I can't believe it's been a year since the Sandy Hook shooting. If I close my eyes I can see the footage again, and feel exactly how I felt when I heard the news. It was a tragedy that hit me particularly hard, as my youngest was in first grade--in a classroom right off the school lobby.
Did you know that gun injuries to children, teens and young adults cause twice as many deaths as cancer, five times as many deaths as heart disease, and fifteen times as many as infections? Did you know that they are the second leading cause of death for our youth?
Did you know that the number of children killed in one year by gun-related injuries could fill 134 classrooms?
After the Newtown tragedy, it actually seemed like we were going to get something done. There was something about the sheer horror of twenty first-graders being gunned down that seemed to break down the walls between us. People stepped off their soapboxes and began to work together to prevent another tragedy, to keep children safe.
And then, it fell apart. Not entirely--there has been some progress, and six states have passed legislation. But much of that legislation is being challenged. We are back to being polarized.
I don't have the answers. But as a parent, pediatrician and citizen, I know that we have to do something. In memory of all of those children--the ones at Sandy Hook and the hundreds of others who have died from guns since--we need to come together and keep children safe. Yes, we can and should teach gun safety--but it's going to take much more to make a dent in a public health problem this big.
I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here's what they recommend:
- Stronger gun laws, including an effective assault weapons ban, mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
- Research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- Strengthening the quality of mental health care and access to services for children.
Check out this powerful video. Together, we can make a difference. We can save lives.
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