Stanford pediatricians call on peers: Help curb gun injuries in children

Pediatricians are in the unique position to provide trusted advice to families on gun safety, and they have the responsibility to do so, according to two pediatricians affiliated with Stanford (Calif.) Medicine. 

In a commentary for Hospital Pediatrics, Michelle Sandberg, MD, and Nancy Wang, MD, wrote, "Although firearm safety has been highly politicized, we as physicians know that this is first and foremost a public health issue." Drawing from historical examples of public health issues, such as motor vehicle collisions and tobacco, regulations can be put in place to reduce the threat of these issues, Drs. Sandberg and Wang wrote. "It is clearly time to do the same for firearms." 

Firearms cause more than 30,000 deaths per year, and about 10 percent of those deaths are children — meaning about seven children die from gun injuries per day, according to the report. Gunshot wounds are the most deadly, most difficult to treat and most costly of any injury, costing the U.S. more than $730 million per year, Drs. Sandberg and Wang wrote. 

What's more, data available indicate roughly three-quarters of children who have guns in their homes know where they are stored and more than one-third said they had handled them. And while most parents believe their children would not handle a gun if they came across it, research shows most children would choose to handle the gun and half would pull the trigger, according to the report. 

Firearm injury is a leading cause of death for children, according to Drs. Sandberg and Wang, meaning pediatricians have the responsibility to advocate for children's health as related to guns. 

They advised physicians to ask patients and parents about the "Five L's" and use this information to guide their action. "If there is a gun in the household, is it Locked, is it Loaded, are there Little children, is anyone in the house feeling Low, and is the owner Learned?"

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