Among children and teens aged 17 or younger, 1.6 per 100,000 killed
themselves with guns in 2014, compared with 1.0 per 100,000 in 2007.
An average of 493 children died of gun-related suicides each year
covered by the study, which was led by Katherine Fowler and Linda
Dahlberg of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and
published in the online journal Pediatrics.
"Suicides are often impulsive in this age group, with previous
findings indicating that many who attempt suicide spend 10 minutes
or less deliberating," the research paper said.
All told, nearly 1,300 children in the United States age 17 or
younger died of gunshot wounds each year, with boys accounting for
the vast majority of the victims, according to the study.
For decades, gunshot wounds have ranked second behind car crashes as
the leading cause of death from injuries for U.S. children. But
while car travel has become safer, gun fatalities have remained high
in that age group, pediatric experts say.
"Firearm injuries are an important public health problem,
contributing substantially to premature death and disability of
children," the study said. "Understanding their nature and impact is
a first step toward prevention."
The rise in fatal gunshot wounds runs counter to a decline in the
overall death rate among American children over the last several
decades, as well as a decrease in the number of children who were
African-American boys are the most likely of any demographic group
to be shot and killed by someone else, while white and Native
American children are four times more likely to kill themselves by
firearms than black and Hispanic children, the study found.
The study is the most comprehensive analysis of firearm deaths and
injuries among American children ever conducted, according to two
pediatric experts who were not involved in it.
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"We take care of these kids, as pediatricians it's
not abstract," Dr. Robert Sege, chief medical officer of the
Massachusetts-based research group Health Resources in Action, said
Firearm deaths among children have remained roughly constant, with
the higher suicide rate canceling out progress in lowering homicides
with guns, Sege said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has
said the safest household are those with no firearms.
But parents often are not open to hearing that message from a
doctor, given the widespread acceptance of gun ownership in the
United States, writes Dr. Eliot Nelson, a University of Vermont
College of Medicine professor who did not participate in the latest
Doctors should focus on sharing information about safe storage of
firearms, he wrote in a separate paper in Pediatrics.
"Given the impulsivity, risk-taking and unpredictability of
adolescence, we should promote safe storage as a routine measure
rather than only when a concern or crisis arises," he said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie
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