Pediatricians say child checkups should include gun safety advice

Pediatrician Ken Haller tried to get 3-year-old Azaya Clemons to laugh during a checkup at Danis Pediatrics in Midtown St. Louis. As a pediatric surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Dr. Bo Kennedy has seen firsthand how bullets can shatter tiny bodies. He has collected dozens of horror stories from his time in the hospital’s emergency department, including the time a 3-year-old boy stuck a loaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. “That’s what he did with his water pistol to get a drink out of it,” Kennedy said. “And obviously he didn’t survive.” 300×250 image ad Because of their experience treating guns’ youngest victims, St. Louis pediatricians have increasingly considered it their responsibility to promote gun safety by talking to parents about how to keep guns away from children. They’re following guidance from American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends doctors talk to parents about firearm safety during visits. The academy’s official stance is guns should be kept locked, unloaded and away from where kids can find them. But having that conversation is becoming more difficult, Kennedy said. “Talking about guns has become much more of a volatile issue in the past 20 years,” Kennedy said. “The [National Rifle Association] has named any conversation about keeping guns in a way that’s safer into a control issue, and I think people have become very polarized.” According to the journal Pediatrics , between 2012 and 2014, an average of 7,000 children were killed or injured by firearms each year. […]

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