MONDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Many violent young people
carry guns, a new study shows.
The research, published online July 8 and in the August print
Pediatrics, surveyed nearly 700 teens and young adults aged
14 to 24 who were treated in a hospital emergency department for
injuries related to violent assaults.
Nearly one in four said they'd had a gun in the past six months.
Eighty-three percent of those with guns admitted they'd obtained
them illegally. And nearly one in five who had guns said they
carried a semi-automatic or assault-style weapon.
Boys involved in assaults were nearly three times more likely to
report having a gun than girls. Having a history of violent fights,
using illegal drugs or endorsing the idea of revenge increased the
odds that a young person would have a gun. Gang membership was also
a factor; slightly more than 9 percent of those with guns said they
belonged to a gang while only 1 percent of those with guns said
they did not belong to a gang.
"This is a public health crisis," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Homicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10
to 24. It is the leading cause of death for blacks, according to
background information in the study. And guns cause the vast
majority of those homicides.
"It's an epidemic that needs to be addressed. We need to place significant emphasis on this, as we do on other public health issues," Glatter said.
Because the study is a snapshot in time, it can't prove which
came first, having a gun or engaging in violent behavior. The study
also can't prove that simply having a gun leads to violence.
But researchers say their findings point to several possible
ways to reduce the toll gun violence takes on young people.
Community-wide programs to get illegal firearms off the street
could play a key role, as could youth programs that work to change
attitudes about getting revenge after a perceived slight.
The second would be a more personal intervention directed at
young people who wind up in the ER with injuries from a recent
"People talk about finding a teachable moment," said study author Dr. Patrick Carter, an emergency room physician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich. "These kids are in the ER. They're there for an injury. It may be a time when they're more reflective about their role in violence and substance abuse, and they may be more willing to receive an intervention," he said.
Noting that many who possessed firearms obtained them from
friends and family, the author of an accompanying journal editorial
said the findings support current guidelines from the American
Academy of Pediatrics.
The academy recommends no guns be allowed in the home. If that
is not possible, any gun should be stored unloaded and locked, and
ammunition should be locked separately.
Other findings from the survey:
For more on gun violence in the United States, visit the
National Institute of Justice.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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