Firearms Screening in the Pediatric Inpatient Setting

Hosp Pediatr. 2020 Jan;10(1):37-42. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0040. Epub 2019 Dec 2.


Objectives: Firearm-related deaths remain a top cause of mortality in American children and adolescents. In a 2012 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged pediatricians to incorporate questions about the availability of firearms into their patient history taking. We aim to evaluate the frequency of screening for home firearms in an academic tertiary-care hospital inpatient setting.

Methods: This retrospective chart review examined patients with the following pediatric diagnoses admitted to a tertiary-care pediatric hospital from 2006 to 2015: asthma, bronchiolitis, cellulitis, jaundice, single liveborn infant, bacterial and viral pneumonia, and all mood disorders. Data analysts then searched the patient charts that met these inclusion criteria for documentation of firearm screening as indicated by use of the terms "firearm," "pistol," "gun," "handgun," "bullet," "ammunition," or "rifle" in the admissions history and physical.

Results: Evidence of screening for firearms in the home was found in 1196 of the 40 658 charts included in the study (2.94%). The most frequently screened diagnosis and admitting service were mood disorders and child psychiatry, respectively (1159 of 3107; 37.3%). Only 19.8% of identified gun-owning families received specific anticipatory guidance.

Conclusions: Firearm screening and gun safety education occurred infrequently in the inpatient setting. Inpatient encounters may provide an opportunity for increased screening and education because the hospital environment also includes additional resources, exposure to a greater number of providers, and the presence of more family members or caregivers. Further studies are warranted to explore barriers to inpatient screening and possible mechanisms for improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Counseling*
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Pediatrics*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control