The source and ownership of guns used by children to shoot themselves or others is largely unknown.
To determine the ownership and usual storage location of firearms used in unintentional and self-inflicted intentional firearm deaths and injuries.
Retrospective case series.
King County, Washington.
Youths aged from birth to 19 years who sought medical treatment at a level I trauma center for a self-inflicted or unintentional firearm injury between 1990 and 1995 or who presented to the county medical examiner with a fatal self-inflicted or unintentional firearm injury between 1990 and 1995.
County medical examiner records, regional police investigative reports, medical records from a level I trauma center, and surveys of victims' families.
Main Outcome Measures
Source and ownership of the associated firearm.
Fifty-six fatal injuries and 68 nonfatal firearm injuries that met the criteria were identified. Of these, 59 were intentionally self-inflicted deaths and injuries and 65 were unintentional deaths and injuries. A firearm owned by a household member living with the victim was used in 33 (65%) of 51 suicides and suicide attempts and 11 (23%) of 47 unintentional injuries and deaths. Additionally, a firearm owned by another relative, friend, or parent of a friend of the victim was used in 4 (8%) of the 51 suicides and suicide attempts and 23 (49%) of the 47 unintentional injuries and deaths. Parental ownership accounted for 29 (57%) of the 51 suicides and suicide attempts and 9 (19%) of the 47 unintentional injuries and deaths. More than 75% of the guns used in suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries originate either from the victim's home or the home of a friend or relative.