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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