Gun Safety

I wish to make brief comments on an important, serious, and (unfortunately) controversial public health issue–gun violence.

Firstly, let’s state the obvious: American citizens have an absolute Constitutional right to keep and bear firearms in their homes.

But let’s review a few other facts.  In 2013 alone, guns were used in 3924 homicides and accidents and 2347 suicides ages 0-24 (17/day) as well as 36,205 injuries (100/day).  Guns are the most commonly used method in suicide attempts, with a “success” rate of 90%. (Thanks to Dr. Elliot Rubin, President of the NJ American Academy of Pediatrics, for the above statistics).

A 1993 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated a statistical association between home firearm ownership and homicide occurrence in gun owning homes.  To summarize, the study demonstrated that for every episode where a gun was used in home self defense there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 assaults/homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicide attempts.  Equally important is that this data has been corroborated  elsewhere.  The Violence Policy Center, utilizing FBI crime data, found that in 2013 there were 211 justified homicides and 7838 criminal firearm homicides and from 2012-2014 there were 18,328,600 victims of violence and 163,000 gun related self protective behaviors (0.9%) and 51,685,500 victims of property violence with 99,000 gun related self protective behaviors (0.2%) along with >200,000 guns stolen from US households.  So, the reported data shows strongly that, rather than being a protective factor against home or personal violence, household gun ownership carries significant risk as a cause of such mayhem.

In response to this data, Congress in 1997 passed the “Dickey amendment” to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill, mandating that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advance or promote gun control.”  This has strongly limited our ability to study the problem and develop effective solutions.  It has been disavowed by its namesake, Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas.  Additionally, virtually every conceivable medical and healthcare society has come out in opposition to the Dickey Amendment.  I wish to stress that these are all moderate professional societies who’s principle function is to advance the ability of member healthcare providers to deliver the best, safest, and most effective  care to patients rather than any partisan political entities endeavoring to advance some selfish economic or social agenda.

I am proud to to be a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics which is at the forefront of this movement.  According to the AAP,  the only safe way to keep firearms in a home is in a locked gun case with the ammunition stored in a separately locked container and my advise is that, if you are a gun owner, this is how you should do it. The AAP advocates for several other sensible policy initiatives in this area, but it only makes sense that collecting and analyzing data will help our efforts to understand and control the problem of gun violence in our society (if that is our purpose).

Please send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.

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