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Study Finds Link Between Tough Gun Laws & Firearm-Related Deaths Among Children

by Morgan Brinlee

While the United States is known to have the highest rate of firearm-related deaths among youth in developed countries, gun laws like universal background checks could have a serious impact on gun violence. In fact, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that fewer kids die when strict gun laws are in place. What's more, as Bloomberg reported, researchers discovered that the stricter the gun laws were, the lower the risk of firearm-related pediatric deaths was.

In cross referencing data regarding firearm-related deaths from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System with state gun law scorecards compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, researchers found states with strict gun control laws had 4 percent fewer pediatric deaths than those without, Bloomberg reported of the study's findings. Specifically, researchers found that for every 10 points a state's gun law score increased, their number of firearm-related deaths dropped by 8 percent. The effects strict gun laws appeared to have on firearm-related deaths remained in place albeit at a 4 percent drop when researchers took into account additional variables like gun ownership, education level, and race or income, Bloomberg reported.

"Our findings demonstrate a powerful association between the strength of firearm legislation and pediatric firearm-related mortality," Monika K. Goyal, research director of Children’s National Health System’s emergency medical and trauma division and the study's lead author told The Philadelphia Inquirer.


As part of the Pediatrics study, which was published Monday, researchers found that from 2011 to 2015 there were 21,241 people aged 21 and under that died from firearm-related injuries in the United States, averaging out to 4,250 deaths a year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. "That's about seven funerals a day for kids whose untimely deaths could been prevented," Goyal said, according to the publication.

But this isn't the first time researchers have found guns to be a leading cause of children's deaths. In fact, firearm-related injuries are reported to be the second leading cause of death in U.S. children, according to a study published late last year in the New England Journal of Medicine. What's more, an older study published in Pediatrics in 2017 found that boys, minorities, and older age children are disproportionately impacted by firearm-related deaths and injuries.

It's worth noting, as The Hill pointed out, that researchers did not examine whether implementing stricter gun laws would lead to a decrease in firearm-related deaths among children. Rather, the study only identified that states which already had strict gun laws in place, also had fewer related deaths.

This latest study comes more than six months after the National Rifle Association (NRA) released a statement telling doctors to "stay in their lane" when it came to research on gun control and gun violence. "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane," the NRA tweeted in November. "Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves."

In response, a number of medical professionals called for more research on guns, according to CNN. Many also tweeted graphic photographs of what their scrubs and operating rooms looked like following treatments of gunshot wounds, arguing that combating gun violence was within "their lane," CNN reported.

Still, researchers behind the most recent study on firearm-related deaths among children have argued that requiring universal background checks for firearm sales may have the most protective impact for children. According to CNN, researchers found that states with at least a five year history of implementing mandatory universal background checks for firearm purchases also had a 35 percent lower rate of gun-related deaths among children than states that didn't have the requirement.

Researchers argued that just as mandatory seat belt laws helped reduce the mortality rate of motor vehicle crashes, gun control legislation could reduce firearm-related deaths among children nationwide. "We have seen dramatic decreases in motor vehicle deaths by investing in sound, evidence-based research in child passenger safety," Goyal said, according to CNN. "We must embrace the same approach for gun safety."