Over a five-year period, more than 21,000 Americans aged 21 and younger died from firearm-related injuries. But when states have stricter gun laws, fewer children die from gun violence, new research shows.

For the study, investigators examined data on gun deaths from 2011 to 2015 and compared those statistics with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s ranking of state gun laws.

“For every 10-point increase in the strictness of firearm legislation, there was a 4% drop in firearm-related mortality rates among children and youth,” said study author Dr. Monika Goyal. She is director of research in the division of emergency medicine and trauma services at Children’s National Health System.

States that had laws in effect for five years or longer requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase had 35% lower rates of gun-related deaths among young people, according to the study published online July 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

“Firearm injuries represent the second-leading cause of death for U.S. children. That’s about seven funerals a day for kids whose untimely deaths could have been prevented,” Goyal said in a health system news release.

“Our findings demonstrate a powerful association between the strength of firearm legislation and pediatric firearm-related mortality,” she added.

“This association remains strong even after we adjust for rates of firearm ownership and other population variables, such as education level, race/ethnicity and household income,” Goyal noted, though the study did not prove cause and effect.

The researchers called for evidence-based public health measures to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths among children.

The study authors noted that such public health approaches — including mandatory seatbelt use laws — reduced deaths from motor vehicle crashes from 9.8 deaths per 100,000 children in 2007 to 6.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.

The new study findings highlight the need for thorough research to learn more about the connections between types of gun laws and gun-related deaths in youth, the investigators concluded.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on gun safety.

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