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Firearm injuries in children: Prevention

Anne C Gill, DrPH, MS, RN
David E Wesson, MD
Section Editor
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Firearm injury, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States [1-3], is an important medical and public health problem [4,5]. Children may be injured or killed in shootings, may lose parents, siblings, or other relatives in shootings, or may be adversely affected by witnessing shootings [6]. (See "Intimate partner violence: Childhood exposure".)

This topic review will describe the epidemiology of pediatric firearm injury, review strategies for prevention of firearm injuries in children, and define the clinician's role in firearm safety. The primary focus will be on unintentional handgun injuries. Intentional violence is discussed separately. (See "Peer violence and violence prevention" and "Suicidal behavior in children and adolescents: Epidemiology and risk factors".)

Societal issues associated with firearm injuries, such as Second Amendment rights and individual freedoms and responsibilities, exceed the scope of this topic review.


The word "firearm" is a general term that is used to describe all types of guns, including rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Traditional firearms propel a projectile by burning gunpowder. Nonpowder firearms such as pellet guns, air rifles, and BB guns use compressed air or carbon dioxide to propel the projectile [7]. Although technically a firearm, a taser fires electrical probes to deliver a shock. Tasers, which are used by law enforcement, do not pose a significant risk for injury in children and will not be discussed in this review [8].

Rifles and shotguns are long guns that typically are fired from the shoulder; rifles fire solid bullets, whereas shotguns fire shells that contain pellets.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jun 29, 2016.
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