Medical study: Gun ownership tied to rising child gunshot wounds, death

More children are landing in the hospital every year dead or injured from gunfire, according to a study presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The problem, the authors say, is just having a gun in the house, especially a handgun.

The findings are making headlines but they come as little surprise. The authors, Drs. Arin L. Madenci and Christopher B. Weldon, tallied child gunshot hospitalization rates from 1997 to 2009, which they report rose from 4300 to 7700 per year. Child gunshot deaths in the same period went from 317 to 503. Factors such as whether guns are kept loaded or locked up at home make a difference. But 77 percent of all the shootings involved a handgun. Shotguns came second, accounting for 19 percent.

The doctors’ public-safety recommendations:
[blockquote]Although recent policy proposals to limit military-style semi-automatic assault weapons are important, handguns remain the leading injurious agent and may be a more efficacious target… There was a significant relationship between percent-household gun ownership and percent-childhood gunshot wounds occurring in the home… Policies designed to reduce the number of household firearms, especially handguns, may reduce childhood gunshot wounds.[/blockquote]

The study comes as questions about gun ownership rates in the United States have also made news.

Although famously hard to track accurately, recent surveys suggest gun ownership is falling in the United States. It was roughly 50 percent in the 1970s and has steadily declined since, hitting 35 percent in the 2000s, according to data analyzed this year by The New York Times.

Of course, the alleged reduced percentage of gun owners doesn’t necessarily mean that there are fewer homes with guns. The country’s population grew by 110 million between 1970 and 2012.