New Harvard University Study Shows Direct Link Between Gun Availability And Gun Death Among Children

For Release:  Thursday, February 21, 2002

Most Comprehensive Study Ever Conducted on Impact of Gun Availability Sends Simple Message: IT’S THE GUNS, STUPID 

Louisiana Among Top Five in Nation in Gun Ownership – Louisiana Children More Likely to Die by Firearms Than Children in Low Gun Ownership States 

WASHINGTON, DC – A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) shows that children, five to 14 years old, are dying at dramatically higher rates in states with more guns. The article, “Firearm Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths, Suicide, and Homicide among 5-14 Year Olds,” appears in the current February 2002 issue of The Journal of Trauma.

The study shows that children living in the five states with the highest levels of gun ownership were 16 times more likely to die from unintentional firearm injury, seven times more likely to die from firearm suicide, and three times more likely to die from firearm homicide than children in the five states with the lowest levels of gun ownership. Additionally, children in the top five gun ownership states were twice as likely to die from homicide and suicide overall as children in the five lowest gun ownership states.

VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “This illustrates the pivotal role played by firearms and disproves the false claim that if guns were not available, shooters would simply employ other means. Most importantly, this study proves what common sense would dictate, a greater availability of guns has dangerous and deadly consequences. Firearms in the home pose an enormous threat to the well-being of our nation’s children.”

According to the study’s authors, there are large differences in states’ violent death rates among children, and these rates are closely tied to levels of gun ownership. The elevated rate of violent death among children in high gun ownership states cannot be explained by differences in state levels of poverty, education, or urbanization.

The five states with the highest levels of gun ownership were: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia. The five states with the lowest levels of gun ownership were: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Matthew Miller, MD, MPH, ScD, associate director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at HSPH and lead author of the study, states, “In states with more guns, more children are dying. They are dying in suicides, in homicides, and in unintentional shootings. This finding is completely contrary to the notion that guns are protecting our children.”




About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
(202) 822-8200 x104