Stories about: gun laws

Gun violence and children: Why it’s a public health issue

pediatric gun deaths
Images by Patrick Bibbins

“There have been more than 52,000 pediatric firearm deaths in the past 18 years,” says Dr. Eric Fleegler, a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital as he kicks off his talk. It’s May 3, 2018, and he’s sharing the startling statistic with a rapt audience at the hospital’s Special Grand Rounds on Trauma and Gun Violence.

Later that same day, a 10-year-old Ohio boy will be shot in the face while he sleeps in bed, one of 11 bullets to enter his home during a drive-by shooting. Three North Dakota siblings ages 6 to 14 will be murdered by their mother — who will then kill herself — with a handgun. The following day, a 3-year-old South Carolina boy will fatally shoot himself in the head while playing with a gun he finds at a family friend’s home.

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Florida, doctors and questions about guns: what's going on?

Claire McCarthy, MD

I don’t know whether you’ve heard about this, but on June 2nd Governor Scott of Florida signed a bill making it illegal for doctors to ask if families own a gun. Apparently the National Rifle Association and other gun activists feel that doctors have an agenda when it comes to guns.

They’re right. We do have an agenda.

Our agenda is keeping kids alive.

In pursuit of that agenda, we pediatricians aren’t just concerned about guns. We are passionate about car seats, bike helmets and immunizations. We want to be sure that pools are secured, and that medications and dangerous chemicals are kept out of reach. We worry about whether people are smoking cigarettes around our patients—and as our patients get older, we worry about whether they are smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Talking to families about guns is just one piece of what we do in our attempt to be sure that our patients grow up.

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