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Washington Post: Pediatrician Calls for Secure Storage, Prevention Strategies for Child Gun Deaths

June 22, 2021

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an op-ed from Dr. Dorothy Novick, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a scholar with CHOP’s Center for Violence Prevention, calling attention to how the gun violence crisis impacts young people. Dr. Novick explains how the increase in gun violence and sheer number of guns in the United States during the pandemic has led to more children dying from unintentional shootings and gun suicide and calls specifically for secure storage of guns in homes in order to prevent children from gaining access to them. Everytown’s Be SMART program educates parents on how to store firearms securely and raises awareness about the importance of doing so.

From the piece:

“Firearms are permanent fixtures. They do not easily break or decompose, and they are difficult to dispose of. The only way to protect children from these weapons is to store them safely away.

“That means keeping firearms locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. Studies show safe firearm storage protects children from unintentional shootings and suicide and can reduce community violence by preventing firearms from being lost and stolen.”

Over the last year, with the increase in gun sales and gun violence, more children have been put in situations where they can gain access to firearms, putting them at risk of unintentional shootings, gun suicide, and gun violence on school grounds. Research from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the research and education arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, shows that to protect children and teens, gun owners should store guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. 

Between March and December of 2020, there was a 31 percent increase in unintentional shooting deaths by children of themselves or others, compared to the same time period in 2019. So far this year, there have been more than 100 incidents where a child under the age of 18 has gained access to a firearm and unintentionally shot themselves or someone else. On Sunday, an 8-year-old girl found a gun in a St. Louis home and unintentionally shot and wounded herself and injured a 9-year-old girl.

“We are living in a country where children are dying because of something as simple as a gun not being stored securely in a home — and that’s unacceptable,” said Dr. Annie Andrews, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina and volunteer with Moms Demand Action in South Carolina. “These deaths are completely preventable, and Dr. Novick is right, we need to take action to put a stop to this gun violence. While there are many ways to combat this epidemic, there’s nothing stopping people from acting right now to secure guns, normalize the conversation around it, and save lives.”

Developed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action, the Be SMART program helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

The program encourages parents and adults to: 

  • Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell their peers to be SMART 

For more information on the Be SMART program and how to safely secure your firearms, visit the Be SMART website. Read more about the rise in firearm suicides in youth here. Additional information about unintentional shootings by children is here.

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