Firearm-related deaths are the fourth leading cause of death overall among U.S. children ages 1-17 years, and the second leading cause of injury-related death (behind only car crashes). The study, "Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States," published in the July 2017
Pediatrics (published online on June 19), offers a comprehensive analysis of
firearm-related deaths and injuries showing nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year.
Researchers examined recent data from the
National Vital Statistics System,
National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and the
National Violent Death Reporting System and found that firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.
Of the nearly 1,300 children who die each year in the U.S. from a firearm-related injury (1.8 per 100,000 children), 53% were homicides, 38% were
suicides, 6% were
unintentional firearm deaths, and 3% were due to other intent. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Boys account for 82% of all child firearm deaths, and black children have the highest rates of firearm mortality overall due to much higher firearm homicide rates (4.1 per 100,000)—10 times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white and Asian/Pacific Islander children. The highest rates of firearm suicide, however, are among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic white children (2.2 per 100,000, 4-5 times higher than other groups). Firearm suicides among children have significantly trended upward since 2007, increasing 60%.
Researchers concluded that understanding the nature, magnitude and health impact of firearm
violence against children is an important first step to finding ways to prevent injuries and deaths of children from firearms.
Editor's Note: A related commentary, "Confronting the Firearm Injury Plague," is also being published in the July 2017 Pediatrics. "Firearm injuries are an all-too-common way of death for children and youth in the U.S.," writes commentary author Eliot W. Nelson, MD. "An even grimmer picture appears if we extend the age range through the teenage years to age 19, because firearm injury rates rise steeply in late adolescence: among children and youth aged 1 to 19, firearm injuries accounted for over 14% of all deaths in 2015. So, more than 1 of every 7 of children these ages who died of anything died of a gunshot wound."