2nd Toddler Shooting Today —Prayers Aren’t Cutting It

St. Louis Post-Dispatch recent headline

The 2nd toddler shooting a toddler incident happened today, one in Colorado and the other in Philadelphia. ANOTHER BABY who should have not died.

What seriously is wrong with us? Prayers just aren’t saving these little kids, regardless of what they might be telling you.

Holding adults responsible is a big solution.  About 25 states don’t have laws that allow prosecutors to hold gun owners liable if a child accessed a gun and pulled the trigger.  However, we expect adults who allow kids to be harmed in any other way to be charged with child abuse, right?

Until we get serious & vote with these kids in mind, nothing will change.


Toddler fatally shoots himself inside Pa. home

The case of a toddler who allegedly found a gun in a Delaware County, Pa., home this afternoon ended with deadly results.

6ABC in Philly is reporting police are investigating the shooting death of a toddler in Chester Township.

It happened around 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the 2900 block of Bethel Road, the station writes, adding:

A family member told Action News that the boy found the gun and accidentally shot himself.

FOX29 is reporting the child’s age as three-years old.

The police investigation continues.

MAY SEES DRAMATIC SPIKE IN NUMBER OF KIDS SHOT WITH NEGLIGENTLY STORED FIREARMS

For most families with kids and teens, May is an exciting month.  Kids are planning graduations and proms, parents are planning vacations.  The weather is warming up and parents and kids alike look forward to summer.  But for at least three dozen families, May was a month of tragedy after their children came in contact with loaded, negligently stored firearms.

In May,  a month with 31 days, at least 37 children pulled a trigger and unintentionally shot themselves or another person. Each month this year, the number of these incidents has ticked up by one to two shootings, but in May, the number went up by nine.  There were several days in May where there were multiple shootings involving kids with access to irresponsibly stored firearms.

Incidents by month:

January: 23
February: 24
March: 26
April: 28
May: 37

(For comparison, there were 23 incidents in May of 2016.)

Of the 37 incidents in May:

3 adults were injured
24 children were injured
10 children were killed

The youngest shooter was an 18-month-old in Tennessee who shot himself in the face.

Of the 37 incidents in May:

22 of the shooters were under the age of 13
12 children shot a friend, 3 were killed
2 children shot a sibling, 1 was killed.

These types of shootings are very rare in some states.  For example, between 2014 and 2016, Massachusetts, a state with safe storage laws, saw only 1 incident of a child fatally shot with an irresponsibly stored gun.  On the other end of the spectrum, these shootings occur with alarming regularity in other states.

Of the 37 incidents in May, over half occurred in just five states:

Indiana: 4
Louisiana: 4
Florida: 3
Tennessee: 3
Texas: 3

In May, there were 30 states where there was not a single unintentional shooting involving a child with access to unsecured guns.

Throughout 2017, there are some states with higher numbers of incidents:

Florida: 11
Louisiana: 9
South Carolina: 9
Tennessee: 9
Texas: 9

The numbers for 2017 are up from 2016.  Between January 1, 2016 and May 31, 2016, we logged 129 incidents.  Between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2017, we logged 138.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Each one of these shootings was preventable.  Every gun in a child’s hand must first pass through an adult.  Gun violence is a complicated issue, but keeping guns stored responsibly is not complicated.  There are a number of policies and recommendations that have been shown to reduce the number of these preventable tragedies.

States with child access prevention and safe storage laws experience fewer of these types of shootings. Adult gun owners should be held responsible when their choice to leave a loaded gun unsecured results in a child’s injury or death.  Laws that operate as a deterrent, such as DUI laws, work.  While they may not prevent every incidents, they will prevent some and that’s significant, especially when prevention means fewer children shot and killed.

Parents must be educated about the vital importance of storing guns responsibly.  The most important responsibility of a gun owner, especially a gun owner with children, is to make absolutely certain that their gun does not end up in the wrong hands, including the hands of curious toddlers and young kids as well as tween and teens who are prone to making bad decisions.

Parents must ask how guns are stored any place their child plays or spends time, whether it is a friend’s house or the home of a relative.  Even if you store your guns responsibly (or don’t even have guns), never assume that other parents or family members do likewise.  This may especially be true of friends and relatives who don’t have children.  While it may feel awkward to ask, it’s better than losing a child.

Pediatricians should be allowed to – and encouraged to – ask parents how they store firearms.  This should be as routine as asking parents about car seats, pool safety, or smoke detectors.

Talk to your children about firearms and what to do if they encounter them.  Children should be taught not to ever touch or handle a gun unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult.  Even if you don’t have guns, it’s still important for your kids to know what to do if they find one at a friend’s house or if a friend tries to to show them one that belongs to a parent or family member. HOWEVER, do not ever assume that teaching your children about gun safety is enough to keep them safe from an unintentional shooting.  IT IS NOT. The onus on keeping kids safe is 100% on the adults in their lives.  Simply telling a child “Stop. Don’t Touch. Tell an adult” is not an effective way of preventing these shootings.  Numerous hidden camera studies conducted by behavioral psychologists have shown that kids, young kids through tweens and teens, are still very likely to pick up and handle a gun even after being trained to not touch and alert an adult.

These incidents are not accidents.  They are 100% preventable.  Each and every one is the fault of an adult’s negligence and carelessness.  Safe storage saves lives. Period.

Using data from the Gun Violence Archive and news alerts, The Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance tracks shootings involving children with access to unsecured and loaded guns. All incidents are logged into a searchable database

CHILDREN INJURED OR KILLED IN MAY AS A RESULT OF IRRESPONSIBLY STORED FIREARMS

May 30 – Chickasha, OK
13-year-old Andrew White was fatally shot in the chest while at a friend’s house.  The police reported it to be a homicide but that they were not looking for suspects.  The young boy’s family said the shooting was accidental.  The boy was just days away from his 14th birthday.
http://www.news9.com/story/35551660/13-year-old-fatally-shot-in-chickasha-home

May 29 – St. Petersburg, FL
Several children, supervised by a teen, were playing with a gun they found.  A 11-year-old boy thinking the gun was unloaded unintentionally shot a 10-year-old boy in the shoulder and arm.
http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/young-male-hospitalized-after-shooting-in-st-petersburg/2325499

May 29 – London, KY
A 15-year-old girl riding in the back of a car unintentionally shot the 16-year-old female driver in the back. The 25-year-old gun owner was in the car with the girls and was charged with unlawfully allowing a minor to possess a gun.
http://www.wymt.com/content/news/Police-16-year-old-accidentally-shoots-juvenile-victim-airlifted-to-UK-425138033.html

May 27 – Yukon, OK
A 2-year-old boy found a gun in his home and shot and injured himself in the head.
http://kfor.com/2017/05/27/police-two-year-old-girl-shoots-herself-in-metro-initial-reports-say-it-was-accidental/

May 24 – Springfield, IL
A 13-year-old girl was unintentionally shot in the stomach by a 12-year-old boy at their grandmothers house.  She later died.  The boy could be charged with unlawful use of a weapon and reckless conduct.
http://www.sj-r.com/news/20170525/springfield-girl-shot-in-stomach-dies-friend-12-arrested

May 23 – Tacoma, WA
A 16-year-old cleaning his gun unintentionally fired it, striking a 18-year-old male in the cheek.  A nearby school lockdown occurred until it was determined where the gunfire came from.
http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/crime/article152228027.html

May 23 – Milwaukee, WI
A 2-year-old found his father’s loaded gun and unintentionally shot himself. The father of the child was arrested and could face charges.
http://fox6now.com/2017/05/24/police-2-year-old-accidentally-shot-himself-after-father-left-handgun-within-his-reach/

May 22 – San Angelo, TX
A 3-year-old found a loaded handgun in a sofa and unintentionally shot himself in the face.
http://www.conchovalleyhomepage.com/news/local-news/police-investigate-accidental-shooting-of-3-year-old-boy/719066790

May 20 – Lafayette, IN
A 17-year-old cleaning a high powered rifle unintentionally firing it, hitting a 14-year-old girl sleeping in an apartment three apartments away.
http://www.jconline.com/story/news/crime/2017/05/22/teen-accidentally-shot-high-powered-rifle/102022646/

May 20 – Campbellsville, KY
A 13-year-old boy playing with a gun unintentionally shot a 12-year-old friend.  They thought it was a toy gun.
http://www.wdrb.com/story/35486062/12-year-old-boy-dies-in-accidental-shooting-in-green-county

May 20 – Des Plain, IL
A 10-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 15-year-old brother in the face. He lated died.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-teen-shot-by-sibling-dies-met-20170523-story.html

May 18 – Clark County, WA
A 16-year-old unintentionally shot a 19-year-old friend in the leg. The victim is expected to survive. The shooter was charged with reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of firearm and theft of firearm.
http://katu.com/news/local/16-year-old-arrested-for-unintentionally-shooting-friend-in-vancouver

May 17 – Fresno, CA
An 11-year-old boy was babysitting his younger brother at a home when he found a gun under a bed. He fired the weapon, striking his brother in the leg.  The 4-year-old was taken to the hospital for treatment. He is expected to be okay.
http://abc30.com/news/madera-boy-accidentally-shoots-younger-brother-police-say/2008369/

May 17 – Jacksonville, FL
A 2-year-old was handling a loaded, unsecured gun and shot himself in the arm.  The child’s cousin was babysitting him at the time and has been taken into custody.  No word on what she will be charged with.
https://www.news4jax.com/news/police-investigating-incident-off-old-middleburg-road

May 17 – Nashville, TN
A man was bathing his children around 2am.  He took the 1-year-old out and placed him on a bed and left the room,  The child found a loaded gun on the bed and fired it, grazing his face.  The father was charged.
http://www.wsmv.com/story/35448327/toddler-shot-in-face-at-east-nashville-apartment

May 16 – Bend, OR
A girl took the gun from her house to familiarize herself with it, and accidentally fired it while trying to “manipulate” the gun.  She was treated at the scene then airlifted to a nearby hospital. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/5311999-151/crook-county-juvenile-shooting-accidental

May 16 – St. Louis, MO
A 6-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen.  Authorities believe that the injury was self-inflicted and unintentional.  Adults and other children were home at the time.
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/boy-is-shot-in-abdomen-st-louis-police-say/article_2f92e2f8-8152-50fc-862a-ac9912be1ad6.html

May 15 – Orange County, VA
A 4-year-old boy shot and killed himself Monday afternoon with a gun he found at a residential child care provider, which is also the home of a Stafford County Deputy Sheriff.
http://wjla.com/news/local/4-year-old-va-boy-kills-himself-with-gun-found-at-day-care-in-deputy-sheriffs-home

May 15 – Calcasieu Parish, LA
A 6-year-old child brought a loaded gun to school and dropped it.  Another child picked up and fired it, striking a nearby 7-year-old.
http://www.katc.com/story/35429773/reports-shooting-at-moss-bluff-elementary-in-calcasieu-parish

May 14 – Houston, TX
Two 9-year-olds were playing with a loaded 9mm gun when it discharged, striking one of the boys in the neck.  The boy’s family claims the gun was locked but that the 9-year-olds were able to break it.
http://www.click2houston.com/news/child-shot-in-south-houston-home-expected-to-survive-officials-say

May 13 – Goshen, IN
Two 15-year-olds were handling a gun, when one of the teens accidentally shot the other in the stomach.  The injured boy was airlifted and underwent surgery.  He’s expected to recover.
http://www.wndu.com/content/news/Teen-recovering-after-accidental-shooting-in-Goshen–422191734.html

May 12 – Nashville, TN
A 3-year-old child was staying with a man and his wife when he found a loaded, unsecured gun in a bedroom and fired it, striking himself in the foot. 
http://www.newschannel5.com/news/report-of-shooting-prompts-heavy-police-response

May 12 – Starr, SC
A 3-year-old boy died Friday after shooting himself with a gun he found in his family’s SUV outside their home.
http://www.independentmail.com/story/news/local/2017/05/12/3-year-old-gunshot-victim-taken-hosptial/101597818/

May 11 – East Chicago, IN
A 4-year-old boy, just days away from turning five, accidentally shot and killed himself early Thursday morning after finding a gun in his home.
http://abc7chicago.com/news/east-chicago-boy-4-killed-in-accidental-shooting-relatives-say/1979754/

May 10 – Barrow County, GA
A 9-year-old had gotten off the bus from school shortly before gaining access to a gun and fatally shooting himself with it.
http://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/year-old-boy-dies-after-shooting-himself/Ebf7Okt8S1wHRPWnxD1JtN/

May 10 – Taylorsville, NC
A 15-year-old boy picked up a 9 mm pistol, accidentally causing it to fire. The teen was struck in the abdomen.  Witnesses told deputies that a group of teenagers had three firearms, including the pistol, laying on a swivel stool.
http://www.statesville.com/news/apparent-accidental-shooting-injures-teen-near-taylorsville/article_327af962-35b0-11e7-8e14-c3637c731505.html

May 9 – Pekin, IN
Several teens were playing with a gun in a barn when it discharged, shooting a 16-year-old in the head.
http://www.whas11.com/news/local/male-16-injured-in-shooting-near-pekin/438363959

May 9 – Spark, NV
Several teens had a gun in a car when it discharged, shooting a 15-year-old in the leg.  They dropped him off at a home and left him there bleeding.  Police are investigating.
http://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Accidental-shooting-injures-teen-in-Sparks-421830163.html

May 8 – Eunice, LA
A 12-year-old boy was playing with a handgun, unloaded the magazine but didn’t clear the bullet in the chamber and shot himself in the head.  He died later that night.
http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2017/05/09/12-year-old-eunice-accidentally-shoots-himself-dies/101485132/

May 8 – Birmingham, AL
A 2-year-old boy was unintentionally shot in the hand.
http://www.wbrc.com/story/35370661/birmingham-police-2-year-old-shot-in-hand-expected-to-be-ok

May 5 – Houma, LA
An 8 year old boy found one of his parents loaded AK-47 in the trunk of a car and unintentionally shot himself in the leg.
http://www.houmatoday.com/news/20170506/sheriff-8-year-old-boy-accidentally-shot

May 5 – Bradley County, TN
A 10-year-old boy was playing with his parent’s 9mm Glock handgun as he talked to a friend on his computer when he discharged the gun and shot himself in the arm.
http://newschannel9.com/news/local/police-report-10-year-old-accidentally-shot-himself-with-his-parents-gun

May 5 – Baton Rouge, LA
Three teen/tween friend were playing with a handgun when it unintentionally fired, killing a 12 year old.  Three teen friend were playing with a handgun when it unintentionally fired, killing a 12 year old. The 13-year-old was charged with negligent homicide and a 12-year-old was charged with possession of a firearm.
http://www.wafb.com/story/35357610/young-boy-fatally-wounded-from-gunshot-to-head

May 5 – San Angelo, TX
Two 15-year-old teens were playing with a handgun when it discharged, shooting one in the head. The 15-year-old shooter was charged with aggravated assault with deadly weapon.  The adult gun owner, a resident in the home, was not charged.
http://www.conchovalleyhomepage.com/news/local-news/police-investigate-apparent-accidental-shooting-of-teen-on-upton-street/707457065

May 4 – Smyrna, NY
Two teens were pointing rifles at each other and one unintentionally fired, shooting the 17-year-old in the shoulder. Both teens from Smyrna face charges of reckless endangerment in the accidental shooting.
http://www.wbng.com/story/35353797/sheriff-teens-pointing-guns-at-each-other-when-accidental-shooting-happened

May 2 – Green Bay, WI
A 17-year-old was playing with a gun in the backseat of a car and unintentionally shot a 23-year-old women in the back who was sitting in the car’s front seat. The 17-year-old was was arrested and charged with first degree reckless injury and possession of dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
http://www.wearegreenbay.com/news/local-news/man-arrested-after-shooting-acquaintance-in-green-bay/705476733

States rejecting bills intended to keep guns away from kids

Published by USAToday/AP and numerous local media markets – May 25, 2017

Children under age 12 die from gun accidents in the United States about once a week, on average. Almost every death begins with the same basic circumstances: an unsecured and loaded gun, a guardian’s lapse in attention. 

CFSA Co-Director/Founder Beth Joslin Roth is featured below for her work in Tennessee on MaKayla’s Law.

 

In state after state, proposals that would create or toughen laws intended to keep kids from getting ahold of unsecured guns have stalled — caught up in a debate over whether they are effective prevention measures or just government overreach.

Child access prevention laws allow prosecutors to bring charges against adults who fail to safely store their loaded guns, especially when they are obtained by minors and used to harm.

Public health experts say the laws could significantly reduce unintentional shootings that kill and injure hundreds of children every year, particularly if they allow for felonies against violators and are paired with educational campaigns to raise awareness.

But legislative efforts in dozens of states have run into opposition from lawmakers aligned with the National Rifle Association. Critics say the laws trample on the rights of gun owners who should be able to store their firearms however they want, and unfairly single out guns. Swimming pools and prescription drugs also can cause accidental deaths of children, they say.

Even in states that have such laws, they are rarely used when unsecured guns contribute to the death of a child. An AP-USA TODAY Network analysis found the laws were invoked in 14 out of 152 deaths of children under age 12 over the last three years. Five of those came in Texas, where the offense is a misdemeanor, although grand juries later declined to issue indictments in two of them.

In Tennessee, MaKayla’s law — named for an 8-year-old killed by a neighbor who got hold of his father’s gun — would have made it a felony for gun owners to store weapons in a way that allowed children access to them.

 Sponsors were outraged that the 11-year-old who shot MaKayla Dyer will be jailed until he is an adult while his father remains free. The boy was convicted of murder for killing the girl after she refused to let him play with her puppy.

They argued that the state’s high rate of shootings involving children needed to be addressed. Gun-rights activists claimed the measure would allow government to tell law-abiding adults how to store their guns, and a Republican-controlled committee voted 7-2 against it.

Sponsors addressed that criticism and returned this year with a simpler version allowing adults to be charged with reckless endangerment if children obtain their guns and use them to kill or injure. But in March, the proposed MaKayla’s law met a similar fate. It was rejected 6-3 in committee.

This time, lawmakers argued the bill wasn’t necessary because prosecutors could bring charges under existing laws, such as reckless homicide.

“They beat us again,” said Beth Joslin Roth, director of the Safe Tennessee Project, which backed the measure. “But we’ll keep fighting for it. These shootings keep happening.”

Tennessee has one of the highest rates of accidental shootings involving minors of any state, according to a separate AP-USA TODAY Network investigation last year. During a 2½-year period starting in January 2014, 17 minors in the state under age 18 were killed in accidental shootings and 35 were injured.

From 2012 through 2016, efforts to create laws in 11 states that don’t have them — and to strengthen laws in 20 others that do — have failed. Not one became law. Few of the plans received public hearings, and those that did were often vocally opposed by gun-rights activists.

So far, 27 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of a child access prevention law, although their provisions vary widely. Most carry only misdemeanor penalties, and some are written very narrowly so that they may not apply even when children die. Others are intended to keep guns away from kids who might commit a crime.

See more at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/24/states-rejecting-bills-intended-keep-guns-away-kids/102019946/

ELEVEN Kids Shot With Irresponsibly Stored Guns in the Week Leading to Mother’s Day


In the week leading to Mother’s Day, there were at least ELEVEN shooting incidents involving children with access to loaded and irresponsibly stored firearms.  Of those, FOUR resulted in a child’s death.  Four in just one week. The youngest fatality was a 3-year-old boy that shot himself with a gun found in the family SUV.  Another was a 4-year-old boy just days away from celebrating his 5th birthday.

Every single one of these shootings was the direct result of an adult’s choice to leave a loaded firearm unsecured.  Every single one of these shootings was 100% preventable.
#NotAnAccident #SafeStorageSavesLives

May 14 – Houston, TX
Two 9-year-olds were playing with a loaded 9mm gun when it discharged, striking one of the boys in the neck.  The boy’s family claims the gun was locked but the boys were able to break it.
http://www.click2houston.com/news/child-shot-in-south-houston-home-expected-to-survive-officials-say

May 13 – Goshen, IN
Two 15-year-olds were handling a gun, when one of the teens accidentally shot the other in the stomach.  The injured boy was airlifted and underwent surgery.  He’s expected to recover.
http://www.wndu.com/content/news/Teen-recovering-after-accidental-shooting-in-Goshen–422191734.html

May 12 – Nashville, TN
A 3-year-old child was staying with a man and his wife when he found a loaded, unsecured gun in a bedroom and fired it, striking himself in the foot. 
http://www.newschannel5.com/news/report-of-shooting-prompts-heavy-police-response

May 12 – Starr, SC
A 3-year-old boy died Friday after shooting himself with a gun he found in his family’s SUV outside their home.
http://www.independentmail.com/story/news/local/2017/05/12/3-year-old-gunshot-victim-taken-hosptial/101597818/

May 11 – East Chicago, IN
A 4-year-old boy, just days away from turning five, accidentally shot and killed himself early Thursday morning after finding a gun in his home.
http://abc7chicago.com/news/east-chicago-boy-4-killed-in-accidental-shooting-relatives-say/1979754/

May 10 – Barrow County, GA
A 9-year-old had gotten off the bus from school shortly before gaining access to a gun and fatally shooting himself with it.
http://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/year-old-boy-dies-after-shooting-himself/Ebf7Okt8S1wHRPWnxD1JtN/

May 10 – Taylorsville, NC
A 15-year-old boy picked up a 9 mm pistol, accidentally causing it to fire. The teen was struck in the abdomen.  Witnesses told deputies that a group of teenagers had three firearms, including the pistol, laying on a swivel stool.
http://www.statesville.com/news/apparent-accidental-shooting-injures-teen-near-taylorsville/article_327af962-35b0-11e7-8e14-c3637c731505.html

May 9 – Pekin, IN
Several teens were playing with a gun in a barn when it discharged, shooting a 16-year-old in the head.
http://www.whas11.com/news/local/male-16-injured-in-shooting-near-pekin/438363959

May 9 – Spark, NV
Several teens had a gun in a car when it discharged, shooting a 15-year-old in the leg.  They dropped him off at a home and left him there bleeding.  Police are investigating.
http://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Accidental-shooting-injures-teen-in-Sparks-421830163.html

May 8 – Eunice, LA
A 12-year-old boy was playing with a handgun, unloaded the magazine but didn’t clear the bullet in the chamber and shot himself in the head.  He died later that night.
http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2017/05/09/12-year-old-eunice-accidentally-shoots-himself-dies/101485132/

May 8 – Birmingham, AL
A 2-year-old boy was unintentionally shot in the hand.
http://www.wbrc.com/story/35370661/birmingham-police-2-year-old-shot-in-hand-expected-to-be-ok

Missouri Docs Talk Kids & Gun Violence

Courtesy of VOX Magazine, Mizzou

Recently VOX Magazine, published by students at the J School of the University of Missouri devoted an entire issue to “Missouri Under the Gun”:

“Caught between politics and the E.R.”

by RENEE HICKMAN, April 27, 2017 – VOX Magazine, University of Missouri

In 2014, about four years after she started practicing medicine, Dr. Pam Choi, chief surgery resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, was working an overnight shift when her pager buzzed. A tiny patient was headed to the emergency room. “When you see that page come across — ‘13-month old baby, GSW (gunshot wound)’ — your blood just runs cold and you’re like, ‘Oh my God; what should I expect?’” she says.

Before coming to St. Louis, Choi thinks she saw only one patient who’d been shot — a man who came into the ER while she was on a surgery rotation as a medical student at the University of Rochester. She grew up in the Northern New Jersey suburb of Franklin Lakes, one of the safest towns in the state. Her family never owned a gun, and gun violence was neither part of her personal experience nor an issue she thought about much.

Choi arrived at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for her residency and witnessed with horror the regularity with which children were brought into in the emergency room with firearm injuries. The incidents began to blur together in her memory. She cannot remember her first child gunshot victim, but she remembers the 13-month-old boy.

 He had been shot as his mother held him in her arms. Only vague details were relayed to Choi as the paramedics rushed the baby across the city in the night, but she thinks the bullets were meant for someone else. The baby was just in the way.

Choi and her team raced to the trauma bay and waited for the ambulance to arrive. She found herself standing very still as she focused on how she would deal with all the possible scenarios. Would there be cardiac injuries? How much blood loss would there be? Was the ambulance taking a long time, or did it just feel that way? She and her colleagues exchanged only a few words. Did they have all the supplies they needed? Were they ready? The younger the patients, the less likely they are to survive traumatic injuries.

The boy arrived in the ambulance with his mother. As paramedics wheeled him into the emergency room, Choi pulled the mother aside into a quiet conference room and explained where they were taking her son. As she explained that surgeons would operate on the baby, the sobbing mother begged them to do whatever they could. Choi promised that they would, but experience had taught her that even in the best of circumstances, doctors never quite know what will happen after a patient enters the ER.

The boy was crying loudly when the paramedics rushed him in. He’d been shot once, but the single bullet in his small body had done enough damage to threaten his life. As Choi and her team worked, he got weaker, and his cries grew softer. He struggled to breathe. The doctors worked for several hours to stabilize him and complete the operation. Finally, it became clear that he would live.

Dr. Pam Choi
Dr. Pam Choi is chief surgery resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The hospital’s trauma bay is where injured victims arrive after being shot. “If people could see what happens when someone is brought here after being shot, I think their minds would change,” she says. Photo:DAVIS WINBORNE

Despite the victory of the boy’s survival, Choi continues to be disturbed by that night. “They bring in this baby, and he’s bawling, and he’s chubby,” she says. As his recovery dragged on, she could only think that he didn’t belong there. He should be like any other 1-year-old, happily learning and exploring his world.

The longer she worked, the more frustrated Choi became watching one child gunshot victim after another appear on her operating table. On average, between April 2008 and March 2013, there were six firearm injuries per month in children under 16 in St. Louis.

It was easier to think of the problem the way she’d been trained to, in terms of epidemics — the way one might ponder an outbreak of polio, the flu or the spread of HIV. If children were being hurt and killed by something in the world, causes could be researched and solutions implemented.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital has one of two Level I trauma centers equipped to treat pediatric gunshot injuries in the St. Louis metro area. During intake, social workers interview patients and their families to determine the circumstances surrounding their injuries. Choi recognized that her facility was uniquely positioned to gather data on gunshot wounds and homicides of children in the region and the factors that led to them.

She and the other co-authors of the study “Firearm injuries in the pediatric population: A tale of one city” looked at the children who arrived at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, the other pediatric Level I trauma unit in the area, over a period of five years from 2008 to 2013. During that period, they documented 398 gunshot injuries in children — one of the highest rates in the nation. For comparison, a similar study done in Colorado over nine years recorded 129 gunshot injuries in children. A study over 10 years in Detroit recorded 289. The children were shot in the city and in the suburbs, as bystanders to crime and in accidents. Slightly fewer than half were in their own homes.

The high rates of gun violence in St. Louis have led to numerous intervention attempts by agencies, private organizations and law enforcement. Programs for at-risk youth have been launched, community forums are held regularly, and in 2014, St. Louis County established a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. for minors under 17.

Still, the issue has persisted. In fact, Choi noticed that during the period she studied, before the curfew laws were in place, most gun injuries actually happened outside curfew hours, between 6 p.m. and midnight.

A significant change in gun violence rates did occur recently. After 2007, the year Missouri legislators repealed a law requiring gun owners to obtain a license proving they’d passed a background check, firearm homicide rates spiked. Afterward, the rates continued to rise, jumping 23 percent through 2010, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy Research.

When asked how she thinks the new “permitless carry” and “stand your ground” legislation will affect the situation in her emergency room, Choi is less than optimistic. “I don’t think it will help,” she says.

Many doctors in St. Louis echo the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians in saying they want to approach gun violence affecting both children and adults as a public health issue, disentangling research and preventative measures from the partisan politics of gun legislation.

Dr. William Powderly is the director of the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, which launched the Gun Violence Initiative in 2015 to explore the issue in the city. To illustrate their approach, Powderly uses road safety as an analogy. Early on, U.S. drivers had to follow few rules. They could drive with a drink and without a seatbelt, to deadly ends.

“We had carnage on the roads, and this was clearly recognized as a public health issue,” Powderly says. “And over the next 30, 40 years, we gradually made driving a much safer enterprise in the United States.”

But in Missouri (and in the U.S.), guns are not like cars. Politics have so thoroughly saturated any discussion about gun safety that some doctors change their word choice to make gun owners more receptive to their ideas.

Dr. Robert Kennedy, a pediatrician who, like Choi, works in the emergency room at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, would rather not use the term “gun control,” for instance. “When you use that language a lot of people tune you out,” he says.

Kennedy has been in the field for about 40 years. Sitting in his house in St. Louis, he clicks through slides of data on gunshot injuries to children in St. Louis on his computer — locations, ages, intentional or unintentional — and recounts one tragic story after another. There was the child who thought a family handgun was a squirt-gun, the 12-year-old who didn’t mean to shoot his friend after finding a gun in his grandfather’s bedroom, the father who accidentally shot his infant son while in the car. On and on and on.

In 2013, not long after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Kennedy wrote an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with fellow St. Louis Children’s Hospital physicians David Jaffe and Martin Keller. In it, they called gun violence in St. Louis a public health crisis. The doctors implored readers to support recommendations by a host of medical professional organizations that wanted to ban assault weapons and large ammunition magazines and end federal restrictions on funding research into gun violence.

But today, Kennedy has stopped looking to legislative solutions to help halt the flow of gunshot victims into his emergency room. “I don’t think there is any way to get any legislation passed right now with the mentality that we have,” he says.

He prefers simple measures doctors might take, such as asking more questions while documenting patient medical histories. Queries about gun ownership and storage would appear alongside questions such as, “How many alcoholic drinks do you have per week?”

But in some cases, those questions have been politicized. In 2011, a Florida law backed by the National Rifle Association barred doctors from asking patients whether they kept guns in their homes. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down the law, saying it violated doctors’ rights to free speech. Missouri doctors are currently allowed to ask about firearm ownership and safety, but no law can require them to ask about guns in the home or document gun ownership as part of a patient’s history.

If doctors and public health experts are seeking treatments to what they view as an epidemic, Mary Hennings could be considered a survivor of the disease. Hennings is recovering from her fourth surgery following her 2013 gunshot injury.

On a warm evening in March, she moves with difficulty around her daughter’s home in Jennings, a St. Louis suburb. She looks for the right place to sit so as not to irritate her left hip, which was recently replaced. She points to the spots where the bullet entered her leg and then traveled upward. A long, deep scar marks its path.

Hennings was standing in front of her son Michael’s house when she was shot. She was about to head into the city with a few family members and friends. But then Michael had to use the bathroom, someone else forgot their phone charger and the trip was delayed. Hurrying to make her appointment, Hennings went to get the charger.

Before she could open the door, she fell to the ground, confused, and tried to move but couldn’t. As the pain spread through her leg, she heard more rounds being fired and understood what was happening. She prayed for the shooter to run out of bullets and for the pain to stop. To this day, the case is unsolved.

Hennings’ godson, Anthony, ran to her on the porch. He is so much a part of her family that he calls her “Mama.” As she bled onto the steps, he ripped off his shirt. “Mama, this is gonna hurt,” he told her as he used the shirt to create a tourniquet. Later, a doctor told Hennings his action had probably saved her life.

This was not the first time Hennings had experienced gun violence. Her son Alvin was shot and killed in 1989 in the St. Louis area. Five months after Hennings was shot, her son Michael was also killed with a firearm.

Michael Hennings’ daughter sits at the kitchen table. She is focused intensely on her homework, while Mary Hennings points to scrapbooked pictures of Michael. The pictures show a handsome man in his 30s who smiles easily back at the camera. Hennings likes to remember doing work around the house with Michael, fighting over who would cut the grass. Shortly before he died, he told Hennings he was going to barber school, so he could cut hair for a living like his mother. “Michael was a good guy,” Hennings says gazing at the photos. At times, she closes her eyes against the tears.

Hennings hopes the hip replacement will be her last surgery. Her daughter, Kimberly, takes care of her daily needs but is overbooked with two jobs, one in health care and another at the hair salon she owns.

She is impatient to be able to move around more easily. She wants to spend more time with local advocacy groups working to stop gun violence in St. Louis and wants to start working as a barber again.

Hennings says there are too many guns in her neighborhood, and she thinks Missouri’s new “permitless carry” law will worsen the problem. Guns are “getting in the wrong hands,” she says. But she is torn on the issue. Hennings owns a gun herself. She wonders if, had she been able to reach the weapon, she might’ve been able to stop the man who shot her.

http://www.voxmagazine.com/magazine/caught-between-politics-and-the-e-r/article_2792dc97-73f3-59f6-8639-c5a11b99a6ad.html