Last week, a second grade student brought a loaded gun to a St. Paul elementary school. MAFP Legislative Committee and Gun Violence Prevention Work Group member Emily Benzie, MD, shares tips for physicians on educating patients about safe firearm storage.
On Wednesday, April 17, 2019, something happened that shook my family to our core: A young student brought a loaded gun to Highland Park Elementary, the school that my three beloved nephews attend. One of my nephews is in the same class as that student. Thankfully, there was a gun lock on the firearm and no one was injured. But the possibility of what could have happened, of what DOES happen, when children come across firearms that are not properly stored, is devastating!
This incident is a powerful reminder of the importance of practicing safe firearm storage by keeping firearms locked and unloaded, with ammunition locked and stored separately. Just “hiding” a firearm is not enough!
According to a 2006 study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 70% of kids in gun-owning homes reported knowing where their parents hid guns and 36% reported handling guns without permission.
What Can We Do as Physicians?
Talking about firearms can feel divisive, but it is our responsibility to take the time to talk about safe firearm storage with our patients and their families. Remind families to store their firearms unloaded in locked storage and to ask the same of other homes where their children might play. Explain to families that even many toddlers have the capability to pull a trigger, and that all children are naturally inquisitive.
If families would like more information, point them towards resources from FamilyDoctor.org, the American Academy of Pediatrics or the BeSmart program.
Thank goodness this particular dangerous situation at Highland Park Elementary didn’t come to a tragic end, as could easily have happened without that trigger lock. Let this serve as a wake-up call for all of us—we ALL have a role to play in ensuring our children and communities are safe from gun violence.