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Pediatricians Advocating for Gun Safety Should Be No Surprise

Steven J. Goldstein, MD, FAAP
April 13, 2018


Shortly before last month’s student-led March for Our Lives, I met with organizers for a sibling event being held in Huntington, New York. They’d invited me to speak at the Long Island demonstration as President of New York’s American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Chapter 2 and were interested in hearing about the academy’s work on gun violence and the role of science in addressing the issue. 

 

Almost all of the student March organizers were pleased, but surprised, to learn that pediatricians have a long history of advocating for rational gun laws.  Given the devastating impact of gun violence on the young people we treat, however, preventing firearm injuries is and should be at the core of our mission to safeguard their health and wellness.

 

Nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year, according to a 2017 Pediatrics study. As a pediatrician practicing in New York City, the toll gun violence takes on children is vividly reflected in frequent stories of family members hurt or killed by guns when I collect patient histories. Despite AAPs ongoing gun safety measures at the national level, though, gun violence prevention did not emerge as a priority within our local Chapter until recently.

"In #AAPvoices, #mfol Long Island speaker @SteveGoldstei10 describes how student organizers inspired new @NYSAAPCh2 gun violence prevention initiative. ”

Parkland was a call to action, the enthusiasm and commitment of the students an inspiration. Our Chapter always has had an Injury, Poisoning and Violence Prevention Committee, but its main focus was on car and crib safety, unsafe consumer products, and poisoning prevention. After Parkland, we reached out to membership in hopes of developing a Gun Violence Prevention initiative. Instantly, an 18-member group (and growing) was created. Alongside long-time members, it includes medical students, residents, previously uninvolved chapter members, parents, a student organizer, educators, and a family court judge.

 

Our March Chapter Executive Committee meeting was almost entirely dedicated to the gun violence initiative. Everytown for Gun Safety sent a knowledgeable and engaging speaker, and our neighboring AAP Chapter provided a passionate gun violence prevention advocate. An emergency department pediatrician with research interest in the effects of gun violence also spoke to the 50-plus attendees.

 

It was the Chapter's Gun Violence Prevention initiative that led to the invitation for me to speak at March for Our Lives-Long Island event, along with former Congressman Steve Israel, family members of students killed at Parkland, clergy, organizers, students, and a representative from the NAACP. Police estimated around 3,000 people attended the event.  Passionate speeches were met with equally impassioned chants and cheers from attendees. 


"Almost all of the student march organizers were pleased, but surprised, to learn that pediatricians have a long history of advocating for rational gun laws.  Given the devastating impact of gun violence on the young people we treat, however, preventing firearm injuries is and should be at the core of our mission to safeguard their health and wellness.

It was the Chapters Gun Violence Prevention initiative that led to the invitation for me to speak at March for Our Lives-Long Island event, along with former Congressman Steve Israel, family members of students killed at Parkland, clergy, organizers, students, and a representative from the NAACP. Police estimated around 3,000 people attended the event.  Passionate speeches were met with equally impassioned chants and cheers from attendees. 

 

Living in New York, already protected by stringent gun laws, our Chapter is most urgently advocating for a robust safe storage act and legislation to increase the waiting period for gun purchase.  We are hopeful safer gun storage will decrease the number of accidental deaths and teen suicides, while an increased waiting period to buy guns will reduce crimes of passion.

 

Since our discussion at that first meeting with Long Island March for Our Lives student organizers, many now see the role of pediatricians in a new light. Beyond caring for young victims of gun injuries, pediatricians’ pledge to help bolster the role science can play in crafting gun violence prevention legislation was especially well received.

 

Newly created at the national level, the AAP’s Gun Safety and Injury Prevention Research Initiative will bring experts from around the country together to tackle firearm injuries as a public health epidemic. The young people at the March understood the urgent need to approach gun violence as a public health issue, just like crib safety, highway deaths, and ATV injuries, and they responded with some of the loudest cheers at the event.

 

But it’s these young people, in Huntington, Washington, and throughout the country, who deserve the applause. By holding our elected leaders accountable for their deadly inaction on gun violence, as they vow to do in force on election day, they can accomplish what previous generations did not.

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 
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​​​Ab​out the ​​Author

Steven J. Goldstein, MD, FAAP, is president of the New York Chapter 2 of the American Academy of Pediatrics and serves as co-chair of its Pediatric Council and Committee on Environmental Health.  He practices general pediatrics at Kew Gardens Hills Pediatrics, Flushing, Queens, NY, and Rutledge Pediatrics, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.  Follow him on Twitter at @SteveGoldstei10 or the Chapter @NYSAAPCh2.









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