State Laws Have Big Impact on Kids' Gun Injuries

FRIDAY, Sept. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Gun violence is more common among teens living in cities while youths in rural areas are more likely to be involved in gun-related accidents, according to new research.

And a separate study says stricter gun laws could help address both issues. Researchers found these laws are associated with lower rates of gun-related injuries among young people.

"Compared with other causes of death in the United States, there is a relative scarcity of research on understanding the epidemiology of firearm injuries, and this is particularly true for the pediatric population," said study lead author Dr. Bradley Herrin, a pediatrician at the Yale School of Medicine.

To investigate gun-related injuries among kids and teens, researchers looked at a database of hospital admissions involving guns and patients younger than age 20. Almost 22,000 hospitalizations occurred in 2006, 2009 and 2012. The researchers compared the details of these cases, including where and why they occurred.

The study found that the age of children who suffer gun-related injuries was tied to where they live. Most kids hospitalized for such an injury were between ages 15 and 19 and lived in a city. Often, the injuries were the result of violence or assault, the study showed.

However, gun-related admissions involving younger kids, aged 5 to 14, were more common in rural areas, the researchers said. Overall, most gun-related injuries involving children were the result of an accident.

Meanwhile, suicide attempts involving guns were more common among teens living in rural areas, the researchers found.

"This study helps to build our understanding of the problem by providing more detailed data on hospitalizations for firearm injuries in different pediatric age groups in both urban and rural communities," Herrin said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

More stringent gun laws could help curb gun violence and prevent gun-related accidents among kids, according to a separate study. Researchers found that the parts of the United States with the strictest gun laws also have the lowest rates of gun-related injuries involving children.

For the second study, researchers compared regional gun laws with national emergency room records of injuries due to guns from 2009 to 2013. Overall, they analyzed almost 112,000 ER visits for gun-related injuries involving children. During this time, 6,500 children and teens died and more than one-third were admitted to the hospital for their injuries.

The researchers ranked each region where these injuries occurred using the Brady Gun Law Score. This score ranks every state based on policy approaches to regulating guns and ammunition. This includes safety measures, such as background checks on gun sales, reporting lost or stolen firearms, and restricting the purchase of weapons among high-risk groups.

Based on this scoring system, the Northeast ranked highest with the toughest gun laws and a high score of 45. The Midwest and Western regions trailed far behind with a score of 9 and the South received the lowest score of 8.

After breaking the incidents down by state and region, the researchers found the Northeast, which has the most rigorous gun laws, also had the lowest rates of child injuries due to guns.

Gun injury rates among kids in the Northeast fell during the study period with a rate of 40 incidents per 100,000 ER visits. Meanwhile, there were 62 injuries to children and teens per 100,000 ER visits in the Midwest and 68 injuries involving kids per 100,000 ER visits in the West.

The South had 71 injuries among youths per 100,000 ER visits. This region had the highest rate of firearm injuries and the most lax gun laws, the study showed.

"Our research confirms that regions that have stricter gun laws have a significantly lower rate of firearm injuries among children," said Dr. Monika Goyal. She's an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C.

"It also suggests how gun laws may help to reduce the number of pediatric firearm victims being treated in the emergency department each year," she said.

Both studies were presented this week at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, in Chicago. Meeting presentations are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information on children and gun safety.

SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics, news releases, Sept. 15, 2017