Firearm Possession Among Adolescents Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department for Assault
Carter, P. M., Walton, M. A., Newton, M. F., Clery, M., Whiteside, L. K., Zimmerman, M. A., & Cunningham, R. M. (2013). Firearm Possession Among Adolescents Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department for Assault. Pediatrics, 132(2), 213-221.
Background and Objectives: Firearm violence is a leading cause of death among youth. The objectives of this study were (1) determine firearm possession rates and associated correlates among youth seeking care for assault in an emergency department (ED); (2) understand differences in risk factors for youth with firearm possession; and (3) identify firearm possession characteristics in this population: type, reason for possession, and source of firearms.
Methods: Youth (14 to 24 years old) presenting to a Level 1 ED with assault were administered a computerized screening survey. Validated instruments were administered, measuring demographics, firearm rates and characteristics, attitudes toward aggression, substance use, and previous violence history.
Results: Among 689 assault-injured youth, 23% reported firearm possession in the past 6 months. Only 17% of those reporting firearm possession obtained the gun from a legal source; 22% reported ownership of highly lethal automatic/semiautomatic weapons and 37.1% reported having a firearm for protection. Logistic regression analysis identified significant correlates of firearm possession, including male gender, higher socioeconomic status, illicit drug use, recent serious fight, and retaliatory attitudes.
Conclusions: ED assault-injured youth had high rates of firearm possession (23.1%), most of which were not obtained from legal sources. Youth with firearm possession were more likely to have been in a recent serious fight, and to endorse aggressive attitudes that increase their risk for retaliatory violence. Future prevention efforts should focus on minimizing illegal firearm access among high-risk youth, nonviolent alternatives to retaliatory violence, and substance use prevention.