Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
April 30, 2021
2 min read

20% of Colorado high schoolers report ease of accessing handguns

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Nearly 20% of Colorado students who participated in the 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey reported ease of access in acquiring a handgun, data reported in Pediatrics showed.

For the study, Ashley Brooks-Russell, PhD, MPH, director of the program for injury prevention, education and research at the Colorado School of Public Health, and colleagues assessed survey answers from 46,537 public high school students.

Source: Adobe Stock
Source: Adobe Stock

Because firearm access is a risk factor for suicide, the survey included a single new question for students: “If you wanted to get a new handgun, how easy would it be for you to get one?” Students had the following options to answer: very hard, sort of hard, sort of easy and very easy.

In all, 60.6% of respondents reported it being very hard, 19.4% said it was sort of hard, 11.1% said sort of easy and 8.8% reported that it was very easy to get a new handgun. The authors combined the categories of sort of easy and very easy, for the ease of presentation, which totaled to around 20%.

More male students reported ease of access compared with female students, whereas reports of ease increased by grade level. There was no reported difference for ease of access by sexual orientation, but a significantly higher proportion of transgendered teens reported ease of access compared with cisgender teens.

Those who reported being Native American or multiracial had the highest reported ease of access — 23.8% and 23.3%, respectively. They were followed by white (21.3%), Hispanic (18.2%), Black (16.9%) and Asian (12.2%) students.

“We can use these ndings to inform strategies to educate parents on the importance of secure home rearm storage, particularly if an adolescent is at risk for suicide,” the authors wrote.

In a separate study, Shilpa J. Patel, MD, MPH, an attending physician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and colleagues conducted a cross sectional analysis of national ED visits from a firearm injury between 2009 and 2016 among children aged younger than 21 years.

Using the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the authors assessed a total of 178,299 ED visits involving a firearm injury, with an annual average of 22,287 visits.

The mean age of reporting to an ED was 17.9 years (CI 95%, 17.8-18), and 67% of all firearm-related injuries were among those aged 18 to 21 years. The most common reported injuries were to the extremity (48.9%), with 6% of visits resulting in death after presenting to the ED.

More than one-third of injuries were unintentional (39.4%), and the likelihood was higher among children 12 years or younger than with those aged 18 to 21 years (OR = 3.5; 95% CI, 3-4).

Injuries as a result of self-harm made up the smallest population (1.7%). However, the odds of a self-injury occurring was lower among children aged younger than 12 years (OR = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.2-0.6) compared with those aged 18 to 21 years.

Assault-related injuries accounted for 37.7% of all injuries and were less likely to occur among children 12 years and younger (OR = 0.4; 95% CI, 0.3-0.4), than among those aged 18 to 21 years. Assault-related injury was also 70% less likely to occur in a rural ED compared with an urban ED (OR = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.3-0.4).

“As a minimum rst step, our ndings support screening for access to rearms in young children presenting to rural hospitals and counseling on safe storage; lethal means access screening and counseling in patients who are suicidal, in rural areas, and in higher [socioeconomic status (SES)] settings; and screening for risk of assault and/or exposure to violence and rearms access in urban, lower SES settings,” the authors wrote.


Brooks-Russel A, et al. Pediatrics. 2021;doi:10.1542/peds.2020-015834.

Patel SJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2021;doi:10.1542/peds.2020-011957.