THE YOU DOCS Steps can reduce pediatric gun deaths
Q: The amount of gun violence in this country gets more frightening every day. Children are frequently victims! What’s going on?
Jayne G., Lincoln, Nebraska
A: The latest heartbreaking tale of the death of a child from firearms is about a 3-year-old boy in Indiana who found a loaded semiautomatic rifle and shot himself in the face. That comes two weeks after a 2-year-old boy in Louisiana grabbed a gun from a kitchen counter and killed himself.
Each and every year from 2002 to 2014, nearly 1,300 children up to age 17 died, while 5,790 were treated for gunshot wounds, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. And from 2014 to 2015, Stanford University researchers say there were 2,715 pediatric firearm fatalities.
How does this happen? A study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 National Conference found that around one in three children live in homes with a firearm. And only 34 percent of parents stored their gun locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition.
On top of that, parents often fail to ask about firearm storage in homes where their children spend time. (Both the 2- and 3-year-old who shot themselves were not at home.)
In addition, most parents assume kids can tell the difference between a toy gun and a real one. But researchers from Emory University School of Medicine say that in their test, only 41 percent of children 7 to 17 identified both correctly.
What can be done? — Establish responsible gun laws. Stanford Medical School researchers found that there are twice as many pediatric firearm deaths in states with the most lenient gun regulations compared with states where gun laws are strictest.
— Lock away guns, and secure ammunition separately.
— Parents, inquire if there’s a gun where your child will be spending time and how it’s secured. If it’s not, get your kid and leave.
— And the 66 percent of Americans who favor stricter gun-safety legislation, let your representatives know. Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.