Over 7,000 children are hospitalized or killed due to gun violence every year, according to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics. An additional 3,000 children die from gun injuries before making it to the hospital, bringing the total number of injured or killed adolescents to 10,000 each year.
The new study, led by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, highlights the toll gun violence has on child mortality rates in the country. Doctors surveyed the most recently released data from 2009 that tracked pediatric hospital stays.
“This study reinforces what we know from the mortality data,” Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told NBC News. “We have an extraordinary health burden in our youth associated with firearms injuries.”
In the 2009 Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), 7,391 children under the age of 20 had been hospitalized for injuries from firearms and the majority of those gunshot injuries —4,559—resulted from intentional firearm assaults. 2,149 of those injured were accidents, and 270 were suicide attempts. Of the children who were hospitalized, 453 – 6% – died from their injuries.
“That’s more than 7,000 children injured badly enough to be hospitalized,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. John Leventhal, a pediatrics professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “All are unnecessary hospitalizations because preventing gun violence is something that can actually be done.”
Levanthal pointed out that parents should keep their guns locked in a safe hiding place and keep them separate from the ammunition to decrease the high number of accidental injuries, especially for smaller children.
Webster also suggested to NBC News that the government should make it illegal for individuals under 21 to own a firearm, referring to research that shows a peak in homicides between young adults age 18 and 20. “While you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun from a dealer, if you’re an 18-year-old you can go to a private seller and legally purchase a handgun in 38 out of 50 states,” Webster said.
Webster also compared the U.S.’ standing with other high income nations and pointed out that the mortality rate from firearms in the U.S. is nearly 10 times higher than the rates in other wealthy nations. “This is a very unique and abnormal problem that such a wealthy nation should have such high mortality and morbidity in youth related to firearms,” he said.
After the devastating tragedy at Sandy Hook in December 2012, the gun policy debate intensified, coinciding with the rising number of children killed by guns in the U.S. every year. In the first 14 school days of 2014, there have been at least 7 school shootings: at Wakefield Elementary School in Calif., Berrendo Middle School in New Mexico, Liberty Technology High School in Tenn., Albany High School in Georgia, Delaware Valley Charter School in Penn., Widener University in Penn., and most recently, Purdue University in Indiana. In 2013, there were 28 school shootings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in 2012 that “firearm-related deaths continue as 1 of the top 3 causes of death in American youth.”
“America’s pediatricians remain undeterred and united in our desire to see significant policy change to address this public health crisis,” the AAP wrote on the one-year anniversary of Newtown, pushing for tighter background checks, an assault weapons ban, and federal research on gun violence prevention.