Neighbourhoods in the U.S with limited social, health and educational opportunities, have higher rates of youth firearm injuries

Findings revealed from the 2023 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting show that pediatric firearm injuries in Los Angeles County occur in neighbourhoods with limited social, health and educational opportunities.

“Firearms are the leading cause of deaths in children across the United States and this data speaks volumes that a child’s individual risk is far from equal,” says Abigail Brenner, M.D., pediatric resident physician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

The reality of U.S gun violence

Unfortunately, gun crime is incredibly normalised in the United States, and is backed by heavy legislation to ensure firearms remain legal – and accessible.

A study by researchers at Temple University finds an increase in gun violence and shooting rates in Philadelphia following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in states where police surveillance and activity were higher.

Much evidence details how these mass shootings have become more frequent, as the BBC notes that there have already been at least 160 mass shootings across the U.S so far in 2023.

There have already been at least 160 mass shootings across the U.S

These include attacks the attack at a 16th birthday party in Alabama, where four people died, at a school in Nashville, where three children and three adults were killed, and a mass shooting in Kentucky last week, which left four victims dead.

Another analysis of state-wide data in California from 2004 to 2016, shows that gun ownership increases rates of homicide by gun violence – especially for women, who are the primary victims at risk of homicide by gun violence.

Now, researchers are looking at firearm incidents from 2010 to 2021 assessing data from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to analyse the 1,383 children involved in firearm incidents and what their social background is.

1,383 children have been admitted to emergency care in LA alone

Researchers at Brandeis University applied the National Childhood Opportunity Index – a measure of factors that contribute to healthy, productive childhood development – to understand how a lack of resources in a child’s environment relates to firearm injury exposure.

This study contains data from 15 trauma centres in LA County. Of the 1383 child firearm injury victims, the median victim age was 16 years old.

The median victim age was 16 years old

The study noted the highest rates of firearm injuries among children were in neighbourhoods with very low (62.7%) and low (22.6%) opportunities, compared to areas with moderate (10.5%), high (3.0%) and very high (1.3%) opportunities.

9.7 pediatric firearm injuries per year, for every 100,000 children

Findings also revealed that approximately 9.7 pediatric firearm injuries per year occurred for every 100,000 children in neighbourhoods with a very low level of opportunity.

Compared with approximately 0.5 incidences for every 100,000 children living in a very high-opportunity environment.

This data shows that lower-income and opportunity backgrounds increase a child’s risk and exposure to firearm injuries and incidents, to which the authors note requires serious advocacy and policy in highlighting the need for community-level interventions and support when considering pediatric firearm injury.

Abigail Brenner states: “We must advocate for children who are disproportionately exposed to firearm injuries and prevent the issue from growing.”


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