Some 7,500 children are hospitalized yearly for gunshot wounds, and 500 of them die, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The study also found a "significant association" between the percentage of kids' gunshot wounds occurring in homes and the percentage of households containing firearms, the AAP said in a statement. Researchers reviewed statistics from the Kids' Inpatient Database from 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009, and estimated state household gun ownership using the most recent data available from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Researchers presented this data at the annual AAP conference Orlando on Sunday. The organization represents 60,000 pediatricians and other medical officials.
Kids and guns: 'These are not isolated tragedies'
Between 1997 and 2009, child hospitalizations for gunshot wounds increased from 4,270 to 7,730, and in-hospital deaths increased from 317 to 503.
While many current gun-control efforts focus on limiting military-style semi-automatic assault rifles, "handguns account for the majority of childhood gunshot wounds, and this number appears to be increasing over the last decade," said lead study author Dr. Arin L. Madenci.
"Further, states with higher percentages of household firearm ownership also tended to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home." Policies focusing on reducing the number of guns in homes, particularly handguns, may be key to effectively reducing children's gunshot injuries, Madenci said.
The state with the lowest percentage of home gun ownership was New Jersey, with 10%; the highest was Montana, with 62%, according to the study.
The AAP previously established a policy to reduce gun access and injuries in children by recommending that pediatricians counsel parents of children as young as 6 months old.
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