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Two New Epidemiologic Studies Demonstrate Ongoing Worrisome Trends in Firearm Deaths and Injuries Among Children

August 21, 2023

In 2020, firearm deaths became the leading cause of death among children in the US, overtaking motor vehicle collisions. There has been much concern about the potential impact of increasing firearm purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are the changes in child and adolescent firearm injury and death during the pandemic? We are early releasing two important new studies this month in Pediatrics addressing this issue.

The study by Roberts et al (10.1542/peds.2023-061296) analyzes national data trends in firearm deaths from 2018 to 2021 among children and adolescents using a CDC database. During these four years, the firearm death rate increased 41.5%. In 2021, most of these firearm deaths were due to homicides (64.3%) followed by suicides (29.9%).  A small but important proportion (3.5%) resulted from unintentional injury. The authors found differences in the risk of firearm death by age, gender, race, ethnicity, geography, and socioeconomic status. I encourage you to examine the details. The discussion section of this article highlights what we can learn from these data and what we can do to stop this extremely concerning trend of increasing mortality from firearm deaths in children and adolescents.

The second study describes firearm injury rates, severity, and outcomes in Los Angeles County between January 2018 and December 2021. O’Guinn et al (10.1542/peds.2023-062530) present results from a multicenter, retrospective serial cross-sectional study of children and teenagers who experienced firearm injuries before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study assesses the risk of firearm injuries by the Child Opportunity Index (COI)—a metric that incorporates 29 indicators of educational, health, environmental, social, and economic opportunities available at the census tract and ZIP code level. The authors hypothesized that there would be an increase in firearm injuries in youth during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased exposure time to firearms stored in the home because of their stay-at-home requirements. Interestingly, they found no overall difference before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. But they did find increased rates of firearm injuries in neighborhoods with the lowest COI. Like Roberts et al, O’Guinn et al also call for implementation of strategies to reduce the injury rates, with a focus on neighborhoods with the lowest COI.

If you want to address firearm injury and death in your community, link to both articles and learn more.

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