Securing how guns are stored in the home could help dramatically reduce number of firearm deaths in America, according to a new study.
Even a slight increase in the number of gun owners who lock up their weapons could have an impact, according to the study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers estimate that up to 32 percent of gun deaths could be prevented if adults who don’t currently lock all household firearms started securing the weapons out of reach of youth.
‘We need to communicate to parents that storing guns in a way that makes them inaccessible to children can reduce the number of children who die year after year, especially from suicide,’ lead author Dr. Michael Monuteaux, of Harvard Medical School, told The New York Times.
More than 14,000 children have been killed by guns in the U.S. over the past 10 years. More than a third of those were suicides and roughly 6 percent were classified as accidents.
Some 13 million U.S. households with children also had guns in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.
That year roughly 14,000 youth were treated for nonfatal firearm injuries and 2,800 died by gunfire – including 1,100 by suicide or unintentional injury.
In youth suicides involving a firearm, 9 out of 10 involve a gun from the child or teenager’s own home, researchers wrote.
Despite the risk, just 3 out of 10 U.S. households with children and guns report storing all firearms unleaded and locked, separate from ammunition.
New York is one of a few states considering legislation that would create laws dictating how firearms are stored with the goal of protecting children.
Currently three states and Washington D.C. have laws making it a criminal liability for gun owners who don’t store guns safely when a child gains access to the weapon.
Researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Firearms Survey to get an understanding of gun-owner behaviors and accurate measures of firearm injuries and deaths.
A separate study published in March in the American Journal of Medicine found that more children were shot dead in 2017 than on-duty police officers and active duty military combined.
The number of gun-related deaths among children age 15-18 rose 46 percent from 1,389 in 2013 to reach 2,025 in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available.
The rate among those age 5-18 rose 34 percent during the same period, for a total of 437 of deaths in 2017 compared to 326 in 2013
Experts at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics to reach their findings.
Overall, 38,940 children age 5-18 years old died from gun violence from 1999-2017.
A majority (32,478) were age 15-18, while 6,464 were children age 5-14.
The problem has been worsening in recent years, following declines in youth gun deaths in the mid- to late-2000s, with upticks starting in 2013 among 15-18 year olds and in 2009 among 5-14 year olds.
Overall, a majority (61 percent) were killed during an assault, while 32 percent died by suicide and 5 percent died in an accident. Details were unavailable on an additional 2 percent of cases.
With 393.3 million civilian-owned guns, the U.S. is the only country in the world that has more guns than people, according to a separate report by Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based think tank.
America has a population of 316.5 million, amounting to 120.5 firearms per 100 people.