Pediatric Deaths from Guns as Common in Rural as Urban Areas

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The commonly held belief is that gun violence is an urban problem, not a rural one in the United States. Researchers have found that gun violence rates among children is nearly the same in both urban and rural settings.

Dr. Michael L. Nance, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues have published their findings online in the May 24 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The study used US vital statistics data for all pediatric (age: 0–19 years) firearm deaths from 1999 through 2006, noting the location of the deaths based on population size and proximity to metropolitan areas.

In the 8-year study period, there were 23,649 pediatric firearm deaths (15 190 homicides, 7082 suicides, and 1377 unintentional deaths). Rates in the most-rural and most-urban counties were nearly the same -- at 4 deaths per 100,000 children and teens in rural areas and 4.6 per 100,000 in urban areas.

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Differences were found in the type of firearm deaths. There were more deaths from suicide and unintentional firearm deaths in the rural areas. There were more firearm homicides in the urban areas.

Gun safety is a problem no matter where the child lives. As the American Academy of Pediatrics advises, the safest thing is to not have a gun in your home. This is especially true for handguns.

If you do have guns in your home, then educate your children and grandchildren on gun safety. The AAP’s 'Keep Your Family Safe from Firearm Injury' program recommends

  1. If there are guns in the home, or anywhere near children, make sure they are stored unloaded and locked out of reach, with the bullets in a separate locked location.
  2. Ask if guns are present in the homes where your child visits or plays. You can bring this up when you ask about other safety concerns, like car safety seats, allergies, or pets.
  3. If the answer is yes, ask whether the guns are stored unloaded and locked up. If you are not comfortable with the answer, you can always invite the children to play at your house instead.

The Eddie Eagle gun safety program from the National Rifle Association helps educate children who find a gun to 'Stop! Don't Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.'

Sources
Variation in Pediatric and Adolescent Firearm Mortality Rates in Rural and Urban US Counties; Michael L. Nance, MD, Brendan G. Carr, MD, MS, Michael J. Kallan, MS, Charles C. Branas, PhD, Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD; PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3219), published online May 24, 2010

American Academy of Pediatrics

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