By Eric Fleegler, MD, MPH, attending in Pediatric Emergency Medicine; co-author, “Attempts to Silence Firearm Injury Prevention.”
At the time I was struck by the raw power of the gun, the enjoyment of the moment. Twenty-two years later I am struck by the potential on that day for a devastating accident. I was in the backwoods of a classmate’s house. We were by ourselves, shooting an old microwave in the middle of the day.
As a pediatric emergency medicine doctor I see the results of bad decisions every single shift: bike accidents that occur without helmets which lead to permanent brain injury. Intoxicated teenagers who aspirate their own vomit and end up in the intensive care unit. Sexually active adolescents who don’t use protection and get infections—or get pregnant. A 10-year-old child accidentally shot in the thigh by his friend while playing with his dad’s gun.
Discussions about risky behaviors are too late for these kids. They needed guidance, at regular intervals, prior to these incidents—the kind of guidance that is the mainstay of what we do as health care providers. Asking patients about tobacco, drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and finding out if they are depressed, have suicidal thoughts and have access to weapons that can readily kill them is vital to my work as an emergency medicine physician. …