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Rx for Child Health & Safety: June 21st is ASK Day


ASK Day? What’s that all about? ASK stands for Asking Saves Kids. The ASK Campaign is a national partnership between the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The purpose of the partnership is to encourage responsible grownups to ASK if there are guns in the home where their children play. The simple act of asking contributes to keeping kids safe … and saving lives.

Here’s a true story, an all too common, avoidable tragedy that repeats itself over and over as part of daily life in America. Noah’s mother had no idea that he was playing in a house where there were guns. When Noah’s friend picked up a gun, aimed it at him, and pulled the trigger, he didn’t know there was a bullet in the gun — and that it would kill Noah. http://askingsaveskids.org

Here are some troubling statistics: One out of three homes with children has guns, many left unlocked or loaded. Eighty percent of unintentional firearm deaths among children under 15 years of age occur in a home. Altogether, 9 children and teens, on average, are shot in gun incidents every day.

In a country with an estimated 300 million guns in private homes, how do we prevent these senseless tragedies? By encouraging parents to ask some commonsense questions. Dr. Judy Schaechter, MD, MBA, and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami addresses the issue this way: “Child gun violence is America’s most preventable disease. The immediacy and lethality of the risk are high. Prevention can be simple and inexpensive, by keeping guns away from kids in the first place or securely locked up. Everyone — doctors, parents, grandparents — needs to speak up, to ask if there is a gun in a home where there are children. If so, it’s up to the adults to ensure safety.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if there are guns in a home, they should be stored unloaded and locked, preferably in a gun safe, with ammunition locked away separately. Hiding guns is not enough, because children will look for them and handle them once they are found.

Preventing access to guns is the key. Simply teaching children to stay away from guns does not help, according to research on gun avoidance programs. In fact, these children — out of curiosity — may actually be more likely to handle a gun.

For more than a decade, the ASK Campaign has partnered with more than 400 grassroots organizations to spread its message in neighborhoods nationwide. Over the years, the Campaign has successfully inspired 19 million households to ASK if there are guns where their children play.

Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH, FAAP
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