In 2009, 7,391 children and youth were hospitalized for firearm-related injuries. Death occurred in just over 6% of the cases. This is from a new study released today by Pediatrics, the journal with which I continue to have a dysfunctional relationship. For example, Pediatrics says that it is important that I know this number, but when I read the article, I did not know why. I needed context.
Is it a big number? Is it going up? Is it going down? In 2009, there were over 70 million children in the U.S. As a percentage of that, how many firearm injuries would seem reasonable?
For kicks, I polled a nonrandom sample of a dozen of my (arguably) well-informed friends. How many children and youth did they believe were hospitalized for firearm-related injuries in a given year? Their responses ranged from several hundred injuries a year (these guesses came from “friends” who obviously are unfamiliar with my writings on the declining juvenile murder rate, which was at an 18-year low of 1,376 children and youth murdered in 2011) to 45,000. So I was not alone in needing context.
Here is the context.
Federal law makes it illegal to sell firearms to individuals under the age of 21. Federal law also makes it illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to possess a handgun. Most states set additional limitations on the possession of firearms by children and youth.
Consequently, 7,391 children and youth hospitalized for firearm-related injuries represents a failure of adults. Adults bought the guns, owned the guns, and, in some cases, pulled the triggers on the guns that sent these kids to the hospital (in 2011, 903 of the 1,306 juvenile murder victims were killed by adults). Without adults to facilitate, there would be no firearm-related injuries (or deaths) to children and youth.
This may or may not be about the Second Amendment, but it most certainly is about the fact that kids need adults. Kids need adults to protect them from other kids, from adults, and from firearms.