Put aside your personal beliefs regarding gun ownership and the Second Amendment for a moment:
In the last decade, guns killed more than 14,000 American children. A startling number of those deaths — more than a third — were classified as suicides and around 6 percent as accidents. Many more children were injured.
I live in Texas. I automatically assume everyone I meet owns a firearm. They are so prevalent here that I regularly ask my patients if their guns are locked and unloaded or safely locked away from children, just as a reminder that little hands are curious and teens are at higher risk of accidental and intentional deaths and suicide when there are guns available in the home.
Dr. Michael Monuteaux, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, said, “We need to communicate to parents that storing guns in a way that makes them inaccessible to children can reduce the number of children who die year after year, especially from suicide.”
In 2010, researchers examined who owned the firearms used in youth suicides. In cases where this could be determined, three-quarters of the time, the owner was a parent, and for a further 7 percent, it was some other relative.
With suicide accounting for two-thirds of firearm deaths in the US, this is one instance where small changes can make a significant impact on morbidity and mortality without infringing on an individual’s right to legal gun ownership.
Policy can make a difference, too. In 2004, a study examined how laws that focused on the sale of guns affected the suicide rates of children, compared with laws mandating safe storage of firearms. They found that between 1976 and 2001, minimum-age purchase laws and possession-age laws had no effect on adolescent suicide rates. Laws preventing children’s access to guns, on the other hand, were associated with significant reductions of suicides by guns, even when reductions were not seen in suicides by other methods.
The availability of biometric gun safes has alleviated any concerns about quick access to a firearm in the case of an emergency. Therefore, making firearms inaccessible, or even less accessible, to children and teens could save thousands of lives and reduce the likelihood of a terrible, avoidable accident or an impulsive moment from becoming a reoccurring nightmare for thousands of parents, family members, and friends. This appears to be one of the most effective and inexpensive strategies to reduce the number of times physicians feel compelled to scream “THIS IS OUR LANE!”Tweet