Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting
Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting
May 08, 2017
2 min read

Gun access higher among youth with violent, mental health history

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Youth who screened positive for ADHD, conduct problems, violence and aggression were more likely to report increased access to firearms, according to data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.

“In the U.S., firearms account for 29% of all adolescent (ages 12 to 21) deaths, second only to motor vehicle accidents, which accounts for 33% of adolescent deaths,” Eric Sigel, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told Healio/Psychiatry. “A total of 4,045 adolescents were killed by a firearm in 2015, with suicide and homicide being the dominant reasons. Death by firearms happens when adolescents can access guns, so we wanted to explore the types of access they have.”

Eric Sigel
Eric Sigel

To determine firearm access among adolescents and what factors influence access, researchers conducted a cross-sectional, community-wide survey of a Communities that Care intervention for decreasing youth violence in two communities with high risk for violence. The study cohort included 1,100 youth aged 10 to 17 years and 647 parents. Confidential in-person interviews were conducted in participating households.

Overall, 1.9% of youth reported owning a gun or having possession of a gun within the last year. However, 6.5% reported it would be easy to access a gun; 9.3% knew where to get a gun; and 15.3% had at least one friend with a gun.

Youth who screened positive for ADHD, peer or conduct problems were significantly more likely to report firearm access.

Youth who screened positive for violence risk, reported aggression or victimization had increased access to firearms, compared with peers without such risk.

Regression analyses indicated being male, parental gun ownership, violence risk and conduct problems were significant predictors of increased firearm access.

“We need to screen parents and youth for firearm access, including inquiring about peer access to firearms, and provide appropriate counseling on safe storage. It’s important to recognize that youth who screen positive for mental health issues or are already diagnosed with mental health issues or violence tendencies have increased potential access to firearms,” Sigel said. “As a result, more focused attention for safe storage counseling messages to youth and families is merited. Distributing lock boxes/safe storage devices through the health care setting has been shown to improve safe storage of firearms; therefore, health care providers should consider passing out lock boxes/cable locks in clinical practice. We also need to advocate for insurance companies to pay for the distribution of safe storage devices.” – by Amanda Oldt


Sigel E, et al. Cause for concern: The presence of mental health issues or violence involvement is associated with an increase in youth access to firearms. Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco.

Disclosure: was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.