A quarter of youths with assault injury own a gun

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1. 23% of adolescents (14-21yo) presenting to an urban emergency department with injuries suffered from assault reported firearm possession. 

2. Only 17% of adolescents with possession of a firearm obtained the weapon legally.

3. Possession of a firearm was significantly correlated with male gender, illicit drug use and retaliatory attitudes.  

Study Rundown: Homicide is the second most common cause of death among youth aged 10 to 24 in the United States.  Importantly, youth receiving care for violent injury have high readmission rates for assault and an approximately 20% five-year mortality due to homicide. In order to better understand risk factors for reinjury related to assault and to aid in creating violence prevention programs, this study evaluated the incidence of firearm possession among adolescents aged 14-21 years of age who presented to an urban emergency department with injuries from assault. 689 patients were included in the study with 159 (23.1%) respondents admitting to gun possession. Of these, only 17% obtained the firearm legally. Gun possession was significantly correlated with illicit drug use, recent experience with serious physical violence, and aggressive/retaliatory attitudes. Although this study is somewhat limited in its reliance on self-reported risk behaviors, the data presented demonstrates that youth seeking care for assault-related injuries are at risk for moribidity and mortality related to firearm use.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Role of the Pediatrician in Youth Violence Prevention (AAP policy statement)

In-Depth [cross-sectional cohort]: This study evaluated firearm possession among adolescents aged 14-21 presenting to an urban emergency department with assault-related injuries.  689 individuals filled out a self-administered computer survey. 159 (23.1%) of respondents admitted to firearm possession in the past 6 months. Firearm owners were most likely to be male, less likely to be African American, and less likely to receive public assistance, interpreted as more likely to be of higher socioeconomic status. Other risk factors related to firearm possession included increased rates of exposure to violent experiences including group fighting (p < 0.001), and higher rates of gang membership (p < 0.001). Patients with firearms were more likely to abuse prescription opiates (19.5% vs 11.3% p < 0.01) and consume alcohol before a fight (33.3% vs 19.8% p < 0.01) when compared to those who had not used firearms.83% of those who admitted to firearm possession obtained the gun illegally. 17.6% of patients with guns owned automatic or semiautomatic weapons.

By Emilia Hermann and Leah H. Carr

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