By: Sandy Chung, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
“Within the last month, children and teens have lost their lives to gun violence while simply participating in routine childhood experiences. Attending school. Picking up their siblings. Going to a friend’s birthday party. This is in the wake of school shootings, suicides, unintentional shootings, and daily, deadly violence that involves firearms. Gun violence in America is now so common that it has become the number one cause of death for children and teens, greater than car crashes or any other kind of injury. As the headlines start to fade faster after each incident, and as the political will to act fails to meet the urgency of the moment, pediatricians are compelled to speak out.
“We have the tools we need to prevent the leading cause of death in children, we just need the will to use them. The American Academy of Pediatrics has longstanding policy outlining evidence-based steps our lawmakers can take today to reduce the terrible toll of gun violence and save lives. Fund research. Ban assault weapons. Limit high-capacity magazines. Require background checks, and more.
“It's been proven that talking to families about firearm safety can increase safe storage behavior. As pediatricians, part of our efforts to protect children from gun violence will be educational, in our exam rooms, having conversations with parents about how to keep their homes and communities safe.
“While we are not yet where we need to be on policy, there have been meaningful marks of progress. Last year, bipartisan policymakers came together to pass the first firearm legislation in decades. Congress also continued initial investments in research on how to prevent gun injuries and deaths. But these welcome steps alone are not enough; policymakers can and must do more now to protect children from preventable deaths.
“Pediatricians witness the toll of gun violence from different perspectives; we counsel parents whose children survived or witnessed a shooting event, we treat gun injuries in emergency rooms, we see the ways in which the ubiquity of gun violence in children’s lives causes families to live in fear.
“It must not be this way. It is time for all of us who care for children and teens to speak up until we see the progress they deserve. Until they are safe.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.