Be SMART about children and gun safety

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik, MPH, FAAP
San Antonio Business Journal’s 2016 Woman of the Year
Director, ComP-CaN (Comprehensive Peds for Complex Needs)
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Here in Texas we take great pride in our freedoms; freedom, however, isn’t necessarily free: We send our sons and daughters into battle to protect our freedoms; we drive around beautiful and historic downtown San Antonio and are required by law to wear seat belts and secure our children in car seats/booster seats; we choose to own a firearm, which may pose a risk to the children who live in or visit our homes. Every year at least 100 children die in an unintentional shooting. Recent events may have sparked you to think, “What can I do to keep my child safe?”

The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that a safe home for children is a home without a firearm. But should you choose to exercise your second amendment rights, you can “arm” yourself with tips from the BeSMART campaign.

S: Secure guns in homes and vehicles. The nightstand drawer or under the passenger seat are not ideal locations. Guns should be out of reach of children and stored locked and unloaded. Ammunition should be locked away separately.

M: Model responsible behavior. When handling guns, be sure to respect its power in the presence of your children, so that they understand what could go wrong.

A: Ask about unsecured guns in other homes. So, this is certainly an awkward discussion to have with the parents of your child’s friends but could be potentially lifesaving.  Just as you would ask if a parent would be watching the children play in the pool or what time the girls will go to bed at a slumber party or if there will be alcohol available to the teens, we as a community should normalize the behavior of asking about an unlocked gun in neighbors’ homes. You may find that your neighbor is just as concerned about this issue as you are.

R: Recognize the risks of teen suicide. Teenagers are tricky with their dialogue. In the case of boys, we often don’t hear much more than a grunt, and in the case of girls, we hear everything they think we want to hear, and not always what we need to hear. Many parents are unaware of their child’s depression. Suicide is the third most common cause of death in teens, and, because they are impulsive, access to an unlocked and loaded firearm can prove deadly.

T: Tell your peers to be SMART!  As a community, we can work together to keep our children safe and healthy.

To learn more about this important topic, please visit http://besmartforkids.org/.

 

Author: Ruchi Kaushik, MD

Dr. Kaushik received her medical degree at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana, India, and completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo. She is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and currently provides primary care to children with medical complexity.

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