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8/16/19blog post

public health and gun violence

a statement from the Center for Community health and Advocacy

In March 2018, Dayton Children’s published a statement calling for a public health approach to preventing gun violence and protecting children. We believed then, as we do now, that as a children’s hospital dedicated to improving the health status of all children, we must be champions for children when their health and safety are at risk. We asked our lawmakers to adopt meaningful policies and practices that will keep our children safe.

Since that time, hundreds of mass shootings have occurred in the United States, including the tragedy of August 4, 2019 that happened minutes away from our hospital and in the community that we serve.

What is even more frightening is that mass shootings reported in the media are but a small share of the overall toll gun violence takes on our nation’s children. Gunfire kills about 1,300 U.S. children and teenagers each year and injures nearly 5,800 more, according to a 2017 study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers. Firearm-related incidents are now a leading cause of death in children and young adults ages 15-24. In a typical year, more preschoolers are shot dead in America than police officers; on a typical day, seven children and teens die from gun wounds. Here at Dayton Children’s we’ve treated 10 children with gunshot wounds in the last year, and two this month alone. And we must remember the effects of gun violence do not end with loss of life or injury sustained from a bullet wound, but rather they continue to have negative lifelong impact for those who have witnessed violence or lost a loved one.

Strong public policy which works toward safe firearm access can have a measurable and lasting positive impact. While we know these measures won’t stop all gun violence, they can go a long way in preventing fatalities caused by firearms. We believe there are reforms that can coexist with the Second Amendment and yet protect our children, including specifically:

  • Support for violence prevention programs.
    • Support for programs addressing the needs of at-risk children and children exposed to violence, including those at the CDC and the Department of Justice.
  • Provide funding for gun violence research.
    • Support gun safety research to improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the best ways to reduce it, so we can form more effective, evidence-based policies.
  • Support enactment of common-sense firearm legislation.
    • Require mandatory background checks for all gun purchases (22 percent of guns are obtained without one) and potential background checks for anyone buying ammunition.
    • Oppose the use of any weapon with which a civilian can kill nine people and shoot 17 more in 30 seconds.
    • Ban sales to those younger than age 21.
    • Mandate safe storage.
    • Empower family members and law enforcement to petition for an order to remove guns from those who may pose a danger to themselves or others, commonly known as “red flag” laws.
  • Ensure children and families have access to appropriate mental health services, particularly to address the effects of exposure to violence.
  • Protect the crucial role of health care providers in providing anticipatory guidance to patients about the health hazards of firearms.

If gun violence was an epidemic a year ago, then it is nothing short of a crisis today and we must take action to keep our children safe. We support our many elected officials in their calls to strengthen safety, including Governor Mike DeWine, State Senator Peggy Lehner, Congressman Mike Turner and Mayor Nan Whaley. At the same time, however, we encourage everyone to contact your lawmakers and demand action. We must be a voice for the children we serve.  Creating safer homes, schools and communities where children live, learn and play is a goal we can all strive for together.

Jonathan Thackeray, MD, FAAP

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