The number of American children and teenagers who die from gunshot wounds has risen nearly 60% in a decade, according to a new report led by two Boston doctors.
The study, which was presented at a conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in Orlando, Fl., found that nearly 500 children die from gunshot wounds every year, and about 7,500 are hospitalized every year with gunshot wounds.
The two doctors examined 36 million pediatric hospitalizations between 1997 to 2009.
According to one of the study's co-authors, Dr. Arin Madenci, eight out of 10 children with firearm wounds were injured by handguns.
"Handguns account for the majority of childhood gunshot wounds and this number appears to be increasing over the last decade," Madenci said at the conference. "Furthermore, states with higher percentages of household firearm ownership also tended to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home."
Presenting with Dr. Chistopher Weldon from the Boston Children's Hospital, Dr. Madenci said the national debate on guns should shift focus to the dangers presented by smaller weapons such as handguns, which are used far more often in accidents and crimes than semi-automatic assault weapons.
"Policies designed to reduce the number of household firearms, especially handguns, may more effectively reduce the number of gunshot injuries in children," Dr. Madenci said.
"While public health resources and policies have largely focused on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, it may be more crucial to intervene on handguns," he said, according to Medical Daily.
The report finds that the number of US children and teens hospitalized with gunshot wounds rose from 4,270 in 1997 to 7,730 in 2009; the number who died from those wounds climbed from 317 to 503.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest statistic of roughly 28,676 people who have died from guns in the U.S. since Newtown.