The New England Journal of Medicine recently responded to the mass shooting of elementary school children in Newtown, CT, by publishing an article entitled “ Preventing Gun Deaths in Children.” Despite the sense of temporary disbelief a reader experiences by seeing such words on the printed page (or computer screen), and the primal feelings of shock, horror, anger and sympathy aroused, the physician authors wrote a sobering article on this most unpleasant subject, devoid of drama and hyperbole. The ironic thing is that after reading it, all except the paranoid gun owners who fear that “the Government” is going to not only attack them, but disarm them–ideas repeatedly sown by Wayne Lapierre of the NRA–will be fuming in anger, and fantasizing about committing violent acts against the legislators who have failed us so miserably by making it so onerous to take sensible steps to protect our children.
Both authors are pediatricians who have lost patients to gun violence. They also know how kids behave, and what influences them. A young child fascinated by cartoons, videogames and superheroes, left unsupervised in a home with unsecured guns might just pick one up and shoot his playdate. Drugs and depression and disappointments in relationships may drive adolescents to guns. And then there are the mentally unstable. As the authors note:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recognizing all these vulnerabilities, declared in a policy statement on firearms in October 2012 that ‘the absence of guns from homes and communities is the most effective measure to prevent suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries to children and adolescents.'”
But securing guns is also a valuable idea, and when pediatricians counseled families with guns to lock them up, increased safety and decreased death and injury resulted. However, this idea did not sit well with everyone. As the authors note, in 2011, Florida passed the Firearms Owners' Privacy Act, which made it illegal for a doctor to even ask about guns in the home. After the American Academy of Pediatrics brought a suit for injunctive relief, the state was prevented from enforcing the law. But the issue is far from settled, since Florida Governor Rick Scott has appealed the ruling, and similar legislation is being introduced in other states.
But wait…there's more! (as they say on TV):
“At the federal level, problematic language was introduced into the Affordable Care Act. Section 2717(c) sets restrictions on the collection and aggregation of data on guns in the home. Furthermore, Congress has restricted the research activities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by stipulating that no funds that are made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Strictures like these often have a chilling effect on the gathering of important public health data.”
Of course, the authors have several common-sense recommendations to offer to reduce gun violence against children. Essentially, they advocate for less guns and more regulation and supervision of purchases. And they would like to be more involved, and have better access to at-risk families. But these well-thought-out suggestions will amount to nothing if the voting public continues to support politicians more concerned with the financial well being of gun manufacturers, and the outsized vision of Second Amendment rights maintained by gun owners, than the safety of children.