Every year more than 7,000 children with gunshot wounds are admitted to hospitals in the United States, according to a new study that was presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.
The report, entitled "United States Gunshot Violence: Disturbing Trends," found that approximately 7,500 children are admitted to hospitals annually for the treatment of injuries sustained from guns. Researchers say that more than 500 of these children die because of their injuries.
Reviewing about 36 million pediatric hospital admissions from 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 for the study, the researchers found that the number of kids hospitalized from gunshot wounds has been rising.
"Between 1997 and 2009, hospitalizations from gunshot wounds increased from 4,270 to 7,730, and in-hospital deaths from 317 to 503," according to a news release on the academy's official website.
Dr. Arin Madenci, one of the study's authors, says that handguns were most often to blame for these hospitalizations.
“Handguns account for the majority of childhood gunshot wounds and this number appears to be increasing over the last decade,” Madenci said in a statement posted on the academy's site. “Furthermore, states with higher percentages of household firearm ownership also tended to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home."
Citing Madenci's research, NBC News writes that 80 percent of the gun injuries were inflicted by handguns.
Given these statistics, Madenci says implementing policies to reduce the number of firearms, specifically handguns, in homes could help limit the number of children injured by guns.
“Based on our research, we know that there is a clear correlation between household gun ownership -- and gun safety practices -- and childhood gunshot wounds in the home on a large scale,” Madenci told Discovery News.
Gun-ownership advocate Alan Gottlieb told NBC News that while he doesn't find fault with the study's findings, he says that any conversation about guns and gun ownership should encompass both pros and cons. Specifically, he pointed out that guns not only injure and kill, but also save lives.
“When you look at the number of people who are alive today or who didn’t have to be hospitalized because they weren’t a victim -- and the money saved on that -- you have to look at that side of the equation to get good public policy,” he said.
Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, added that he agreed with Madenci that debate about policies regarding handguns may be necessary.
At least 9,900 gun-related deaths in the United States have been reported by the media since mid-December, when more than two dozen people -- including 20 children -- were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to Slate's gun deaths tally project. More than 640 of these victims have reportedly been teenagers or children.
According to a January report in the New England Journal of Medicine, guns kill twice as many children and young people as cancer, five times as many as heart disease, and 15 times as many as infections.