Guns Continue to Kill American Children

 American Academy of Pediatrics

 “1.5 million children live in households where guns are kept loaded and unlocked.”

Firearm-related deaths continue to be one of the top three causes of death of American youth, reported from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Journal Council on Injury, Violence 2012-2013. 

In 2010, there were 2,711 infant, child, and teen firearm deaths. On average there were seven such fatalities daily and 52 weekly. (Center for Disease Control)

Among high-income countries for youth 15 to 24, U.S. gun homicide rates were 35.7 times higher. For children 5 to 14 years of age, U.S. gun suicide rates were 8 times higher and unintentional death rates from firearm injuries in the U.S. were 10 times higher. The difference in rates may be related to the easy access to firearms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) continues to support specific measures to reduce the deaths of children that occur daily. These include the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons; and the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use.

Parent responsibility cannot be over-emphasized. Safe gun storage (guns unloaded and locked, ammunition locked separately) reduces risk. Notably firearm safety education programs directed at children are ineffective. Parents must not place the responsibility for their choice of keeping a dangerous killing instrument, a firearm, in the home, into the hands and minds of their children.

The AAP states, “The absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.”

In 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death for American youth 15 to 19 years of age. Firearms remain the most common method used for suicide in this age group, accounting for 736 deaths (3.4 per 100 000). Of all common methods used for attempting suicide, firearms are the most lethal, with approximately a 90% mortality rate. Adolescents are at a relatively high risk of attempting suicide as a consequence of their often impulsive behavior often due to immature judgmental development.

At CAGV’s forum in February 2013, we enumerated the financial costs to society directly resulting from gun-related assaults and homicides.

$2.8 million per firearms fatality, $249,000 per hospitalization for gunshot wounds, $73,000 per ER visit for gunshot wounds, $22,400 each for unintentional shooting, $18,400 each for gun-assault injury, $5,400 each for suicide, $1,091,768 for an injured paraplegic victim, costs only for people age 24 and under: $41 billion. (Center for Disease Control)

Further violence costs the U.S. taxpayers over $70 billion annually. In contrast, the Department of Education has an annual budget of $67.2 billion and hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $80 billion in damage.

Phaedra Corso, lead author of a June 2007 study and associate professor at the University of Georgia and health economist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the study illustrates how much money can be saved by investing in programs that decrease interpersonal violence and suicide.

Corso added that economic costs provide, at best, an incomplete measure of the toll of violence. Victims of violence are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and a host of other problems such as substance abuse. “There is a huge quality of life component that this research doesn’t capture,” Corso said. “Thinking about the Virginia Tech victims, no one can put a value on the impact the violence had on those families and students.”

Add to that statement, the national grief shared with the Newtown families, plus the burden of grief we all share with the daily deaths of over 82 Americans each day. To become more aware of the scope of America’s daily death toll, visit this interactive website (see illustration below) link here:

And then begin to think, what can you do about this in your home and community?

Toni Wellen is the chair of the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence. She lives in Carpinteria.
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