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Lurie Children's Joins National Outcry to Prevent Shootings of Children

June 21, 2017

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is partnering with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and American Academy of Pediatrics to create awareness of national ASK day, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Asking Saves Kids (ASK) is a national campaign founded by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in 2000 to remind parents and caregivers the importance of “asking” if there are unlocked guns in the homes where children play.

“According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics guns are the third leading cause of death among children,” said Karen Sheehan, MD, Medical Director, Injury Prevention & Research Center, and Medical Director, Healthy Communities. “The pediatric community can play a significant role in reducing the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries by encouraging parents to ask the simple question, “Is there an unlocked gun where my child plays?”

The study, based on data from 2012 to 2014, suggests that, on average, 5,790 children in the United States receive medical treatment in an emergency room each year for a gun-related injury, and on average, 1,297 children died annually from a gun-related injury in the US.

Sheehan also is concerned with the ease that kids can obtain guns in Chicago. “Conflicts that once would have resulted in an argument or a fistfight can turn deadly in an instant,” Sheehan said. “Also it is critical for child health care providers and others who interact with youth to screen for signs of mental health issues—and for parents and caregivers to seek help for their children when they’re worried about them.”

According to the 2015 report by the Illinois Violent Reporting System, 67 percent of 15 to 19-year-old suicide victims were not receiving mental health treatment at the time of death. “As pediatricians, we can make sure our patients get help as early as possible and even save lives by encouraging parents to remove guns from the home if their kids are going through a difficult time,” said Sheehan.

Pediatricians should review the following points with families who have children of all ages as part of their routine anticipatory guidance:

  • Firearms should always be stored unloaded in a locked case, with ammunition locked separately.
  • Suicide by firearms is the 3rd leading cause of injury-related death for adolescents between 15 to 19 years of age. Advise the removal of guns from the home of any child or teenager who is depressed. Access leads to increased risk of use.
  • Instruct parents to ask if there is a gun in the house where their child is playing before sending them.

“We are asking people to take the pledge -- #AskingSavesKids – and to encourage safe storage and support firearm-related injury prevention research,” said Sheehan.

To see more, visit Lurie Children’s blog.