Pediatricians Could Be the Lobbying Key in Gun Safety

Gun shadowIf you’ve been following the gun control debate over the months since the Newtown tragedy, one thing has become radically apparent: the gun rights movement is far better organized than the gun control movement. And the gun rights movement is emerging victorious, at least on the federal level, because of it.

But a recent story gives a me glimmer of hope that there is a strong foundation for a gun safety lobby to build its case. That foundation comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The association for doctors that treat children have been quietly lobbying Congress for better safety measures on guns. According to NBC News:

What the doctors want is an assault weapon ban, mandatory background checks and waiting periods before all firearm purchases, a ban on high-capacity magazines, handgun regulations and requirements for safe firearm storage under federal law.

Pediatricians are a logical ally in the gun safety movement. These are people for whom the health and safety of kids is paramount. They cannot be even remotely comfortable with all the news stories about children dying from gun injuries – over 70 of them already in 2013. Half of those injuries were accidents, situations were guns were available to children who discharged them to tragic effect. A brother killing a sister. A boy injuring a playmate. Such gun injuries and deaths among children should be preventable with some simple safety measures. Pediatricians, who have regular contact with parents, are natural allies in helping families make safe choices about firearms in the home.

What’s distressing is that there is significant opposition and, in some cases, there are actually laws that prevent pediatricians from addressing the topic of firearms with the parents of their patients. The National Rifle Association and its allies would have guns be a taboo topic for doctors even though a simple handout or quick conversation about safe gun storage could remind parents to get their guns out of kids’ reach and prevent tragic accidents.  But the gun rights lobby is so bent on owning guns without any interference that they’ll silence health professionals while they simultaneously fight against trigger locks and safe gun storage mandates, even if it means the death of little kids.

I’m sure the NRA will react to the efforts of pediatricians in the same way that they react to the efforts of law enforcement officials asking for universal background checks, as well as calls by the Centers for Disease Control to track gun injuries and deaths. The forced silence in doctors’ offices combined with the stifled data collection on gun injuries is telling, in my opinion. It shows that the gun lobby knows what a hazard guns are and it’s terrified that the public might see that. Maybe, just maybe, pediatricians can be the antidote to that silence. Maybe lobbyists who speak for kids will be able to break through the wall of silence produced by those who speak for guns.

Rebekah Kuschmider is a D.C. area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, a cable news addiction, and a blog. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in theatre and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector.  Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at StayAtHomePundit.com.She was voted one of the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs at Circle of Moms. Her work has also been seen at Salon.com, Redbook online, and the Huffington Post.

Image via iStockphoto/Jozef Sedmak

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