Quarter Of Assault Victims Carry Own Firearm
July 8, 2013

One In Four Teen Assault Victims Carries A Firearm

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new study has found that nearly one in four youth who came to the emergency room at a hospital for assault-related injuries carried a firearm.

University of Michigan Injury Center researchers found that 23 percent of patients who visited an ER in Flint, Michigan for assault-related injuries reported that they owned or carried a gun in the last six months, 80 percent of which were obtained illegally. The team also said that 22 percent of the victims admitted to owning a highly lethal automatic or semiautomatic weapon. The study excluded guns used for recreational hunting and target practice.

The new study provides data that could be important in attempting to put new restrictions on gun possession laws. The researchers' data was derived from interviews with 689 teens and young adults who came to an emergency department for treatment for assault-related injuries.

"This study zeroes in on a high-risk population of assault injured youth that has not been studied in this way previously," says lead-author Patrick Carter, MD, a clinical lecturer and injury research fellow in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and substance abuse section of the Department of Psychiatry.

"The high rates of substance use, fighting and attitudes favoring retaliation, combined with the fact that so many of these youth had firearms, increases their risk for future firearm violence, as well as injury or death. But, our findings also provide an opportunity for public health interventions that could decrease their future firearm violence risk."

The authors reported in the journal Pediatrics that this study may lead to tests for a new approach to help teens and young adults avoid gun-related violence.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Flint has the highest per capita rate of violent crime of any American city over 100,000 people. The report stated that there were 1,930 aggravated assaults in 2012. However, Carter says the risk factors seen among the patients in Flint are probably not unique to the city and are likely representative of other cities with high rates of firearm violence.

"Youth seeking care for assault provide a window of access to a high-risk population that have firearms and are at risk for future violence and injury" he explains. "The question is, how can we best incorporate firearm safety interventions into their emergency department visit to decrease that future risk? This study provides an initial step towards understanding the modifiable risk factors for firearm violence in this population, but more data and study is needed to effectively address the public health issue of firearm violence."

Last December, 26 elementary school students and educators were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, putting advocates of gun possession laws in the hot seat. According to NoMoreNames.org, more than 90 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun sales.