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Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Feb;17(2):168-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00639.x.

Screening adolescents in the emergency department for weapon carriage.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



The objective was to describe the prevalence and correlates of past-year weapon involvement among adolescents seeking care in an inner-city emergency department (ED).


This cross-sectional study administered a computerized survey to all eligible adolescents (age 14-18 years), 7 days a week, who were seeking care over an 18-month period at an inner-city Level 1 ED. Validated measures were administered, including measures of demographics, sexual activity, substance use, injury, violent behavior, weapon carriage, and/or weapon use. Zero-inflated Poisson (ZIP) regression models were used to identify correlates of the occurrence and past-year frequency of these weapons variables.


Adolescents (n = 2069, 86% response rate) completed the computerized survey. Fifty-five percent were female; 56.5% were African American. In the past year, 20% of adolescents reported knife or razor carriage, 7% reported gun carriage, and 6% pulled a knife or gun on someone. Although gun carriage was more frequent among males, females were as likely to carry a knife or pull a weapon in the past year.


One-fifth of all adolescents seeking care in this inner-city ED have carried a weapon. Understanding weapon carriage among teens seeking ED care is a critical first step to future ED-based injury prevention initiatives.

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