Study: Doctors can help provide gun safety resources for kids' sake

Gun-related injuries hospitalize 20 children and adolescents daily, according to a review published in the June 2017 edition of Hospital Pediatrics, prompting some doctors to promote open communication between gun owners and medical practitioners.

Fatalities involving firearms are one of the top four leading causes of death for American youth, according to the article “Pediatric Firearm-Related Injuries in the United States,” with more than 4,500 under the age of 21 dying in 2015.

“As a pediatrician and a parent, I am acutely aware of the number of children who suffer injuries or who die from firearms, and I find the rate of firearm injury and death among children and adolescents in this country alarming,” said lead author Dr. Kavita Parikh, associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s National Health System. “Fundamentally, we want to empower pediatricians and hospitalists to get involved with reducing firearm-related injuries to children in this country.”

Assault injuries comprised nearly two-thirds of admissions for patients younger than 20 and less than 4 percent were hospitalized for suicide attempts. About 75 percent of children 10 and younger admitted for gun-related injuries were unintentional, while almost 67 percent of adolescents aged 15 to 19 suffered injuries during an assault with a firearm.

Parikh said research shows 39 percent of parents wrongly believe their children don’t know where guns are stored in the home. She said parents have a “false sense of security” and believes physicians can do more to educate and promote safe storage practices.

“Public health interventions to increase firearm safety have demonstrated varying results, but the most effective programs have provided free gun safety devices to families,” Parikh wrote in the article’s abstract. “Pediatricians should continue working to reduce gun violence by asking patients and their families about firearm access, encouraging safe storage, and supporting firearm-related injury prevention research.”

Dr. Robert Young, executive editor for Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, told in March many physicians have little to no experience with guns and “have no business telling patients what to do, or not do, with them.”

“We are against gun ownership even being documented in medical records optionally, unless there is immediate clinical concern about safety on which that might bear,” he said. “That can include concern about imminent risk or harm to oneself or someone else, in which case it must be addressed, period.”

He said the perception of the medical community as staunchly anti-gun comes from “a political element” unrepresentative of “rank and file physicians.”

“They either don’t want anything to do with dealing with it with patients … or they themselves are gun owners,” he said.

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