Firearm injuries to kids underestimated, study shows

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istockphoto

(CBS) How likely are children to be injured by firearms? A lot more likely than doctors used to think. In fact, a new study shows that the rate of non-fatal firearm injuries in kids is 30 percent higher than previous estimates.

Each year, the study showed, there are 20,600 firearm injuries - including 8,368 injuries resulting in death - in people age 19 and younger. More than a third of these injuries - 37 percent - were unintentional.

The study, based on the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care survey, was presented in Boston on Monday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Who's most likely to wind up on the wrong end of a gun? Not surprisingly, the study showed that it's adolescent boys - blacks n particular.

"We know there are certain pediatric populations at higher risk for firearm injuries," study author Dr. Saranya Srinivasan, said in a written statement. "We hope this research will bring attention to the issue of pediatric firearm injuries, and that we can continue to focus our efforts on firearm injury prevention campaigns.

What sorts of things can parents do to protect kids from firearms?

The academy says the best strategy is never to have a gun in the home. Parents who do choose to keep guns in the home should make sure they are unloaded and locked up and that guns and bullets are stored separately under lock and key. Parents should tell their children to stay away from guns - and should find out if there are guns in other homes where their children play.

Americans own more than 192 million guns, including 65 million handguns, the academy says.

"Even if no one in your family owns a gun, chances are that someone you know does," says the website of the National Rifle Association. The site says that children who play with toy guns should be told "how they differ from genuine firearms."

The University of Michigan has more on gun safety.