Okay, This is Why Pediatricians Should Ask Parents About Guns

As we explain in this story, there’s debate among certain groups over whether pediatricians should be allowed to discuss gun safety with parents. The quick version: Pediatricians want to determine how safe a child’s home is, and asking whether there’s a gun–and whether it’s stored unloaded, and in a locked cabinet, and in a place separate from ammunition–is a logical part of that conversation. Gun advocates say it’s an invasion of privacy and a threat to the Second Amendment, and in many states there are efforts to punish doctors who initiate this discussion with large fines or jail time or both.

You may have heard that yesterday, a 7-year-old boy brought a semiautomatic pistol to his prep school in Queens, New York. (That is not him in the photo.) It hasn’t been revealed yet whether the gun was loaded, but the boy did bring the gun’s magazine, filled with bullets, as well as a plastic bag with at least another seven rounds of ammunition. According to the story I read in the New York Times, the police believe that the boy’s mom somehow found out about the gun, and arrived at the school around 9:30 a.m. under the pretense of taking her son to a dentist’s appointment. “It would appear that the intention was just to get the gun back and get it out of the school,” said one officer. But when her son told her he put it in a classmate’s backpack, she alerted the principal. The gun and ammo were found right away (they were in her son’s bag after all), but the school was put on lockdown for several hours. An 8-year-old was quoted as saying, “They made us turn off the lights and hide behind the teacher’s desk. I almost cried. I was afraid I was going to get shot.”

There are lots of unanswered questions at this point, but it seems likely that the mother–who was arrested this morning and charged with criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child, among other things–had no idea that her son was carrying a gun and bullets in his backpack when he went to school. I can’t help but wonder: If we were more open to the idea of having pediatricians talk about gun safety, maybe those conversations would be more commonplace… and parents would have their eyes opened to the precautions they must take if they have a gun in their home.

 

Photo: Serious little boy with the big black pistol via Shutterstock.

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