Gun Safety: A Public Health Issue

December 10, 2019

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John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager

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The No. 2 cause of death for American children is firearm-related injuries, but healthcare providers are more likely to counsel parents on fire safety than firearm safety, according to a new study.

In a research letter published Oct. 28 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers said analysis of data from 16,576 regular pediatric visits involving 77 pediatric residents and 26 faculty members from January 2017 through June 2018 ― a period that included mass shootings in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, and in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018 ― showed that residents and faculty members were more likely to ask parents about smoke alarms in the home than about safe gun storage in the home.

In 2016, firearm-related injuries were the second leading cause of death for American children ages 1 to 19, just behind motor vehicle crashes, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Fires were the 11th leading cause.

Some groups are trying to bring greater focus to the problem of firearm deaths among children. Messages about gun safety and school shootings are delivered in powerful public service announcements recently released by the Ad Council and Sandy Hook Promise, respectively (warning: some may find the content disturbing). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Physicians have both issued policy statements recommending that gun safety be approached as a public health issue and suggesting strategies for doing so.

The AAP says in its policy statement that “trigger locks, lock boxes, gun safes, and safe storage legislation are encouraged.” But the AAP also states that “the safest home for a child or adolescent is one without firearms.”

Project ChildSafe recommends the following practices for home gun storage:

  • Unloaded firearms should be stored in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault, or storage case. The storage location should be inaccessible to children.
  • Gun locking devices render firearms inoperable and can be used in addition to locked storage. If firearms are disassembled, parts should be securely stored in separate locations.
  • Ammunition should be stored in a locked location separate from firearms.
  • Thoroughly double check firearms to confirm that they are unloaded when you remove them from storage. Accidents could occur if a family member borrows a gun and returns it to storage while still loaded.

Project ChildSafe has partnered with many law enforcement agencies in Arkansas to make gun safety kits, including gun locks, available for free to local residents. See a list of the agencies here.

Anyone born after 1968 is required to complete a hunter education course and carry a valid hunter education card to hunt in Arkansas. Information about hunter education courses, including online courses, is available on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website.

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