Objective. To determine the morbidity, mortality, and epidemiologic features of pediatric powder-firearm injuries in a defined urban population.
Design and setting. A population-based, descriptive epidemiologic study was conducted of firearm injuries to children in a mid-size urban community (total population: 435 178) in 1992. The population was 56% white and 39% black. Data from prehospital care providers, all city and adjacent community hospitals, and medical examiner and police records were searched for cases of firearm injury. The 1990 United States census provided denominator data.
Case definition. Subjects were all 0- to 16-year-old residents of Kansas City, Missouri who sought medical treatment at a hospital for a powder-firearm injury or who presented to the medical examiner with a fatal firearm injury in calendar year 1992.
Results. Seventy-two children met the case definition, for an incidence of 70 per 100 000 persons per year. There were 12 (16.7%) fatalities, for a mortality rate of 11.7 per 100 000 persons per year. Almost 10% of the patients sustained permanent disability. Mean and median ages of the patients were 14.9 years and 15.8 years, respectively; 79% were male and 82% were black. The majority of the children (63%) lived in census tracts with a high proportion of families in poverty. Black males had the highest rates of firearm injury, with a 1-year incidence of 233 per 100 000 persons per year. At younger than 12 years, the rates were equal among the races; however, for those 12 years and older, black adolescents had 13 times the risk of white adolescents (541 compared to 42 per 100 000 persons per year). The majority (71%) of injuries were due to assaults, with drive-by shootings the most frequent circumstance. The majority of unintentional injuries occurred to adolescents as the result of an unplanned discharge of a handgun as it was being placed in or removed from concealment. Among the patients, 39% were admitted to the hospital and 26% required surgery.
Conclusions. 1) Black male adolescents had the highest risk of firearm injury or fatality. 2) The majority of victims lived in census tracts characterized by poverty. 3) Injuries were alarmingly severe. 4) Interpersonal violence was the leading contributor to fatal and nonfatal injuries. 5) Unintentional injuries characteristically occurred during the process of weapon concealment. 6) The leading contributor to injury and death was the interaction of adolescents and guns, particularly handguns. The main implication for firearm-injury prevention in this population is the limiting of access to guns by adolescents. In addition, measures aimed at preventing violent behavior, such as education in nonviolent methods of conflict resolution, should be explored.
- Received November 18, 1993.
- Accepted March 31, 1994.
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics