Preventing Gun Violence: We Must Act

Article excerpt

Working in a trauma center at Loyola, I see gunshot victims often--I see the devastation that guns cause.

As I was working with a medical student on a Grand Rounds presentation on gunshot violence, I came across some of the following information.

Every day in the United States, 5 children under the age of 19 years are killed by firearms, according to 2004 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for every child killed, more than 5 are injured by firearms.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 years and the second leading cause of death for Hispanics, according to 2006 data from the CDC.

This is a far greater issue in our country than in other industrialized countries, probably because of the laxity of our gun laws.

The magnitude of this problem needs serious attention from parents, teachers, physicians, the media, and lawmakers.

Several issues surround the debate of the right to "bear arms" / own weapons versus concerns for safety and crime reduction. Within this debate, several misconceptions have been formed that impact the pediatric population:

* Myth: Most killings of children occur on the streets or in schools. Nearly all unintentional firearm fatalities in children occur in or around the home: 50% in the home of the victim, and 40% in the home of a friend or relative (Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 1996;150:1160-5).

* Myth: Children are not strong enough to fire a gun. In reality, 25% of 3- to 4-year-old children and 75% of 5- to 6-year-old children are strong enough to pull a trigger of at least 10 pounds; 92% of commercially available guns require less trigger strength (Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 1995;149:1318-22).

* Myth: Guns are stored locked in homes. In fact, 69% of parents who own guns admit to having them loaded and unlocked in the home (Pediatrics 2003;111: E109).

These facts are important for physicians to relay to parents so that they can become better informed about the dangers of keeping a gun in the home. …