BACKGROUND: Gun injury is a leading cause of death among US children and adolescents. Unintentional firearm death disproportionately affects youth. Reports have shown that at least a third of US homes with children have firearms. When children are fatally injured by guns, the location is most often a home, the shooter is family, the gun owner is a relative, and the gun most often originates from the home, where it was left unlocked.
METHODS: We conducted an Internet search of pediatric (0-18 years old) fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries from January 1 to August 31, 2014, in the United States, querying the terms shot, gun, accident, and year-old for media reports. Cases were screened for intent and coded for demographics, location, gun specifics, circumstances, relationship between the victim, shooter, gun owner, and any resultant charges.
RESULTS: A total of 277 unintentional pediatric gun injury events were reviewed, two-thirds were nonfatal. Half of the victims were younger than 13 years; 25.3% were younger than 7 years, 80% of the victims and 85.6% of the shooters were male. Of shooters, 84.3% were the child victim themselves, a family member, or a friend/acquaintance. Seventy-seven percent of the events took place in a residence. When gun ownership was reported, 68% were owned by a family member. When charges were reported, a third were against minors.
CONCLUSION: This study reinforced previous studies that unintentional child firearm injuries predominantly involve the home, family guns, young children, and males, and most could be prevented through adult responsibility for minimizing child access and securing storage of firearms. We further learned that media accounts frequently did not report on gun ownership or charges, details which might increase community awareness or inform policies useful to prevention. Shooters, not owners, were more often charged in unintentional child injuries, and minors were charged even when Child Access Prevention laws could be applied.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiologic study, level 4.
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