Gun violence is a public health problem, and Arizona’s children are not immune from this epidemic. As pediatricians responsible for the health and welfare of our patients, we must discuss the facts, and that includes the risks of keeping guns in a home.
Research shows that even when children are taught about gun dangers, they have limited ability to understand the consequences of their actions. We also know that teens may act impulsively when depressed, angry or under the influence of substances. If a gun is available to them, a whopping 90 percent of suicide attempts are lethal, as opposed to 5 percent involving drugs.
As members of the Arizona Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics (AzAAP), we are saddened that members of the United States Senate failed to pass a package of common sense gun safety bills that would have helped protect children from gun violence. In 2011 alone, 23 firearm-related child deaths occurred in Arizona. According to Arizona’s 2011 Child Fatality Report, in almost 25 percent of these cases the gun was owned by a parent. AzAAP supports recommendations such as implementing a strong, effective assault weapon ban, mandatory background checks and waiting periods before all firearm purchases. More mental health services for our children also play a crucial role in addressing this public health crisis. Our approach to policy and laws must be thoughtful to help keep our children safe.
—Mary Rimsza, M.D., Phoenix, and Eve Shapiro, M.D., Tucson