A research team led by Katherine Fowler and Linda Dahlberg at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study June 19 examining the cause and commonality of firearm-related deaths between 2002 and 2014 among children aged 0-17.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, proclaimed that gun-related deaths are the third-leading cause of death for children in the U.S., claiming 1,300 lives each year. In the same year, another 5,800 will suffer from non-lethal gunshot wounds. Approximately 19 children in the U.S. die or are injured from firearms each day.
The researchers compiled statistics from national databases on firearm deaths and injuries, documenting demographic data like age, ethnicity and sex.
They found that 91 percent of all gun-related deaths of minors from high-income nations happened in the U.S. About 53 percent of those minors were murdered, 38 percent committed suicide, and 6 percent died unintentionally. The remaining 3 percent were either not documented or the result of an altercation with law enforcement.
Older minors aged 13-17 were 12 times more likely to die by gunshot than children aged 12 and under. Boys died much more frequently than girls, accounting for 82 percent of all deaths.
African American children had the highest rate of all firearm deaths at 4.1 out of every 100,000 children. White and Native American children were four times more likely to commit suicide than African American and Hispanic children, at a rate of 2.2 out of every 100,000 children.
In terms of injury-related deaths, gunshot wounds are outranked only by car crashes, Reuters reports; however, while car safety has improved, pediatric experts say that gun-related deaths are still high.
One particular area of concern for the researchers was suicide. Death rates by self-inflicted gunshot wounds were 60 percent higher in 2014 than they had been seven years earlier, indicating an upward trend.
Dr. Eliot Nelson, a researcher at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital in Burlington wrote an editorial to accompany the study. He acknowledged that while the American Academy of Pediatrics maintains that "the safest home is one without firearms," pediatric experts need to find a way to address gun-owners:
"... We should be mindful that [our belief about guns at home] may be off-putting to parents who keep guns for hunting or self-protection, and who are part of a widespread and deeply rooted social gun culture in our country, especially in rural states. We do need to try to engage those gun owners."
In a separate paper for the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Nelson suggested taking a routine approach to address firearm safety.
"Given the impulsivity, risk-taking and unpredictability of adolescence, we should promote safe storage as a routine measure rather than only when a concern or crisis arises."