Study: Young People Who Own or Carry Guns More Likely to be Victims of Gun Violence

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gunA survey of almost 700 subjects finds nearly a quarter of young people who visited a Flint, Mich., emergency room for assault-related injuries either owned or carried a firearm.

The report, which focused on subjects ages 14 to 24, was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Using data from Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, the study tracks responses stretching over a 17-month period from February 2010 to September 2011.

“Rates of firearm possession were notably higher in our study than previous ED [emergency department] studies,” the report reads, “likely reflecting our focus on a high-risk sample of youth seeking care for assault rather than general ED patient populations.”

The report continues: “The high rates of ?rearm possession in this population, combined with the finding that assaulted youth with firearms had higher rates of retaliatory attitudes and substance use, highlight the importance of focusing ED and community violence prevention interventions among this subgroup.”

Although 27 percent of non-gun owning respondents reported binge drinking episodes, almost 40 percent of respondents who said they did possess guns reported binge drinking activities. Similarly, a smaller percentage of non-gun owning respondents (49 percent) reported using illegal drugs, while two out of three subjects who reported gun ownership also reported illegal drug use.

Furthermore, researchers said that gun-owning young people reported higher rates of both physical aggression and victimization, and subjects who reported gun ownership were likelier to get into a fight, cause an injury to another person or engage in intimate partner violence than respondents who did not report owning a firearm. Conversely, gun-owning subjects were found to be more likely than non gun-owning subjects to be the victims of firearm-related violence, assault or stabbings.

The report coincides with an the release of a study examining youth homicide rates over the previous three decades, which found the firearm-related youth homicide rate over those years was 3.7 times higher than the rate of youth homicides not involving guns.

In all, the report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that nearly 80 percent of all youth homicides over the previous 30 years were firearm-related.  

“Homicide disproportionately affects persons aged 10-24 years in the United States and consistently ranks in the top three leading causes of death in this age group,” the CDC reports, “resulting in approximately 4,800 deaths and an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity and medical costs in 2010.”

According to researchers, just 18 percent of respondents in the Flint study said they obtained handguns from legal sources. Approximately a third of subjects who reported possessing a handgun said they obtained the weapons from either friends or family, while almost a quarter said they procured their guns from street sellers, drug dealers or substance abusers.

As many as 22 percent of subjects who reported owning a gun said they possessed either automatic or semiautomatic weapons, the study found.

Fully 70 percent of gun owners are men, the study found. However, females represent 56 percent of those who do not own a gun.

“Future ED-based injury-prevention interventions or case management approaches for youth with assault-related injuries may have the potential to decrease the likelihood that a youth who is seeking care today with an assault-related injury will use a firearm lethally or be a victim of firearm violence,” the report reads. “Previous research has demonstrated the immediate post-injury time is an ideal time to capitalize on a teachable moment with preventive interventions.”