Monday, December 17, 2012

Pediatricians and Guns

As one of the many people stunned and saddened by the horrible events in Newtown, I wanted to take a minute to discuss where the American Academy of Pediatrics stands on guns. I am deliberately not addressing more about the tragedy because there is so much that could be said, but this blog is where you visit for medical/finance posts.

AAP Statement on Firearm Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population October 18, 2012. "The absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents. Adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability. Safe gun storage (guns unloaded and locked, ammunition locked separately) reduces children’s risk of injury. Physician counseling of parents about firearm safety appears to be effective, but firearm safety education programs directed at children are ineffective. The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support a number of specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons; and the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use."

Essentially, your pediatrician will counsel you that firearms are dangerous and should be stored unloaded and the ammo stored elsewhere - both of which are locked. We're serious about this because 3,100 children a year will injure themselves with a firearm - 120 of those injuries will be fatal. This does not include the number of teenagers who will commit suicide with firearms -over 1500 per year as firearms are used in 90% of successful suicides. So that is 1600 kids per year who die in what is considered 'preventable' deaths.

I recognize there are many legitimate reasons to own a gun. One of my friends did her residency in a military town, and EVERYONE owned a gun. I'm not a pacifist; I have a healthy respect for firearms.  I have been to the gun range, I grew up taking riflery at camp, and my entire family in Israel are/were members of the IDF. However, my job is to counsel a parent on the dangers of owning a gun with children in the home, the same as I would a swimming pool, a trampoline, and a bicycle. (Unless I'm in Florida where the fight over the ridiculous law preventing doctors from asking about guns in the home is still being fought.)  Owning a firearm is neither good or bad, but if you own one, respect its power and store it properly.

The AAP has a good resource page about talking to your children about disasters. I am lucky that my children are too young to know what happened, but it won't always be that way. May all those affected be held in our thoughts and prayers.