Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that approximately half the young people whose parents were surveyed spent time in homes where firearms were kept. But few of the queried parents reported that they had discussed gun safety with their child's pediatrician.
In fact, one-third of the parents who had firearms in their homes said they would be offended by or would disregard any advice from a physician who suggested that guns be removed from their homes for the safety of their children.
In a release of the report, published Sept. 14 in The Journal of Pediatrics, the lead author said:
"Many physicians feel a professional obligation to discuss gun-violence prevention, but they don't because they are not sure what to say or what they're legally allowed to say," said the study's first author, Jane M. Garbutt, MD, a professor of medicine and of pediatrics. "Our research is a step toward finding a way to discuss firearm safety that is acceptable to both physicians and parents."
For the analysis, 1,246 parents in urban, rural, and suburban pediatricians' waiting rooms in Missouri and Illinois were surveyed from March 23 through May 21, 2015.
The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that pediatricians speak to parents about household firearms and encourage parents to consider having a home without guns, which is the safest route, and to advocate for safe gun storage.
The most recent statistics concerning young people and guns were collected in 2013. In that year, the CDC revealed that 2,465 children and teens under age 20 were killed because of firearm incidents. And 15,091 were treated in emergency rooms, while 6,213 were hospitalized.
And yet a Florida law being litigated at this time threatens penalties to keep physicians from asking patients questions about guns in their homes.
The study also found that 36% of participants had guns in their homes, and 14% said their child was often in the homes of relatives and friends who owned firearms, according to ABC Radio. Just 13% of respondents reported that their pediatrician asked them about guns in the home.
"It can be uncomfortable to talk about gun safety, just as it can be uncomfortable to talk about drug use, vaccines, or STDs," said Dr. Judith Schaechter, a pediatrician and member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "But if you do it in a respectful way — one that puts the child's health and safety at the center of the conversation — I think families are actually very receptive."
Other reasons that could be keeping doctors from discussing firearm safety with patients include lack of time, no training in the subject, or deciding that counseling would not be accepted well. But physicians can counsel parents in a general manner without questioning them about guns in their homes. Pediatricians could just point out that firearms should be stored safely.
In a 2011 analysis of the potential liabilities and safety benefits of firearms in the home, it was found that guns were less likely to prevent crime than in unarmed households. On the other hand, firearms increased health risks in homes.
Talal Al-Khatib, reporting for the Seeker, said firearms had played a part in the history of America, and the devices have caused debate for some and were essential tools for others. The Second Amendment to the Constitution has been the target of extreme contention and patriotic support throughout history.
IANS reports that over 20% of the parents who owned guns kept them and their ammunition in the same location. 25% answered that they had a firearm loaded in their residence, and 14% said the guns were accessible to their young ones.
Eighteen percent of the mothers and fathers responded that they took sidearms with them when they left their houses and carried them in their backpacks, purses, cars, or holsters. But 75% of the parents involved in the survey said they were in agreement that pediatricians should give advice about the safe storage of guns.