America loves its guns. Though nobody is quite sure how many firearms there are in the US, and who owns them, the Small Arms Survey gives us a good general idea. It estimates that there are 270 million small firearms in the United States, meaning there are 89 for every 100 people and American civilians are the best armed in the whole world!
There are other questions we could ask too. How often does owning a gun actually prevent crimes like murder, rape, or burglary? Does owning a gun make one more aggressive? What percentage of American gun owners keeps their guns unlocked, easily accessible to just about anyone?
How Guns Affect America's Children
A study just published in the journal Pediatrics answered another pressing gun-related question: how many kids are harmed by America's love of guns every day? The research team, led by Dr John Leventhal from the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, examined how many children and youngsters under 20 were hospitalized in 2009, and why.
The team found that 7,391 hospitalizations were the direct result of firearms injuries. Nearly 400 of those related to children under 10 years old, and 453 children and youngsters died from gun injuries. This means approximately 20 children are wounded by guns every day in the United States, and six percent will die from those injuries.
Dr Leventhal and his team broke the data down even further:
- 4,559 hospitalizations of children for gun injuries were caused by assault
- 270 cases were suicide attempts — though these are rare, they do come with the highest risk of death
- 75 percent of gun-related hospitalizations in kids under 10 was due to accidents
- 52 percent of gun injuries were open wounds
- 50 percent were fractures
- 34 percent were injuries to the abdomen, pelvis or thorax
- Firearms-related traumatic brain injury was most common in kids under five
Back to that question, then. How safe does owning a gun make you? How safe does it make your children? We have all heard about school shootings and cases in which fathers kill their whole families and then themselves. You may think these things cannot possibly happen to you and your children, but that does not mean they are safe from guns.
When we look beyond the cases that make the news, we can see the reality of gun injuries in America. The reality is that gun injuries can happen to almost any child who has access to a gun at home. Dr Leventhal see the bright side of the story too, however: "Pediatricians and other health care providers can play an important role in preventing these injuries through counseling about firearm safety, including safe storage."
The message is clear. Guns are such a big problem that we cannot rely on the NSA to tell us how to care for our guns any more — if we want to care for our kids along with our guns, America desperately needs to acknowledge how grave this issue is. We need doctors, not gun nuts.