FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, Oct. 1, 2018
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 6252
LEAWOOD, Kan. — Twelve-year-old Jacob and his cousins, a little bored with their parents’ conversation at the family reunion, had decided to leave the picnic tables and start a softball game. With the game tied, it was cousin Kelsey’s turn to bat. She hit the ball beyond the field and into nearby bushes. When outfielder Jacob ran to retrieve the ball, he discovered it. A loaded 9-millimeter Beretta, caked with dirt.
At age 12, Jacob knew just what to do. His parents had discussed firearm safety many times over the years. He stopped, stepped away from the firearm, and ran to the picnic tables to tell his parents.
“That’s precisely what children should do if they find a gun,” said Kathleen Eubanks-Meng, DO, a family physician in Kansas City. “As parents, we can protect our children at home, but we also need to make sure they are safe wherever they are—in a park, at a friend’s house or elsewhere.”
Research has found that firearm injuries are the third leading cause of death among children 17 and younger. Gun safety at home—keeping the firearm and ammunition in separate, locked locations—is the most important safety precaution parents can take. But teaching children how to respond when they see a gun is equally vital, according to Eubanks-Meng.
“About one in three families with children younger than 12 have a gun at home,” she said. “So, in addition to ensuring their own firearms are safely stored away from their children’s reach, we advise parents to know about firearms in others’ homes before their children go to visit. This includes the homes of friends, relatives or even a babysitter.”
Parents may feel awkward about asking whether a gun is in the home and, if so, whether it’s locked and properly stored. But doing so helps ensure accidents won’t happen. CDC data analyzed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence show that from 2012 to 2016, on average, seven children and teenagers die and 39 suffer injuries from firearms each day. That translates to 2,737 deaths and 14,470 injuries resulting from firearms each year.
“Firearm injuries happen too often among children who don’t understand that real guns are not toys. They need to understand that if they find a firearm, they should follow safety rules: stop, don’t touch, go away and tell an adult,” said Eubanks-Meng.
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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 133,500 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care. To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org.