The statistics are truly sobering: About 20 children or teens in America are hospitalized each day because of guns — that's nearly one kid per hour. And six percent of those hospitalizations end in death, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The unprecedented study was the first of its kind to report on non-fatal injuries related to guns and kids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention places injuries from guns as the second leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 19 years old, trailing car crashes. The data used in the study is from 2011, which was the most recent available to researchers. Out of 7,391 hospitalizations that year, 453 were from firearm-related injuries. Even though new statistics are not available yet, it's safe to assume that the numbers may be even higher now.
The damage caused by gun-related injuries rarely gets the same attention as fatalities, "but that every day, 20 of our children are hospitalized for firearms injury, often suffering severe and costly injuries, clearly shows that this is a national public health problem," says Robert Sege, director of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy at Boston Medical Center and a co-author of the study.
The racial and gender divide in the study is also very pronounced. Nearly 90 percent of gun-injury hospitalizations were for males, and the hospitalization rate for black males was more than 10 times the rate for white males.
Black children and adolescents comprised 47% of all hospitalizations, 54% of hospitalizations resulting from assaults, 36% from unintentional injuries and 54% from undetermined causes.
The report also found that 75 percent of hospitalizations in children under age 10 were linked to unintentional injuries. This shouldn't be terribly surprising, as we've seen that guns in America kill more people than terrorists worldwide — with the beginning of 2013 witnessing more accidental deaths from toddlers with guns than actual terrorists in the United States.
If there is a gun in the home, the chance of accidental death is four times higher than normal. There are as many guns in the United States as there are people, with Americans possessing as many as 310 million firearms, according to the Children's Defense Fund. The organization found that nearly three times as many U.S. kids were injured by guns in 2010 than soldiers in the Afghanistan war that same year.
The study's significance has particular resonance now, since December and January seem to have been a particularly gruesome month for school shootings, with gun incidents at South Carolina State University, Delaware Valley Charter School in Philadelphia, Arapahoe High School in Colorado, and Berrendo Middle School in New Mexico.
As the study's authors note, the report only highlights the effects of gun injuries on America's youth. Though the physical pain is excruciating enough, there is no limit to the emotional toll gun injuries play in a child's life. For all the media attention over mass shootings like Newton, there are scores of voiceless kids out there in Detroit, Chicago, East St. Louis, Camden, and Baltimore who have to suffer with the mental repercussions of those events — not counting the cost of hospital fees and possible therapy for them and their family. Since when does the right to bear arms give people the right to injure an innocent child for life?