When public health crises collide: 5 years of pediatric firearm injury prevention opportunities

Leah C. Tatebe*, Jennifer T. Cone, Mark B. Slidell, Grace Chang, Meghan Jonikas, Amy Stewart, James Doherty, Ponni Arunkumar, Victoria Schlanser, Andrew J. Dennis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Prior publications on pediatric firearm-related injuries have emphasized significant social disparities. The pandemic has heightened a variety of these societal stresses. We sought to evaluate how we must now adapt our injury prevention strategies. Patients and methods Firearm-related injuries in children 15 years old and under at five urban level 1 trauma centers between January 2016 and December 2020 were retrospectively reviewed. Age, gender, race/ethnicity, Injury Severity Score, situation, timing of injury around school/curfew, and mortality were evaluated. Medical examiner data identified additional deaths. Results There were 615 injuries identified including 67 from the medical examiner. Overall, 80.2% were male with median age of 14 years (range 0-15; IQR 12-15). Black children comprised 77.2% of injured children while only representing 36% of local schools. Community violence (intentional interpersonal or bystander) injuries were 67.2% of the cohort; 7.8% were negligent discharges; and 2.6% suicide. Median age for intentional interpersonal injuries was 14 years (IQR 14-15) compared with 12 years (IQR 6-14, p<0.001) for negligent discharges. Far more injuries were seen in the summer after the stay-at-home order (p<0.001). Community violence and negligent discharges increased in 2020 (p=0.004 and p=0.04, respectively). Annual suicides also increased linearly (p=0.006). 5.5% of injuries were during school; 56.7% after school or during non-school days; and 34.3% were after legal curfew. Mortality rate was 21.3%. Conclusions Pediatric firearm-related injuries have increased during the past 5 years. Prevention strategies have not been effective during this time interval. Prevention opportunities were identified specifically in the preteenage years to address interpersonal de-escalation training, safe handling/storage, and suicide mitigation. Efforts directed at those most vulnerable need to be reconsidered and examined for their utility and effectiveness. Level of evidence Level III; epidemiological study type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001026
JournalTrauma Surgery and Acute Care Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 25 2023


  • Accident Prevention
  • Firearms
  • pediatric trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Surgery


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