It has been 13 months since the Sandy Hook tragedy shocked the United States, and the nation has not felt safe since that incident. The fact that there have been 30 more school shootings after Sandy Hook has not helped assure people that their children are safe. What's more appalling is that these school shootings contribute a small percentage of the number of youth hurt or killed by firearms each year.
A recent study from the journal Pediatrics has found that guns have killed or injured more than 10,000 kids every year. More than 7,000 kids get sent to the hospital each year for injuries from firearms, an average of 20 per day. Six percent of those in the hospital die from their injuries. In an interview with NBC News, Dr. John Leventhal, the study's lead author and a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, said that all these injuries and fatalities could have been prevented.
"That's more than 7,000 children injured badly enough to be hospitalized," Dr. John Leventhal said. "All are unnecessary hospitalizations because preventing gun violence is something that can actually be done."
Robert Sege, the co-author of the study and director of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy at Boston Medical Center, told USA Today that the alarming number of firearm injuries on children is making gun-related health issues a national public health problem.
According to Sege, the damage caused by gun-related injuries rarely gets the same attention as fatalities "but that every day, 20 of our children are hospitalized for firearms injury, often suffering severe and costly injuries, clearly shows that this is a national public health problem."
Moreover, an additional 3,000 children hurt by firearms die before they even make it to the emergency room. According to a chart by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide by firearm is the second lead cause of violence-related injury deaths for people between the ages of 15 to 24 in 2010, behind motor vehicle accidents. Suicide by firearm was fourth.
The study in the new issue of Pediatrics talks about a research sample collected from the 2009 Kids' Inpatient Datebase that revealed new findings about firearm related injuries.
"In 2009, 7,391 children were hospitalized due to firearm-related injuries," the report read. 89% of them patients were males. 4,559 of them received their injuries from assaults, while 2,179 received theirs from accidents. 270 were the result of suicide attempts.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gu Policy and Research, told NBC news that this study reveals a troubling truth about the United States.
"When you look at firearms-related mortality in the United States compared to other high income nations, our rates are roughly 10-fold higher," he said. "This is a very unique and abnormal problem that such a wealthy nation should have such high mortality and morbidity in youth related to firearms."
Webster suggests that the United States make it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase or own a handgun.
"In order to drink beer legally you have to be 21," he told NBC News. "While you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun from a dealer, if you're an 18-year-old you can go to a private seller and legally purchase a handgun in 38 out of 50 states."
Of course there is no evidence or proof that making such change would actually improve the situation. The best advice for this situation is to listen to what the American Academy of Pediatrics' have to say, that "the safest home for children and teens is one without guns."