Firearm sales in the United States broke records at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, researchers have found that firearm injuries to children also increased during the pandemic's first two years compared to the preceding year.
“We experienced an increase in pediatric firearm-related injuries in spite of a decrease in total pediatric emergency department visits during the COVID-19 pandemic," said senior author Dr. Irma Ugalde. She is director of pediatric emergency medicine research at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.
“These findings parallel the increase in background checks and firearm sales across the nation following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant increase in firearm injuries occurred in African American children,” Ugalde said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
For the study, her team reviewed patient records from a Houston-area hospital from 2019 to 2021.
In all, pediatric firearm-related injury cases rose, from 88 in 2019 to 118 in 2020. They continued to be high in 2021, with 115 children injured, the investigators found.
Firearm-related injuries in Black children grew from nearly 31% in 2019 to 40% in 2020 and 48% in 2021. Those cases also showed increases in patients with mental health issues and in injuries where the shooter was a friend.
“Health care workers and all who work with children should remain vigilant about screening for potential risk factors for violence and safe storage of firearms,” Ugalde said.
Dr. Cynthia Orantes, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, is scheduled to present the study findings Saturday at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Anaheim, Calif.
Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Safe Kids Worldwide has more on gun safety and children.
SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 7, 2022