Firearm Legislation Stringency and Firearm-Related Fatalities among Children in the US

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Firearm Legislation Stringency and Firearm-Related Fatalities among Children in the US

Category: Firearm Policies, Homicide, Suicide, Youth|Journal: Journal of the American College of Surgeons (full text)|Author: J Chandler, J Taylor, K Staudenmayer, S Chao, S Madhavan|Year: 2019

Background

Firearm-related injuries are the second leading cause of pediatric deaths in the US. We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of both state child access prevention (CAP) laws and gun regulations on pediatric firearm mortality. We hypothesized that states with more stringent firearm legislation had lower pediatric firearm mortality.

Study Design

We used 2014-2015 firearm mortality data from the Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, 2014 Brady scores (used to quantify stringency of state gun regulations) and CAP laws. State-level covariates were obtained from government sources, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Education. Spearman rank correlations and linear regression were used to determine the relationship between overall pediatric firearm mortality and gun regulations. We also examined the relationship between gun regulations and firearm-related homicides and suicides.

Results

Annually, there were approximately 2,715 pediatric firearm fatalities among children; 62.1% were homicides and 31.4% suicides. There was a moderate negative correlation between states’ firearm legislation stringency and overall pediatric firearm mortality (ρ = −0.66; p < 0.001), and between CAP laws and firearm suicide rates (ρ = −0.56; p < 0.001). After controlling for poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and the number of registered firearms, the association between firearm legislation stringency and overall pediatric firearm mortality remained significant (p = 0.04). The association between CAP laws and firearm suicide rate remained significant after controlling for socioeconomic factors, registered firearms, and other firearm legislation (p = 0.04).

Conclusions

Strict gun legislation and CAP laws are associated with fewer pediatric firearm fatalities and firearm suicides, respectively, though no such association was identified with pediatric firearm homicides. Although more studies are needed to determine causality, state-level legislation could play an important role in reducing pediatric firearm-related deaths.

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