Study hypothesis: Risk factors associated with unintentional gunshot fatalities among children include gender and race of the decedent, type of firearm used, and whether loaded guns are stored within the home.
Study population: All New Mexico children 0 to 14 years old unintentionally killed by a firearm between 1984 and 1988.
Methods: The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator master mortality file was reviewed retrospectively to identify all unintentional firearm fatalities occurring in New Mexico children during a five-year period. Medical investigator, autopsy, and police reports were analyzed to identify epidemiologic factors associated with these deaths. Chi-square and Fisher's exact tests were used to analyze the data.
Results: Twenty-five unintentional firearm fatalities were identified. These deaths occurred most frequently among children playing with loaded firearms found within the home. A disproportionate number involved handguns.
Conclusions: The study results provide a basis for preventive strategies that limit accessibility or decrease lethality of loaded firearms within the home.