"We have an epidemic. And nobody is doing anything about it."

Gun injuries are a growing problem for Florida’s children, rising along with the increasing availability of firearms across the state, the Tampa Bay Times has found.To determine how many kids are shot each year — accidentally, intentionally...

"We have an epidemic. And nobody is doing anything about it."

Gun injuries are a growing problem for Florida’s children, rising along with the increasing availability of firearms across the state, the Tampa Bay Times has found.

To determine how many kids are shot each year — accidentally, intentionally or during the commission of a crime — the Times looked at millions of hospital discharge records for patients across Florida, as well as data collected by the state’s 24 medical examiners.

The analysis found that, between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours.

From 2010 through 2015, the number of kids killed in gun-related incidents rose nearly 20 percent. Injuries from guns jumped 26 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone.

“That’s a very rapid increase,” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

Firearms killed 475 kids during that six-year span — slightly less than cancer, but more than cardiovascular, infectious or respiratory Wonodds diseases.

Meanwhile, hospitals statewide billed more than $100 million for pediatric gun injuries. More than $75 million of that was billed to a publicly subsidized insurance provider such as Medicaid or Florida KidCare.

“This is a major problem for our children,” said Dr. Judy Schaechter, chair of the pediatrics department at the University of Miami Health System. “I call it America’s most preventable disease.”

Yet ask state law enforcement officials how many kids are shot each year, and they don’t know. The Florida Department of Health has a statewide campaign to reduce drownings, but nothing aimed at reducing the number of child gun incidents, which kill roughly as many children 17 and under.

“We have an epidemic,” said Dr. Leopoldo Malvezzi, trauma director at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. “And nobody is doing anything about it.”

Read the three-part series.

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