August 2023 President's Letter

Greetings SPN Members!

The Latest Gun Violence Data

Following the July 18, 2023, SPN webinar, “Responding to the Challenges Facing Pediatric Nursing,” conversations have occurred regarding the prevalence of gun violence and death among children. Questions have arisen as to how we can help to address this issue.

To recap a portion of the presentation, mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals firearm deaths among US children and teens increased by 50% between 2019-2021, and the mortality rate doubled between 2013 to 2021. There has been a disturbing 74% rise in firearm deaths among children ages 1-9 years. Firearms are the leading cause of death among children ages 1-17 years, surpassing accidents and cancer. Provisional data for 2022 indicates the leading cause of child deaths for the third consecutive year continues to be from firearms.

On the same day of the webinar, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) shared a news brief outlining the US as having the highest firearm mortality rate among similarly large and wealthy nations who are members of the Organization for Economic and Development (OECD). The US death rate is 9.5 times higher than the death rate for Canadian children in the same age range. Canada follows the US with the second highest child and teen firearm death rate among the OECD nations.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, pulled August 2023

Thirty-eight US states have higher child and teen firearm death rates than the OECD nations. The US is the only country among peer nations where there are more gun deaths than cancer or motor vehicle death among children and teens. KFF has shared this comparison data.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, pulled August 2023

The Gun Violence Archive catalogs gun violence incidents and maintains a database of shootings in the US. The heatmap below shows the rate of child gun deaths throughout the US.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, pulled August 2023

The CDC data also shows that for every child who dies from gun violence, more than two other children are treated in an emergency room for firearms related injury resulting in $109 million each year for hospitalization.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio examined instances of accidental shootings in which children and teens shot themselves or another child, resulting in a death. About 64% of accidental gun deaths happened in the victim’s home and in most cases, the gun belonged to a relative or parent. Most accidental shooting deaths involved guns left loaded and unlocked and the child playing with the firearm or mistaking it for a toy. In older children, ages 10-14 years, almost one third of the shooters were friends of the victim.

Children closest to gun violence, those who witness these events, are injured, or who lose a loved one are at highest risk of mental health impacts such as anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

As pediatric nurses, we interact with children and families every day. We must advocate to ensure our children are safe and their parents are educated about gun safety in the home. Here are two resources to assist you in this work:

 American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Gun Safety Campaign Toolkit with social media graphics and information that you can download and share.

SPN has Gun Violence Resources on their website to assist nurses and parents with how to talk to children about shootings and violence, safety tips for storing guns in the home, and helping children cope with traumatic experiences.

If you have gun violence or gun safety resources that you have found helpful and would like to share with our members, please share this information on the SPN discussion forum.

We can no longer tolerate being a nation that is losing our children to gun violence. It is imperative that we take bold action to reverse this trend and ensure more children reach adulthood.

Kathy Van Allen, MSN, RN, CPN

SPN President

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