Firearms accounted for 20 hospitalizations a day in 2009 for children and young adults according to a study published this week in Pediatrics, the medical journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Of the 7,391 cases documented, the numbers were highest for American males between the ages of 15 and 19, but at least three hospitalizations a day were booked for children under 15.

The report paints more detail of the relationship between firearms and Americans aged 20 and under– and it’s not a good one for African American males.

“I was surprised that it’s almost one child every hour that is seriously injured or killed,” said co-author Dr. Robert Sege, of the Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics.

When asked about what the numbers say for the African American community, Sege said. “It’s clearly a huge problem for African American men.”

“When you look at the 15-to-19 age group, their rate is 150 per 100,000,” he told the AFRO. “That’s a very high rate. There are a lot of young men being shot, but are 13 times more likely than White men to be hospitalized for firearm injuries.”

According to the report, 44 percent of the adolescent and child patients hospitalized were Black males. Assault was the most common cause.

Sege said he has been studying adolescent injuries due to violence and working on policy issues surrounding firearm injuries to children for roughly 20 years.

The report was compiled by Dr. Julie R. Gaither, of the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Dr. John M. Leventhal, of Yale’s Department of Pediatrics. The two physicians and Sege studied the latest Kids’ Inpatient Database.

Sege said he was saddened by how many children were admitted to hospitals in the United States with injuries likely to include short or long-term disabilities.

“Ten percent of the kids had brain or spinal cord damage and 65 percent needed surgery including many with damage to their chest or belly,” he said. “We know medically that many of these children will continue to have some kind of problems going on forward especially with a brain injury.”

Sege said he hopes the report will convince parents to lock guns and ammunition in separate spaces, and incite politicians to do more about loopholes in the gun control system, such as gun shows and individuals accompanying felons to purchase guns for them.

“From my clinical practice I know that whenever anyone is shot it affects the brothers and sisters, it affects the parents, the classmates and the neighbors because everyone feels less safe,” he said.

“Each of these children under 20 shot and hospitalized has a ripple effect on the communities they live in.”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer