16 kids a day hospitalized due to gun injuries, study finds

NEW YORK — Sixteen children are hospitalized each day from gun injuries, a new study finds, with the majority of gunshot wounds to older teens not being the result of an accident.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York examined a database that tracks inpatient hospital stays for children, hoping to find statistics on the prevalence and impact of gun-related injuries on youths in the United States.

Person holding a handgun
A new study finds that 16 children are hospitalized every day after suffering a gun-related injury.

In the course of their study, the researchers found that firearm injuries were responsible for more than 5,800 youths entering inpatient hospitals in 2012. On average, this equaled about 16 children being admitted to a hospital per day.

Delving further into the statistics, the study found that while the majority of firearm injuries for those under age 15 were accidental, those aged 15 to 19 who sustained injuries were victims of assault more often than not.

“Our findings add urgency to the need for preventive public health measures to reduce gun injuries in children,” says lead author Dr. Alyssa H. Silver, attending physician and assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in a news release. “The fact that 57% of firearm-related injuries in children under 15 years old were unintentional, for example, highlights the need for improved gun safety and storage practices.”

The overwhelming majority— nearly 90 percent— of child gun victims were male. Over half of all hospitalized children were African-American, despite only comprising about 13 percent of the population.

Poverty played a role in one’s likelihood to fall victim to firearm injury: 53 percent of those hospitalized lived in a zip code in the bottom quartile of median household income.

Perhaps most alarming for victims of gun trauma is the cost of an average hospital stay: $22,644 over six days. In aggregate, this cost amounts to about $130 million a year for Americans.

The high rate of accidental firearm injuries amongst younger children “highlights the need for improved gun safety and storage practices,” argues lead author Dr. Alyssa H. Silver.

Dr. Silver also recommended that funding for firearm-based injury prevention be increased, as last year just $2.2 million was designated for such research.

The study’s findings will be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.