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Stricter gun laws reduce child and adolescent gun deaths, Stanford study finds

Across the country, states with more restrictive firearm laws have significantly fewer pediatric gun deaths than those with lax gun laws.

Across the country, states with more restrictive firearm laws have significantly fewer pediatric gun deaths than those with lax gun laws, a new Stanford study has found. Laws that keep guns away from young people are especially strongly linked to lower rates of gun suicides in youth, according to the research.

The findings are being presented in an upcoming scientific talk at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is taking place in Orlando, Florida.

The research team, led by pediatric surgeon Stephanie Chao, MD, ranked the overall strictness of each state's gun laws, and also examined whether states had child access protection laws, those designed specifically to keep kids away from guns. Overall, California's gun laws are strictest, while Arizona's are weakest.

Per capita, twice as many children die from gun injuries in states with the least restrictive gun laws as in those with the most restrictive laws. A HealthDay story published about the research explains:

'It seemed to have a dose-dependent effect. The more laws there are, the fewer deaths there are,' Chao said.

Lax firearms laws, in particular, create an increased risk for suicide among children, the researchers found.

Laws that limit children's access to guns — requirements for locking mechanisms on guns, keeping firearms in locked boxes or safes, and storing guns separate from ammunition — protected kids from suicide, the study found.

'States that didn't have any laws designed to specifically protect children had four times the pediatric suicide death rate as states that had laws that both required safe gun storage and said you can't provide a gun to a child,' Chao said.

When I interviewed Chao for Stanford's press release about the research, she said she hoped the findings would encourage state-level legislators to consider enacting additional legislation to help protect children.

"If you put more regulations on firearms, it does make a difference," Chao told me. "It does end up saving children’s lives."

Photo by Christopher Slesarchik / Shutterstock

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