A new study found that nearly 1,300 children are killed by guns each year in the United States. That means that every day, 19 children are shot and die from their wounds.
The study also found that 91 percent of all children who die from firearms in the world come from the U.S. and that guns are the third leading cause of death for children aged between 1 and 17.
The findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers analyzed data from 2012 to 2014 and found that, on average, over 5,790 children in the country receive medical treatment in an emergency room each year for injuries made with guns or firearms.
Over 1,300 children die each year from gun-related injuries
The findings also included a report showing which U.S. states saw most of the deaths among children and which children are more at risk of suffering a gun-related injury. Doctors said that there are methods available to safely secure and store firearms in homes, and they recommend that if parents are keeping guns in their houses, they should follow such practices.
The researchers looked at data on fatal firearm injuries from death certificates in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System database. To analyze nonfatal firearm injuries, they examined data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database.
They looked at trends that may have occurred from 2002 to 2014 by analyzing deaths and injuries among children up to age 17. The researchers found that among all the deaths reported, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, 6 percent were unintentional, and 3 percent were either undetermined or related to law enforcement. Among the injuries reported, they found that 71 percent were assault, 21 percent were unintentional, 5 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined, and the remaining 3 percent were from self-harm.
Dr. Thomas Weiser, a trauma surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, said he has treated firearm injuries in children. In one of those cases, a third-grade girl was injured from a gunshot, after one of her classmates brought his parent’s gun to school, and the firearm accidentally fired itself, injuring the little girl. In another case, he recalled seeing an injury involving a 9-year-old boy who received a handgun for his birthday.
“He shot his 6-year-old brother, playing in the backyard,” said Weiser, according to CNN.
The South concentrates the highest rates of children homicides with firearms
Weiser, who did not participate in the new study, noted that the findings show that boys are more likely to be injured by guns than girls. In the study, the researchers reported that boys accounted for 82 percent of all child firearm deaths and over 84 percent of all nonfatal firearm injuries medically treated in the report. African-American children reported the highest rates of gun-related homicide, while white and Native American children showed the highest rates of firearm suicide.
The patterns of gun-related deaths appeared to change by state. The District of Columbia and Louisiana accounted for the highest rates of child firearm deaths. Several states, however, including Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and New Hampshire, reported 20 or fewer deaths, the researchers noted.
The findings also showed that Southern states concentrate the highest rates of homicides, across the Midwestern states of Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio; as well as in California, Nevada, Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Suicides, which were calculated only for children aged 10 or older in the study, were widely dispersed across the country. However, previous research has found that rates of suicide by firearm are disproportionately higher in rural areas compared to urban or larger cities.
Better measures must be taken to prevent children from accessing firearms
Dr. David Wesson, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital who was not involved in the study, said the rates of suicide seen in the study were among the most disturbing trends.
“It’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s state of mind and if they’re depressed,” said Wesson, according to CNN. “Just having access to a gun in a situation where you’re upset with what’s going on at school or with your friends, or your own internal emotional state, it unfortunately can lead to suicide. It’s very important for parents to be aware of that, particularly if they have guns in the home.”
Overall, the findings showed that older children, aged between 13 to 17 years, had a rate of fatal firearm injury that was over 12 times higher than the rate for children 12 years old or younger. Katherine Fowler, a behavioral scientist for the CDC and lead author of the study, said that these are preventable injuries that have a significant public health impact on early death and disability among children.
She noted that while firearm homicides of children increased between 2002 and 2007, they significantly decreased between 2007 and 2014.
“This is a very encouraging trend. There are many evidence-based programs and policies that have been found to be effective in preventing youth violence, including youth homicide,” told Fowler to CNN. “Preventing such injuries and ensuring that all children have safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments remains one of our most important priorities.”