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Safe Gun Storage, Education Could Help Prevent Child Injuries And Deaths, UT Study Concludes

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

An analysis of shooting incidents in Houston that resulted in the death or injury of a child found that guns had been safely and securely stored in less than 2% of cases.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center concluded that many of these injuries could have been prevented by “safe firearm storage, increased community education efforts, and other safety measures.”

The study, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, is one of the first comprehensive looks at pediatric gunshot wounds.

Researchers looked at 358 patients ranging from 2.5 months to 15 years old who were brought to UT's Houston Level I Trauma Center over a 15-year period. In most cases, the shooting injuries or deaths took place at home with no adult supervision at the time; more than 20 percent of cases were considered accidents.

“It’s a very extensive long-term, detailed study where they examine the circumstances surrounding those injuries and the severity,” said Ed Scruggs, board vice chair of Texas Gun Sense, a nonprofit that was not involved in the study. “We don’t have a lot of data like [this] done over such a long period of time.”  

Scruggs pointed out that the study found only 12% of patients’ families received some type of gun-safety counseling before an incident.

“Texas culture needs to focus on [the gun safety] issue more seriously," he said. “It’s very sad that this has been hung up in politics the way it has been because this study shows that we can’t afford to let that happen.”

A few bipartisan gun-safety bills are making their way through the state Legislature this session. House Bill 316, authored by Democratic Rep. Donna Howard of Austin, and Senate Bill 1573, from Democratic Sen. Carol Alvarado of Houston, would create statewide firearm safety and suicide prevention campaigns.

DaLyah Jones is a former assistant producer for All Things Considered and evening host. She is also co-host of the Two & Fro podcast.
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