May 12, 2011 — Firearm homicide is the second leading cause of injury death among youths aged 10 to 19, according to the latest data from the CDC.
The findings are published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
From 2006 to 2007, firearm homicide rates in large urban areas in the U.S. were 5.2 per 100,000 people per year. By contrast, the national rate was 4.2 firearm homicide deaths per 100,000 people per year.
Firearm homicide and firearm suicide rates were the fourth and fifth leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S, respectively, during this time frame.
“The findings confirm that firearm homicide rates are higher among residents in large, metropolitan areas compared to the rates of the nation as a whole,” says Linda L. Dahlberg, PhD, of the division of violence prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in Atlanta.
Preventing Gun Violence
“Youth are disproportionately impacted and central cities are the locations that really have to grapple with those problems,” she says. “We just lose too many youth each year to firearm homicide. It is not inevitable. We can do something about this.”
Prevention efforts include helping youths develop conflict resolution skills. “This will help children deal with disputes in ways that are peaceful and effective,” she says.
Positive role models and mentoring programs can also help stem gun violence, she says.
The community can also take ownership of the problem, she says. For example, “some business improvement districts will tax themselves and use the money to improve the neighborhood.”
“Firearm violence is the No. 2 reason that youth die from injury death in the U.S.,” says Barbara Gaines, MD, an assistant professor of surgery and the director of trauma and injury prevention Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Getting a better handle on the at-risk population can help foster the development of targeted intervention and prevention strategies, she says. “Firearms need to be less accessible or better protected so in the spur of the moment, it’s not so easy to reach for that gun.”
Culture of Violence
Gun violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum, Gaines says. “We need to look at how we raise our children to decrease violence in our culture.”
Current media and societal attention on the dangers of bullying may eventually help curb gun violence, she says.
Steven Stylianos, chief of pediatric surgery at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., says that the “most import thing a parent can do is to assure that these tragedies don’t occur with weapons purchased by family members. If there is a gun in the home, an immature family member can stumble across a weapon and fire.”
“Gun safety can help stave off some tragedies,” he says. “There is no do-over when it comes to gun violence.”