New study shows children routinely injured or killed by guns

While gun control issues usually surface after major incidents like the fatal shooting of 20 elementary school students in Newtown, CT, a new study shows that children are routinely killed or injured by firearms.

The study, conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health, Denver Health and Children's Hospital Colorado, was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It examined trauma admissions at two emergency rooms in Denver and Aurora over nine years and found that 129 of 6,920 injured children suffered gunshot wounds.

"In 14% of these cases children managed to get access to unlocked, loaded guns," said the study's lead author Angela Sauaia, MD, Ph.D., at the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "In an area with so much disagreement, I think we can all agree that children should not have unsupervised access to unlocked, loaded guns."

The study shows that at least 14 children between the ages 4 and 17 are injured by firearms every year in the Denver metro area alone. That number excludes those found dead at the scene. It also doesn't count those who did not go to the emergency department, so Sauaia believes the injury rates exceed 14 or about 2 percent of all trauma admissions.

The number of gun injuries to children has changed little over the years.

According to state data, Colorado firearm death rates for children were 2.2 per 100,000 in the year 2000, 1.9 per 100,000 in 2009 and 2.8 per 100,000 in 2011.

"People tend to only pay attention to gun safety issues after these mass killings but this is happening all the time to our children and it's totally preventable," Sauaia said. "Are we as a society willing to accept that 2 percent of our children shot each year is an acceptable number?"

Sauaia, an associate professor of public health, medicine and surgery, studied child trauma admissions from 2000-2008 at Children's Hospital Colorado and Denver Health Medical Center. She found those who had been shot suffered significantly more severe wounds than children hurt with other objects and that the severity of the firearm injuries in increasing

At the same time, 50 percent of shooting victims required intensive care. And 13 percent died compared to 1.7 percent of children hurt in non-firearm incidents. The majority of those shot were adolescent males whose injuries were often self-inflicted.

Sauaia did not include the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, which killed 12 students and injured another 21, in her study. The 2012 Aurora theater shootings, which killed 12 and wounded 58 last year, were also left out.

"When we examined the data we found that 7 percent of the injuries to children were related to violence and of those 38 percent were related to guns," she said. "If the injury was gun related, the odds of dying were 10 times greater than from any other kind of injury."

Sauaia and her colleagues had done another study in 1993 that found that 42 percent of people who died from trauma incidents in Denver were killed by guns. That compared to 26 percent killed in car accidents.

She conducted both studies entirely without federal funding.

"There is little money to do gun research, which is unfortunate," Sauaia said. "But the point we can all agree upon is that, no matter what side of the gun divide you fall on, we need to store these weapons safely to protect our children from death or serious injury."

More information: JAMA. 2013;309[16]:1683-1685

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EAST: Stand-your-ground law linked to more gun injuries

Jan 18, 2013

(HealthDay)—States with a Stand-Your-Ground (SYG) law have significantly more pediatric assault injuries due to firearms, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Association ...

Recommended for you

Alcohol apps aimed at young

2 hours ago

Apps with names like 'Let's get Wasted!' and 'Drink Thin' have led a James Cook University Professor to call for Government action on alcohol advertising on mobile devices.

Proponent of the G spot takes on a critic

2 hours ago

Ashley Furin had a "very satisfying" sex life with her husband, she said. Then, seven years into their relationship, she had "an experience that rocked me to my core." They had found her G spot.

Child-safety expert offers tips for holiday gifts

3 hours ago

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, but it can quickly turn tragic if we're not careful, according to Bridget Boyd, MD, pediatric safety expert at Loyola University Health System.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
1.5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2013
What they forgot to mention in the article is that the vast majority of the guns which caused injury to a child where in homes where no one was allowed, due to conviction for a criminal offence, to own guns.

How about we make laws that criminals are not allowed to own a gun, woops already on the books, but barely enforced.

What this study really shows is that criminals with children don't care to keep their guns safe.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.