The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 30, 2013

Gun violence: a pediatric public health crisis

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world." -- Fred Rogers

Over and over again, unspeakable acts of gun violence occur in our society. The last time, the heinous nature of the crime seemed heightened because its victims were tiny, innocent school children and grown-ups who dedicated their lives to teaching and helping them.

Since 2002, St. Louis Children's Hospital has cared for 771 children injured or killed by gunfire; 35 percent were younger than 15. These include the recent 12-year old accidently killed by his friend when playing with his grandfather's pistol kept under his pillow; the 2-year old boy paralyzed when his father accidentally discharged his gun during loading; the 5-year old caught in a cross-fire as she sat on her front porch; the 10-year old killed by his mother overwhelmed with mental illness; and the 4-year old who found a handgun in a closet at home, placed the barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger as he had often done to get a drink from his water-pistol.

In 2010, seven American children age 19 and younger were killed every day by gun violence. This is twice the number of children who die from cancer; five times the number from heart disease, and 15 times the number from infections. This is the equivalent of 128 Newtown shootings. Remember that the outrage of Newton occurs daily in U.S. cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

It has been estimated that at least 38 percent of American households have a gun. In homes with children younger than 18, 22 percent store the gun loaded, 32 percent unlocked, and 8 percent unlocked and loaded. The children in these homes know the gun is present and many handle the gun in the absence of their parents.

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