Firearm injuries to children in Cape Town, South Africa: Impact of the 2004 Firearms Control Act
Background. Before the introduction of the Firearms Control Act in 2004, the epidemiology of childhood firearm injuries from 1991 to 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa, was reported. This study analyses current data as a comparator to assess the impact of the Act.
Methods. Firearm injuries seen at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, from 2001 to 2010 were respectively reviewed. Data recorded included the patients’ folder numbers, gender, date of birth, age, date of presentation, date discharged and inpatient stay, firearm type, number of shots, circumstances, injury sites, injury type, treatment, resulting morbidities and survival. These data were compared with the 1991 - 2001 data.
Results. One hundred and sixty-three children presented with firearm injuries during this period. The results showed a decrease in incidence from 2001 to 2010. Older children and males had a higher incidence than younger children and females. Most injuries were to an extremity and were unintentional. Mortality had reduced significantly from the previous study (6% to 2.6%), as did the total number of inpatient days (1 063 to 617).
Conclusions. Compared with the earlier study, this study showed a significant reduction in the number of children presenting with a firearm-related injury. Mortality and inpatient stay were also significantly reduced. The study shows the impact that the Firearms Control Act has had in terms of paediatric firearm-related injury and provides evidence that the medical profession can play an important role in reducing violence.