Purpose: This study reviews the epidemiology of pediatric firearm deaths in North Carolina and estimates the time from the retail sale of guns to their involvement in pediatric firearm deaths.
Methods: The authors reviewed autopsy reports for all children 0 to 14 years of age that died of firearm-related injuries in North Carolina from January 1999 through December 2002. Data obtained included demographic information, firearm type, and manner of death. Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which traced guns involved in crimes and determined the time elapsed from purchase to their involvement in a crime (ie, time-to-crime were also reviewed).
Results: During the study period, 40 children died of firearm injuries. Mean age was 7.6 years. Handguns were responsible for the majority of deaths (59%) followed by shotguns (27%), rifles (10%), and undetermined cause (10%). Most deaths were homicides (67%) followed by unintentional death (18%), suicide (13%), and undetermined cause (2%). Most crime guns (76%) were purchased legally, and many (40%) had a time-to-crime of less than 3 years.
Conclusions: Legally purchased firearms pose a significant threat to children in North Carolina. A more restrictive approach to the sale of handguns is a logical approach to reducing pediatric firearm-related deaths in the United States.