Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death among U.S. children

Firearm-related deaths are the third 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).

A new study, “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States,” published in the July 2017 Pediatrics (published online on June 19), offers an analysis of firearm-related deaths and injuries.

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 percent were homicides
  • 38 percent were suicides
  • 6 percent were unintentional firearm deaths
  • 3 percent were due to other intent
  • boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected
  • boys account for 82 percent of all child firearm deaths.

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 percent.

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.

Safe Kids Worldwide provides these gun safety tips:

Store Guns and Ammunition Safely

  1. Store guns in a locked location, unloaded, out of the reach and sight of children.
  2. Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of the reach and sight of children.
  3. Keep the keys and combinations hidden.
  4. When a gun is not in its lock box, keep it in your line of sight.
  5. Make sure all guns are equipped with effective, child-resistant gun locks.
  6. If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or an unlocked car, provide them with a locked place to hold it while they are in your home.
  7. Leaving guns on a nightstand, table or other place where a child can gain access may lead to injuries and fatalities.

Talk to Your Kids and Their Caregivers

  1. Explain how a gun your kids might see on television or a video game is different from a gun in real life. “A gun, in real life, can really hurt people.”
  2. Teach kids never to touch a gun and to immediately tell an adult if they see one.
  3. Talk to grandparents and the parents of friends your children visit about safe gun storage practices.

Dispose of Guns You Don’t Need

If you decide that you no longer need to have a gun in your home, dispose of it in a safe way. Consult with law enforcement in your community on how to do so.

MedLine Plus offers these additional tips:

  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  • Don’t keep guns in your home if someone in your family has a mental illness, severe depression, or potential for violence.
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