Child deaths and injuries from guns after arrival to pediatric hospital emergency rooms doubled during the pandemic, according to a national study of data from nine U.S. pediatric hospital emergency departments.
The research, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 1,904 firearm injury visits from children younger than 18 years of age, to emergency departments at nine urban U.S. hospitals participating in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network Registry. There were 694 pre-pandemic visits for firearm injuries before the pandemic and 1,210 visits during the pandemic from March 2020 through November 2022.
“Death in the emergency department/hospital increased from 3.1% pre-pandemic to 6.1% during the pandemic,” the results of the study show. “Before pandemic onset, 18.0 pediatric firearm injury ED visits occurred per 30 days. During the pandemic, firearm injury ED visits increased to 36.1 per 30 days, which was twice the expected rate based on extrapolated pre-pandemic trends, with an observed to expected rate ratio of 2.09.”
Authors blamed an uptick in gun sales during the pandemic as a key contributor to the firearm injuries and deaths.
“With the pandemic we saw a drastic increase in firearm purchases, which might have led to the tragic spikes in injuries and deaths from firearms among children and adolescents,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Black children, in particular, suffered the greatest number of injuries and deaths, the research showed.
“We found that more than half of all firearm injury visits were incurred by black children, both before and during the pandemic,” Hoffman and colleagues from pediatric hospitals across the country wrote.
“During the pandemic, Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic children experienced disproportionate increases in firearm injuries with significant increases above expected levels,” Hoffman said. “Some studies did not identify any change to the racial and ethnic breakdown of pediatric firearm injures during the pandemic while others found post-pandemic increases in the proportion of firearm injuries by Black children only.”
The doctors and researchers hope their study will aid in developing “evidence-based policy solutions” to address the gun violence crisis.
“To prevent youth firearm injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends enactment and enforcement of child access prevention laws, as well as universal background checks, buyer regulations, extreme risk protection orders, and bans on semiautomatic military style weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Hoffmann said.
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