The United States have always seen a surge in gun violence. Apart from the adults, children are also victims to this menace with a report showing that more children die in the country because of gun violence than by other causes, including road accidents.
In an analysis of the most recent data of the CDC, clinicalresearchers from the Medical University of South Carolina revealed that firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death under among children under 19 years of age. They also claimed that racial gap between black and white youth is widening. The article, recently published in the journal Paediatrics Calls to physicians and other health care workers to recognize this as an epidemiological and public health challenge and to help find solutions.
Lead author Annie Andrews, a paediatrician and assistant professor of paediatrics at MUSC, said that the data showed that gun-related deaths in children surpassed deaths caused by motor vehicle collisions beginning in 2019. And while the death rate due to car accidents has steadily declined since 2001, the firearm death rate has continued to climb with increased homicide and suicide rates driving a 14 per cent total increase over the last two decades.
With respect to race differentiation, they said that the overall firearm-related death rate was more than four times higher for black children than for white children, and the homicide rate was over 14 times higher for black children.
“One of the really striking things that we were able to highlight was the health inequities embedded in paediatric firearm injury,” said Andrews. “We’re reporting here that it became the number one cause of death for children in 2019, but for decades it’s already been the leading cause of death for black children in this country.”
STORED GUNS ARE SAFER GUNS
Andrews said that a multipronged approach was needed to tackle the menace. She and her team wanted to have a secure gun storage counselling and hospital-based violence intervention programs. They also suggest that medical training should incorporate professional guidance on gun violence for all students, not just those who specialize in emergency medicine.
“We teach trauma surgeons how to care for victims of gun violence,” said Andrews. “But in my training as a pediatrician I didn’t leam anything about the prevention of these injuries or even how to talk to families in a culturally sensitive way about gun ownership and secure firearm storage.” The researcher noted.
When researchers look at gun violence data, they look at three categories — unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide — and while different solutions are needed for each category, secure firearm storage can help reduce the incidence of all three.
Andrews says that encouraging parents to use secure storage — keeping guns locked and unloaded and separate from ammunition – can keep young children safe from accidental gunshots that can happen when they find a gun and pull the trigger on a loaded weapon. Safe storage can also have a huge impact on suicide by preventing impulsive actions that teenagers may take following a tough time at school or a bad breakup. Andrews suggests that if the means are not available while the impulse is strong, these kids will have a better chance to survive.
The authors maintain that secure storage may reduce the incidence of school shootings by limiting easy access to guns. Seventy-six percent of school shooters under the age of 18 use a weapon on home or from the home of someone they know, making it more difficult to obtain these weapons could have an impact.
HOSPITAL SUPPORT AND GRASSROOTS LOCAL ENGAGEMENT
This intervention programs provide a means for health care professionals to address community gun violence, and there are many models that have shown evidence of success.. Cities and states across the country are implementing evidence-based programs that work with health care resources, law enforcement support and local communities at the neighbourhood and even street block level to prevent violence, and especially to de-escalate situations to prevent repeat or retaliatory violence.
“We need to critically ask ourselves what we can do to prevent these injuries that happen every day,” she said. “And once an injury has occurred, we need to figure out what we can do to prevent patients from getting hammed again in the future,” she added.