Firearm-related fatalities are among the top three causes of death for children in the United States. And according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, the firearm-related mortality rate among children ages 1 to 5 has increased over a 40 year period, even as firearm ownership has declined.
One reason for the mortality rate increase despite the overall ownership decrease? Firearm ownership is down in the U.S., but among gun owners, it is more likely someone will own a handgun than a rifle or shotgun. That increase in handgun ownership appears to be driving the mortality rate increase, the study’s researchers explained. These findings do not prove causation, only association. But handgun ownership in a household is still a health and safety issue that directly impacts families, especially those with young children. The study authors recommend that firearms stored in a home be locked away, stored unloaded, and that ammunition should be locked away in a separate location.
“We are concerned that children are dying from preventable reasons and wanted to study ways to keep this from happening,” Kate Prickett, the study’s lead author, and a family sociologist and demographer at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, told CNN.
Previous studies have shown that where you live and who you are determine your risk for being shot to death, and in terms of gun homicides, the U.S. has four per every 100,000 people. The U.S. is one of six nations that, combined, account for half of all gun deaths around the world.