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Nearly a Quarter of Youth Injured in Assaults Possess a Firearm, Study Finds

7/8/2013 For Release: July 8, 2013

Gun possession among youth is common, and gun violence is the second leading cause of death for all youth in the United States ages 14 to 24. In a study, “Firearm Possession AmongAdolescents Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department for Assault,” in the August 2013 Pediatrics (published online July 8) researchers from the University of Michigan Injury Center surveyed youth (14 to 24 years of age) who received care in an urban emergency department for assault. The survey measured demographics, gun possession, aggressive behavior, substance abuse, and history of violence. Among 689 high-risk youth seen in an urban emergency department for an assault-related injury, firearm possession rates were high (23 percent), with most firearms obtained outside of legal channels. On average, adolescent males were more likely to possess a gun than females. Roughly 14 percent of youth were younger than 18, and 32 percent had children of their own. Youth with firearms were more likely to use illegal drugs, have been involved in a serious fight, and to endorse aggressive attitudes that increase their risk for retaliatory violence. A total of 37 percent reported they had a gun primarily for protection, yet a majority believed “revenge was a good thing,” and that it was “OK to hurt people if they hurt you first.” The study authors conclude that future injury-prevention efforts should focus on minimizing firearm access among high-risk youth, promoting nonviolent alternatives to retaliatory violence and prevention of substance abuse.

Editor’s Note: The related commentary, “Help Wanted: Studies of Firearms Injuries Affecting Children,” will also be published online July 8. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit

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