Community vulnerability affects youth gun deaths

May 26, 2023

Community vulnerability affects youth gun deaths

Harborview Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Deepika Nehra was lead author of a recently published study that evaluated the association between community-level social vulnerability, gun law strength, and youth assault-related firearm deaths. 

The investigators found that socially vulnerable communities experience a disproportionate number of youth deaths from gun violence, and that this relationship persisted no matter how strong a state’s gun laws were. The paper was published in JAMA Network Open.

“We saw that the vast majority of these deaths amongst these youth are happening in the most vulnerable communities,” said Nehra, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “What I think this study is drawing attention to is that, yes, firearm legislation is absolutely important and does save lives. But even with that, we're going to need more.” 

The study team found that even in states with restrictive gun laws, the most vulnerable communities still had an approximately 12-fold higher youth firearm-related death rate than the least socially vulnerable communities. Nehra reported that this was very similar in states with permissive gun laws where there the death rate was tenfold higher when comparing the most and least socially vulnerable communities.

In this analysis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index was used to determine community-level vulnerability. 

“We're going to really need to focus, I think, in a real in-depth and long-term way on communities that are disadvantaged in order to build up the health of those communities, so that we start really moving the needle with regards to firearm-related deaths,” Nehra said.

Firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death among Americans between 1 and 24 years of age. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Nehra on the analysis of youth gun deaths and community vulnerability. 

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