20 kids a day in America are hospitalized due to gunshot wounds

A new article in the journal Pediatrics takes a look at how many children and adolescents were hospitalized in 2009 due to gunshot wounds. 2009 is the most recent year for which such data were available.

It is important to note that the gunshot injuries are the figures for children who are less than 20 years old at the time of the shooting. It only includes children in the US who were admitted to hospitals. It does not include those who were: not transported to a hospital because the wound was considered minor or those declared dead at the scene, died in transit to the hospital, or died in the emergency room before being admitted as inpatients.

Thus, the actual number of children wounded by gunshots is going to be higher.

The data was compiled from over 4,100 different hospitals in the US from a total of 44 states.

boy with gun kid child

Boy with gun via Shutterstock.

Firearm injuries are one of the top three causes of death in the pediatric age group. One of four adolescents in the 15-19 year old age group who dies, dies because of a firearm injury. In 2010, there were 3,459 deaths of children

In 2009, there were almost 7,400 hospital admissions of children for gunshot wounds. That comes out to about twenty children per day who are hospitalized because of gunshot wounds. That means that more than twenty children per day are shot, since (for the above reasons) not all children shot get admitted to the hospital.

453 childrden died during their hospitalizations.

Of those who survived, a number had injuries (both physical and psychiatric) that could be disabling and requires years (or more) of chronic treatment (e.g., about 15% of children had a traumatic brain injury that may requires years of therapy.)

About 84% of these shootings involved teens in the 15-19 year old age group. Yet some were in children who were less than 4 years old, a few under 1 year old. About 9 out of 10 involved boys.

Some shootings were gang-related, some were the result of abuse, some were the result of accidents. some suicide attempts, in some the causes were undetermined.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association:

“We’ve heard figures like that before,” Benjamin said of the 20-victim daily average. “It’s a lot more common than people think, even though that’s a pretty robust number,” he added.

“People have firearms at home for a variety of reasons. Some people think they are safer with them, but the evidence shows that’s not the case,” Benjamin said. “Far too often, there was a firearm under a mattress or a parent who put a firearm up high in the closet, way in the back — but that’s exactly where a child will look.”

More from a co-author of the study, who thinks society needs to do a lot more to make guns safer:

“The AAP [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommends that the safest home for a family is a home without guns,” said co-author Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and director of the division of family and child advocacy at Boston Medical Center. “If there is a gun in the home, the gun should be stored unloaded and locked, and the ammunition should be stored separately.”


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I know what you mean

  • Indigo

    Odd how they get those notions stuck in their brain patterns and can’t think past them.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    It’s a small price to pay so the idiots who think their personal arsenals are protection against the big, bad government can feel safe.

  • docsterx

    Of course, these statistics are only on REPORTED gunshot wounds. How many happen any day in remote areas, for example, resulting in minor injuries that never get reported? Or the children who are just missed by a bullet. Or the parent who manages to snatch the loaded gun from a toddler just before it could have gone off.

  • Anonymous

    Yes and they die because of gangs, domestic violence, accidents and other things that parents are “supposed” to prevent. There is also the first study available to test how kids react to a handgun left in the room. It’s empty in the experiment, obviously, but many kids try to point it at themselves/others, smack it, and even pull the trigger.

    Then of course there are the genius parents who trust their kids with a gun…obviously not understanding how their motor skills work, given the recoil of the gun and other problems.

  • Anonymous

    Read what Cheney said about his heart donor. It’s pretty telling.

  • Hue-Man

    Americans keep ignoring an obvious benefit of murdering all these young people – rich people have an increased supply of healthy young organs – hearts, livers, kidneys, corneas – for transplantation. Remind me about “the sanctity of human life”….

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Certain ones, perhaps. As a gun owner myself who would like to see universal background checks, many types of non-sport guns to be banned outright, and for gun ownership to be as much an earned privilege as a driver’s license, I find the sheer numbers of people — adults and children — being shot each day in America to be very disturbing.

  • docsterx

    That’s true. But this is the first study that documented the number of hospital admissions (and injuries, deaths, etc.) of children. Some of those nearly 7500 children will be permanently disabled and traumatized. Their parents may have to care for them for the rest of their lives. The children, their families, friends, classmates, teachers, etc. may be permanently traumatized by the shooting. Imagine being one of the Newtown parents or a teacher there, or one of those other little ones who survived that horror. Those who know these shot children are probably going through similar experiences.

    Gunshot wounds are one of the top three causes of death in children. One of the top three and those dead children were killed by people. Not cancer, not heart disease, not infections – people killed them. The causes of death of children in the rest of the world? Infections, cancer, heart disease, malnutrition, birth complications, congenital illnesses, etc. Except in war-torn areas of the world, gunshot wounds account for less than ONE PERCENT of childhood deaths. Yet, here in the US gunshot injuries are a leading cause of death.

  • Anonymous

    The thing is, it’s not just deaths that are the problem. Guns make just about any crime possible. Robbery, sexual assault, threats. Gangs wouldn’t be very effective without guns, nor would drug and prostitution rings. There is so much more crime in general. Deaths just account for part of the effects of gun violence.

    I’ve walked around cities in Europe at night, with my belongings, which I would never do at home in the city in the US. Apart from an isolated incident I heard about in Europe, where a robber held a knife to someone’s throat, most days pass without a hitch.

  • docsterx

    Pediatrics has made the abstract and the complete article available to everyone for free. Anyone interested in reading it first-hand: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/01/22/peds.2013-1809.abstract Link to PDF of the complete article is to the right of the abstract.

  • rerutled

    The courts have interpreted the 2nd narrowly in the past, and now they don’t. In the future, they will interpret it narrowly again, and then they won’t (again). The 2nd Amendment is equivocal, and the SCOTUS is too, and will always be as such. Until and unless, as I said, the 2nd Amendment is repealed.

  • noGOP

    These figures are not in the least disturbing to gun owners.

  • cole3244

    nra’s solution, more guns so children will know how to handle them and avoid accidents, its a win win, knowledgeable kids and more money for the gun lobby whats not to like, gun nut 101 lol!

  • olandp

    There are millions of children in this country, only 20 a day admitted to the hospital? I’m sure that with the help of the NRA we can get that number higher, much, much higher. It says so in the bible.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Nope, the courts have interpreted the second amendment narrowly in the past and are very likely to return to that view when Scalia has gone to meet his maker. Provided that a Democrat appoints his successor.

    People are very fond of saying what cannot possibly happen and they are almost always wrong. Reagan was completely wrong about the Soviet Union, he thought it would last forever and he was sacred witless by it. People said there would never be gay marriage. Three years ago legalizing pot was inconceivable.

    There is strong national support for gun control. Changing the supreme court bench is vastly easier than changing the constitution. And Congress could destroy the NRA quite quickly by cutting off their funding. All they need to do is to repeal the measure that protects gun makers from civil lawsuits. No gun makers, no contributions to the NRA. Oh by the way, those million members, over half of them are long dead. Most of the NRA funds come from corporate sponsorships these days.

    The Koch brothers have been trying to defund the left for years, time to do the same to them. Guns are the only product that are designed to injure and murder. Why not hold the manufacturers, dealers and importers liable?

  • Indigo

    We accept this as part of the national decision to enshrine the Second Amendment in Cowboy Temple.

  • rerutled

    This situation will not be permanently changed until and unless the 2nd Amendment is repealed. Although regulations may temporarily and slightly restrict the availability of firearms in some geographic areas, it is only a matter of time before such restrictions reach a Supreme Court, and there will always be Justices who interpret the 2nd Amendment broadly. Abolishing the 2nd Amendment, it should be noted, would not make firearms disappear: Americans still have the 5th and 14th Amendments insuring due process rights, but these are balanced against other rights, whereas the 2nd Amendment has not been. However, such a repeal will never occur in this United States. So here we are, and here we’ll remain.

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