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About One-Quarter of Assault-Injured Youth Own a Gun

MONDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one-quarter of youth presenting to the emergency department for assault-related injuries report possessing a firearm, most of which are obtained illegally, according to a study published online July 8 in Pediatrics.

Patrick M. Carter, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues administered a computerized screening survey regarding firearm possession and correlates among 689 youth (aged 14 to 24 years old) presenting to a Level 1 emergency department with assault-related injuries. Demographics, firearm possession rates and characteristics, attitudes toward aggression, substance abuse, and history of violence were assessed using validated instruments.

The researchers found that 23 percent of participants reported firearm possession in the previous six months, of whom only 17 percent had obtained the gun from a legal source. Twenty-two percent reported owning highly lethal automatic/semiautomatic weapons and more than one-third (37.1 percent) reported owning a firearm for protection. Firearm possession was significantly correlated with male gender, higher socioeconomic status, illicit drug use, being in a recent serious fight, and retaliatory attitudes.

"Future prevention efforts should focus on minimizing illegal firearm access among high-risk youth, nonviolent alternatives to retaliatory violence, and substance use prevention," the authors write.

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