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Every day, 28 children and teens in the U.S.—the equivalent of a high school classroom—die from gun violence, making it the No. 1 killer of youth under 24. The national death rate is far higher than all other high-income countries combined, largely due to an alarming increase in suicides and murders that do not make national headlines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics calls for a fight against it public health emergency with a harm reduction approach, using tactics that have successfully reduced motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths. The AAP offers guidance in an updated policy statement, “Firearm Injuries and Deaths in Children and Youth: Injury Prevention and Harm Reduction,” which will be released along with an accompanying technical report at the 2022 AAP National Conference and Exposition in Anaheim. , California, October 8.

“This is not a simple problem, and it cannot be solved with a simple solution,” said lead author Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, who wrote the report. “Pediatricians can start by offering guidance and education to families about safer gun storage. AAP is also calling for legislation that, like common sense driver’s license requirements, would increase gun safety.”

Over the past decade, murders and suicides involving firearms among US youth, especially those between the ages of 15 and 24, have increased by 14% and 39%, respectively. Among all the youth firearms deaths, murders – 58%, suicides – 37%, 2% – unintentional, legal intervention – 1%.

About 85% of firearm-related deaths of children age 12 and younger occur at home. According to the study, based on data from 2014, teenagers aged 13-17 are equally likely to be killed at home (39%) or on the street/sidewalk (38%).

“Many gun tragedies escape the public eye because they happen at home, sometimes in the child’s own home or a friend’s home, or a neighbor’s or grandparent’s home,” said Eric W. Flagler, MD, MPH, FAAP co-authored both reports. “Research tells us that families tend to underestimate how children will behave when they encounter guns and miscalculate the risks. The risk of suicide is also a big concern, especially in families where teenagers are struggling with their mental health.’

The AAP recommends actions at the local, state, and federal levels that include:

  • Firearms and Lethal Weapons Prevention Consultation, mental health reviews and safe gun storage training provided by clinicians as part of routine patient visits;
  • Increased funding for anti-violence programs in hospitals and community settings;
  • Regulations, so firearms are regulated for safety, just like other consumer goods, including cars. National training, licensing, insurance coverage, and registration requirements for persons purchasing firearms, as well as safe storage requirements, may be established;
  • The development and regulation of firearm safety by promoting the development and sale of affordable, personalized “smart” firearms and safety technology that allow only authorized users to pull the trigger of a firearm;
  • Legislation requiring universal background checks using both federal databases and information from local law enforcement agencies before purchasing a firearm;
  • Legislation that encourages the safe storage of firearms;
  • Extreme Risk Protection Ordinances (ERPOs), also known as “red flag laws,” which prohibit individuals at risk of harming themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms with a court order;
  • More funding for firearms injury and prevention research;

Research and publications on firearm-related injuries, deaths, and interventions lag far behind other areas of research and hinder evidence-based approaches to reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths among children and youth in the United States.

“We cannot afford to stand by and watch as more children and communities are traumatized by gun violence, not only because of what they experience firsthand, but also because of what they see and heard in their neighborhoods and in the U.S. as a whole,” Dr. Lee. said. “As a nation, we are judged on how we take care of our children, so we must act now to reverse this rising tide of gun violence against our children.”

Firearm injuries may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

Additional information:
Firearm Injuries and Deaths of Children and Youth: Injury Prevention and Harm Reduction, PEDIATRICS (2022).

Citation: Preventing gun violence requires a public safety approach like motor vehicle regulation (2022, October 8) Retrieved October 8, 2022, from -demands-safety-approach.html

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