Washington U. study: Pediatricians should change gun safety talk - KMOV.com

Washington U. study: Pediatricians should change gun safety talk

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Person shooting gun at range (Credit: KMOV) Person shooting gun at range (Credit: KMOV)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are working to find the best way for pediatricians to broach the topic of gun safety with their young patients and their parents.

According to researchers, 2,500 children a year die from firearm related accidents or suicides. Safety advocates have long pointed to pediatricians as a trusted resource to address gun safety but researchers found many are reluctant to because that conversation can be uncomfortable for parents.

Washington University researchers interviewed 1,200 parents in waiting rooms throughout Missouri and Illinois. They found 40 percent of them said they had a firearm in the home. Another 10 percent said their child regularly went to a house with firearms. One in four said they had a firearm in the house that was not stored correctly.

"This is a significant problem in our community," said Jane Garbutt, MD, the study's first author and a professor of medicine and pediatrics. "We asked parents if the pediatrician should ask about the presence of household firearms and one in four said they didn't want to be asked."

Garbutt said if a pediatrician directly asks if the parents own a gun, they are risking the chance that the parents will be offended and the rest of the appointment could be unproductive. Since their study also revealed half of children surveyed visit homes with guns, which could include a friend's home or grandparent's house, it is less important to know if the parent owns a gun and more important to talk about overall safety.

"For a pediatrician to give that advice, they don't need to know if there is a firearm in your house because the accident could happen at a friend's house or a grandparent's house," said Garbutt.

Now, the researchers are recommending pediatricians talk about gun safety like they would any other child hazard topic, like medicine or bleach.

"Parents seem to be very accepting of the idea of the pediatrician raising the question of firearm safety in general. They just didn't want to be asked specifically about ownership of a firearm," said Garbutt.

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