June 3, 2022 – Gun violence has become a public health issue. Tragic mass shootings occur more frequently in our schools, at the workplace and in public places where people shop. Fear grips many parents that their children may be shot on the way to school or playing in the yard. Dr. Kelly Henry, a pediatric physician and parent of twin girls, has seen much trauma associated with gun violence.
She is conflicted with thoughts of joy and sorrow. “It is my twin girls’ last day of first grade. They run out to me so proud, beaming with excitement for the start of the summer. Their arms open and inviting. I hug them so tight. I do not want to let them go. To them, I am their proud mom excited for them to enjoy their summer filled with ice cream, swimming, and play dates with friends. Through them I see the faces of the children who were equally proud and excited for summer. The ones that will never have an opportunity to run to their parents and loved ones at the end of the school year. I hold my kids so tight. Thankful that they are alive.”
Every day, gun violence is taking the lives of our children. For the first time, it surpassed car accidents in 2020 to become the number one cause of death for children and young adults in the United States. Over 45,000 people died by firearms in the United States in 2020. More than double this amount are injured by firearms every year.
Recent research on gun violence has revealed that storing a firearm locked and unloaded, and storing ammunition separately can be a deterrent to unwanted criminal behavior. The safe storage of firearms in homes where children are present leads to a decreased risk for unintentional injury and suicide in children. Another significant finding is that almost 80% of school shooters obtain the gun from their home or the home of a relative.
Dr. Henry feels that the answer to the gun violence crisis is common sense gun policies such as universal background checks on all firearm purchases, banning assault rifles, instituting safe storage laws, having extreme risk protection laws to prevent dangerous people from purchasing or keeping firearms, and funding community-based violence interventions. Public awareness and education on the importance of preventing children’s access to guns should become a top priority. She opines that “We can and should do more for our children. Their lives are literally depending on us.”
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Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org