RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Pediatric trauma surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Haynes is alarmed at the rising rate of children arriving at VCU’s Children’s Hospital with gunshot wounds.

“We are only a mirror of what is going on in our country,” Haynes told 8News Wednesday, noting his frontline team has seen 25% more children who have been shot in each of the last three years.

While it’s unknown exactly how many children account for the 25% annual uptick, the Virginia Department of Health’s latest data for metro Richmond tells a similar story among children 14 and under.

Nine children were shot and visited the ER in 2018, 16 children in 2019, 25 children in 2020, and 35 children last year, according to the data, which encompasses the City of Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and Prince George counties, as well as Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg.

“It really is devastating when these children and families are coming through our doors,” said Corri Miller-Hobbs, a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital where she works to prevent injuries among children, and help them emotionally recover. 

Among children who are shot, Miller-Hobbs and Haynes said a majority stem from gun violence, rather than accidental shootings.

“Certainly we’re seeing that in more urban areas, that it’s occurring, though it is spreading into more suburban areas,” Miller-Hobbs said.

Haynes said the after-effects could be just as severe for children compared to adults facing similar injuries.

“Any injured child, particularly those who are seriously injured, are at risk for development of acute stress disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, just like an adult would be,” he said.

The Children’s Hospital pointed out that some shootings are accidental; a 7-year-old boy shot himself in Henrico in April. The boy’s father was subsequently charged.

A 10-year-old Richmond Public Schools student reportedly shot themselves by accident in March.

In cases of accidental shootings, Miller-Hobbs recommends gun locks, safes and even discussing when guns are in homes with other parents, babysitters or other places where children may be watched; comparing the conversation to dietary restrictions.

“You say to them, ‘hey, my child can’t have this food because there’s an allergy,’ you should also be asking the question about a firearm to make sure that it’s correctly secured within the home,” Miller-Hobbs said.