
    Address correspondence to Brad J. Bushman, PhD, School of Communication, The Ohio State University, 3127 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210-1339. E-mail: bushman.20@osu.edu

    BACKGROUND Many scientific studies have shown that the mere presence of guns can increase aggression, an effect dubbed the “weapons effect.” The current research examines a potential source of the weapons effect: guns depicted in top-selling films.

    METHODS Trained coders identified the presence of violence in each 5-minute film segment for one-half of the top 30 films since 1950 and the presence of guns in violent segments since 1985, the first full year the PG-13 rating (age 131) was used. PG-13–rated films are among the top-selling films and are especially attractive to youth.

    RESULTS Results found that violence in films has more than doubled since 1950, and gun violence in PG-13–rated films has more than tripled since 1985. When the PG-13 rating was introduced, these films contained about as much gun violence as G (general audiences) and PG (parental guidance suggested for young children) films. Since 2009, PG-13–rated films have contained as much or more violence as R-rated films (age 171) films.

    CONCLUSIONS Even if youth do not use guns, these findings suggest that they are exposed to increasing gun violence in top-selling films. By including guns in violent scenes, film producers may be strengthening the weapons effect and providing youth with scripts for using guns. These findings are concerning because many scientific studies have shown that violent films can increase aggression. Violent films are also now easily accessible to youth (eg, on the Internet and cable). This research suggests that the presence of weapons in films might amplify the effects of violent films on aggression.

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