A Q&A With Drs. Mark Del Beccaro and Fred Rivara

A child or teen is killed by a firearm every nine days in Washington, and firearms are the third leading cause of injury-related death in our state behind poisoning and falls – and ahead of motor vehicle crashes. In 2016, 3,155 children and teens in the United States died of firearm-related causes.

Most of these shootings occur in or around the home. One out of every three homes with children in the United States has a firearm. Many of these firearms are kept unlocked or loaded.

Children and teens are at the greatest risk of unintentional death, injury and suicide by firearm. Young children are naturally curious. They explore in drawers, cabinets and closets. Some older children and teens view firearms as signs of power. Others struggle with depression and thoughts of self-harm and live in households where firearms may be accessible.

Physicians may not always feel comfortable screening for the presence of firearms in the homes of caregivers or places where the child visits due to lack of training and perceived parent discomfort when discussing the subject.

A 2016 study found that fewer than 15% of physicians regularly ask caregivers screening questions about firearm safety. Yet, with national attention on recent school shootings, ongoing political dialogue and the opportunity to protect families with safe storage, pediatrician interest in discuss the subject with families may be changing. Read full post »