"A 7-year-old boy was killed Thursday at a Fourth of July celebration in Virginia after someone evidently fired a gun in the air." July 4, 2013

"A 4-year-old boy wandered into his grandfather's room on Wednesday, found a gun underneath his pillow, and accidently shot himself in the shoulder, the Dallas Morning News reported. Both the child's mother and grandfather were in the house at the time of the shooting, but both in separate rooms." June 6, 2013

"A 9-year-old boy is dead in Ohio after he was accidentally shot Friday afternoon while handling a gun with his 14-year-old cousin, according to local media reports." June 22, 2013

"A 3-year-old boy in Tampa, Florida, fatally shot himself with his uncle's gun on Tuesday evening, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The boy found the 9mm gun in a backpack in the bedroom he shared with his 29-year-old uncle, Jeffrey D. Walker, and accidentally discharged it." May 8, 2013

"A 19-year-old Nashua man died Sunday night after accidentally shooting himself in the head, police said." December 19, 2012   

I recently saw a very bright and animated 7-year-old girl for a well-child check and I came to the part of the visit where I ask the parent, "Do you have firearms in your home?"  He said he did.  So I asked the child, "If you find a gun, what would you do?"  She answered, "I'd find my mom or dad to get help."  The father, an avid hunter, offered that although he has rifles, he does not have handguns.  He locks up the rifles and keeps the ammunition in a separate location.  He had discussed gun safety with his daughter, and she clearly was able to communicate to me that she should never touch a gun unless she was with her parents and to never point one at another person.  This family has demonstrated (at least to me) that they are responsible gun owners.  

 

Former Representative Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, recently spoke in New Hampshire, urging the state's political leaders to fight for an expansion of background checks on gun purchases.  Associated Press reporter Steve Peoples posted this photo on Twitter, which he describes as showing a pro-gun protester at the event holding an AR-15 and taking a nap.

Every year in New Hampshire more than 100 people die from firearm injuries.  Many of these deaths are a result of irresponsible gun owners.  The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that physicians talk with patients and families about responsible gun ownership, including locking up guns and storing ammunition in different locations.  These strategies result in a 70% risk reduction for both unintentional injury and suicide for children and teenagers.

 

Gun safety education and background checks, as ways to prevent gun-related deaths, have been in the news as a result of the mass shootings over the past several years.  While the above stories don't make the same headlines as the mass shootings – they are just as tragic.  I don't claim to have the answers – I’m just not comfortable with the status quo.  Is the regular death of our children at the hands of irresponsible gun owners the price we pay for the Second Amendment? What role should the NHMS take in reducing gun-related deaths and injuries?   

I look forward to starting this dialogue with you.  Please send your questions or comments to president@nhms.org or post a comment below.

 

Comments

Please share with all of us how a background check would prevent a 19 yr old adult from accidentally shooting himself, and please tell us the documentation that shows that many NH shootings are due to irresponsible, versus criminal, behavior. I would share this information with my patients, but they may ask these questions. Suggesting that firearms be secured is common sense.

For the problems of this world there are no solutions, only tradeoffs. No legislation leaves us with one less problem; it only trades one problem for another. Good legislation replaces one problem with a lesser problem. Most legislation does not. I invite you to look into how many times yearly a citizen stops a crime or saves his life with a firearm. The most conservative of estimates places that number at many time the annual gun crime rate. The cost of the gun-controllers' "solution" will be far greater than its benefits.

The greatest killer of children is unintential injury, with motor vehicle accidents being number one, followed by accidental drowning ... death by firearms ranks in 6th place. Dr. Harker, along with talking to your young patients about firearm safety, do you ask about seat belt use and water/pool safety/ability to swim?

In response to Mr/Dr Peterson's inquiry about other preventive services, yes I counsel about car seat, booster seats and seat belts, as well as ability to swim, pool safety, and bike helmets. While I try to tailor my message to each family I work hard to prevent unintended injuries. I also talk about TV, food and drink choices as I see obesity as a big threat to children as well. The most evidence based aspects of the well child exam are counseling on the highest risks for each age group. Sometimes productivity pressures make it hard to focus on these topics as it is much faster to do a quick head to toe exam and avoid some of these emotionally charged topics, but I feel it is worth it to have those discussions with children and their parents.

I want to thank Dr. Cooper for your comments and questions. According to the CDC in 2011 19,766 people committed suicide with firearms and this is by far the largest category of gun deaths. All gun owners should know that the risk of completed suicide by yourself or a family member in 10 times greater simply because you have a gun in your home. I, personally, would consider not locking and storing a firearm in a safe manner as irresponsible gun ownership. It seems that the AMA, AAP and the AAFP among others agree with me on this. The next highest category is homicides at 11,101 in 2011. This would be the criminal death number you were looking for. The third highest death firearm death toll comes from accidents in the home where a child finds an loaded gun and kills him or herself or someone else in the home. In 2011 there 851 such deaths. So the CDC data shows us that, taken together, deaths from suicide and accidental death are nearly double that of homicides. I hope you find this information useful and will consider sharing it with your patients.

American Academy of Family Physicians letter to President Obama on January 17th, 2013 "The AAFP has long standing policy supporting trigger locks, safe storage requirements, and we oppose the individual ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines." American Academy of Pediatrics Position Statement of 1992 regarding firearms. "That the absence of guns from children's homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm related injuries in children and adolescents." Pediatrics 2000; 105:4 888-895 I love kids so much that my wife and I even had some of our own! Educating children about firearms safety is an excellent idea and something, as a parent, I participate in actively. I have some misgivings of physicians, many of whom know so very little about firearms other than they are dangerous, speaking to my children about firearms and firearms safety. I have enumerated the above two statements by the two medical societies most involved in caring for our children and their formal anti-gun positions in general. This concern becomes more alarming when electronic medical records can document whether or not the "child's home" contains firearms. To be clear, the AAP statement above renders the false opinion that the home belongs to children by using the posessive apostrophe. This is a subtle but very important mistake and we all know what untoward effects we can garner with punctuation. Our home belongs to my wife and me. When a Y/N is documented in a medical record regarding smoking, illicit drug use, ETOH or lets say firearms they can be retrieved by the federal government regardless of what laws and policies one may think is protecting their sensitive personal medical data. See the recently revealed material on the antics of the NSA. This is not a "what ifs" nor just conjecture. Your desire to discuss this issue, documentation of the discussion and whether or not there is a firearm in the home, the positions of your national medical societies and the EHR having a direct link to assorted and sundry government agencies is of serious concern to law abiding firearms owners. Current federal law forbids gun registration lists to be kept. These retrievable data in the EHR are filling that void quite nicely. This is a contentious issue and something many of us feel passionate about. I see your genuine interest in doing what's best for your patients but I also ask you to be sensitive to the private matters regarding my rights and my home. Thanks for listening. Paul DeGregorio