Lead study author Dr. Arin L. Madenci and colleagues reviewed statistics from the Kids' Inpatient Database from 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 for a total of 36 million pediatric hospital admissions and estimated state household gun ownership using the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.
During that period, hospitalizations from gunshot wounds increased from 4,270 to 7,730, and in-hospital deaths from 317 to 503.
"Handguns account for the majority of childhood gunshot wounds and this number appears to be increasing over the last decade," Madenci said in a statement. "Furthermore, states with higher percentages of household firearm ownership also tended to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home."
The study also found a significant association between the percentage of gunshot wounds occurring in the home and the percentage of households containing any firearms, loaded firearms and unlocked loaded firearms.
Many current gun control efforts focus on limiting the availability of military-style semi-automatic assault rifles, Madenci said.
"Policies designed to reduce the number of household firearms, especially handguns, might more effectively reduce the number of gunshot injuries in children," Madenci said.
The findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.