Objective: The objective of the study was to determine the nature of gun exposure in an adolescent population presenting to an urban emergency department (ED) and to ascertain attributes that correlate with the ability to buy a gun or to access a loaded gun within 3 hours.
Methods: A convenience sample of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years presenting to a single ED was surveyed from September 2005 to February 2006. The survey tool was derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study and the Hamilton Youth and Guns Poll with additional questions related to gun accessibility.
Results: Of the 300 total participants, 28% could access a loaded gun in less than 3 hours, and 22% stated that they could easily buy a gun. A significant increase in the ability to buy a gun in ninth grade (27%) compared with eighth grade (6%) was found. Independent predictors of the ability to buy a gun include gang membership, drug use, male sex, and witnessing a gun at school. Independent predictors of being able to access a loaded gun within 3 hours include having a gun in the home and witnessing a gun at school.
Conclusions: The ability to buy a gun and access to a loaded gun within 3 hours are relatively common among ED adolescent patients. Having a gun in the home and witnessing a gun at school were independent predictors of the ability to access a loaded gun within 3 hours. Gang membership and drug use were associated with a self-reported ability to buy a gun.