Analysis says that guns send 8,000 American kids a year to ER
Gun-related deaths happen at an alarming rate in America, and it's particularly disturbing when the tragedies involve children. After the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School, in which 17 students and teachers were killed by a lone gunman, the survivors became outspoken advocates to stop the epidemic of gun violence. This sparked a contentious national debate about gun control, with emotions running high on both sides. That debate continues today, and a first-of-its-kind study sheds light on important statistics.
In a new study published by JAMA Pediatrics, researchers analyzed ER visits for gun-related injuries among American kids (victims younger than 18 years old). They discovered that 11 of every 100,000 children and teens treated in US emergency rooms have gun-related injuries, including many from assaults. That amounts to about 8,300 kids injured each year, and 75,000 kids injured over the course of nine years, at a cost of almost $3 billion.
This the first nationally representative study on American emergency room visits, and was paid for by University funding. Nearly half of the gun injuries were from assaults, while almost 40 percent were unintentional and 2 percent were suicides. The average age of victims was 15, with boys visiting the ER five times more than girls. The researchers analyzed data from 2006 to 2014, and noticed that gun injuries mostly declined, falling from a rate of 15 per 100,000 in 2006 to about 7 per 100,000 in 2013. However, in the final year, there was an upswing, with injuries jumping to 10 per 100,000 in 2014.
"I don’t know what more we need to see in the world to be able to come together and tackle this problem," said Dr. Faiz Gani, the study's lead author and a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Of course, many American lawmakers are funded by the gun lobby, and therefore not eager to tackle gun control reform. Also, pressure from the gun lobby has restricted government funding for research on gun injuries and death. How can you solve a problem if you're unwilling to look at the information?
"It’s really important that we have an idea of the magnitude of life lost and injured and how much money we are spending... so we can prioritize it as a national health concern," said Dr. Denise Dowd, an emergency room physician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. "We need national surveillance systems just like we do with motor vehicle deaths, to track these injuries and figure out the circumstances."
The study's findings reveal that gun violence involving children is not limited to the horrific mass shootings that attract the most media attention. "It’s extraordinarily sad because these children grow up in fear and it affects their ability to feel safe and comfortable at home or in school. It has an enormous ripple effect on child development," said Dr. Robert Sege, the co-author of an American Academy of Pediatrics gun injuries policy.
Too often, when people discuss gun control, they engage in irrational slippery-slope arguments, trying to paint the other side as extreme. And sometimes people are so passionate about this issue they become extreme - in Sacha Baron Cohen's new show, he tricked Republicans into filming an advertisement calling for kids to have guns. Hopefully in the future more funding will be allowed to study the facts about gun-related deaths, and more lawmakers will be capable of reasonable thoughts and common-sense action, without being nakedly beholden to the gun lobby.