Last week the NRA quite arrogantly called doctors ‘self-important’ and advised them to “stay in their lane” with respect to gun violence . They were responding to a recent policy paper by the American College of Physicians that called firearm violence a public health crisis and outlined policies that would reduce injuries and death.
As a pediatrician I can confidently say that this is, in fact, our lane. Pediatric Emergency Physicians and trauma surgeons try and save the lives of the nearly 1300 children under 18 that die from gun shot wounds every year and they care for the 5,790 children who are injured yearly. Firearm related death is one of the top three causes of death among American youth, a rate much higher than any other high-income country. Gun violence is a public health crisis and should be treated as such. Just as car seats and seatbelts have reduced death and injury from motor vehicle accidents, the implementation of evidence-based gun safety legislation could reduce death and injury from gun violence.
A recent study showed that stricter gun laws at the state level cut the number of deaths in children due to gun injuries in half. The study also found that states with no child access prevention laws had four times as many childhood suicides by guns as compared to states with safe storage or gun lock laws. Furthermore, states with background checks for guns and ammunition also had dramatically fewer numbers of children dying from gun violence.
Such research supports the idea that gun violence must be treated like the public health crisis it is . More CDC supported research that is currently discouraged by the Dickey amendment must be allowed to take place to prevent the tragic, senseless and preventable loss of life physicians see every day.
Eve Meltzer Krief, MD FAAP
Executive, Legislative Advocacy and Gun Safety Committees, NY Chapter 2 American Academy of Pediatrics