Child Firearm Injury Circumstances and Associations With Violence Intervention Program Enrollment

Mary Elizabeth Bernardin, Kathryn Spectorsky, Hongjie Gu, Connor Fairfax, Keven Cutler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Pediatric firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among American children. While assault is the most commonly cited cause, few studies have investigated circumstances surrounding such injuries. Violence intervention programs (VIPs) have been utilized to combat firearm violence, though a similar lack of knowledge exists regarding possible associations between firearm injury circumstances and youth VIP enrollment. Methods: This cross-sectional study included children aged 6-17 y who presented to an urban level 1 pediatric trauma center with firearm injuries from 2014 to 2017. Victim demographics and enrollment in a VIP were obtained from medical records, as well as circumstances surrounding the injuries based on account of the victim, victim's family/friends, and/or police present at the hospital. Circumstances included location of the shooting, if the shooter was known to the victim, and if the shooting was confirmed by the victim or their contacts to have been accidental or an intentional assault. Medical record numbers were used to locate victims in our trauma registry in order to obtain their assigned international classification of disease codes. Wilcox-rank sum, Pearson's chi-squared and Fisher's exact tests were used to detect associations between demographics, VIP enrollment, and shooting circumstances. Results: 156 victims of firearm injury were described, including primarily Black adolescent males. 72% of victims were shot outdoors by an unknown shooter, the motivation of which was unknown in 93% of cases. 36% of these shootings were “drive-by”. The majority of victims received international classification of disease codes for assault, though shootings that were confirmed by the victim to have been intentional assaults were relatively uncommon (13.4%). Most children lived in the same zip code in which they were shot (71%), and three particular zip codes accounted for 40% of shootings. 26% of victims chose to enroll in the VIP, and those that were victims of confirmed assaults (odds ratio 3.5) as well as those admitted to the hospital (odds ratio 2.4) were significantly more likely to enroll. Conclusions: Based on victim account, children living in an urban setting are more frequently victims of unclearly motivated, outdoor neighborhood shootings rather than intentional assaults. More accurate understanding of the causes of pediatric firearm injuries should inform both recruitment into VIPs, as well as a balancing of VIPs with community-level interventions to address firearm violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Firearm injury
  • Gun violence
  • Injury circumstances
  • Pediatric injury prevention
  • Violence intervention program


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