4,099 and counting

Since the massacre of school children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut shocked the consciences of Americans on December 14, 2012, at least 4,099 more people have been killed in gun violence in the United States. Many of them have also been children and often it is a case of children killing children. Like the five-year-old boy in Kentucky who recently shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a rifle that his parents had given him as a gift.

Think about that for a moment. A five-year-old with a working firearm. That had been given to him by his parents! What kind of parents allow a five-year-old to have a gun? Now, they and he have to live with their decision for the rest of their lives. But there'll be no legal consequences for them, because that is just an accepted way of life in their society. As far as the community is concerned, there are no lessons to be learned here. Just bury the girl and forget her.

There have been many other incidents of children killing children just since the Kentucky tragedy a few weeks ago, right up until today when the headlines are about a four-year-old shooting and killing an eleven-year-old relative in Florida. Now get this: The grandmother told police that a two-year-old and the four-year-old were playing with the gun and the relative who was shot tried to get it away from them! There were six children in the room along, apparently, with the grandmother. And she was allowing them to play with a loaded gun!

It's easy to see then why pediatricians, who are devoted to caring for the health of these children, are concerned and are pushing for gun reform. As Maggie Fox of NBC News has written:

To pediatricians, gun control is a public health issue, not a political one. But they're treading a fine line, and they know it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has begun a renewed push to try to get Congress to pass gun control measures, sending more than 100 pediatricians to Capitol Hill earlier this month. But others who have taken on the issue over the past decade have a warning for them: they can run afoul of the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups that are quick to paint anyone who advocates for gun control as a political extremist.
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.
Gun violence is most certainly a public health issue in this country. Gun-injury and death rates are almost twenty times higher in the U.S. than in other high-income nations with populations of more than one million. And research has shown that people are 2.7 times more likely to be murdered if they have firearms in their homes. There are bereaved families in Kentucky and Florida who can attest to that.

So, along with America's pediatricians, we must continue to raise our voices to try to effect change in the laws of this country that will provide more protection for our children and, indeed, for all of us. Unfortunately, I live in Texas where every elected "representative" of mine in Washington actually represents the NRA. It is utterly hopeless for me to try to affect their thinking on this issue, but I do what I can, and I look to elected officials from other states to represent my views.

Meanwhile, a few miles from my home, in Houston, the NRA recently held its convention. Each day during the convention, the local Houston Chronicle had a big picture on its front page of some cute kid at the convention - usually five to seven years old - holding and pointing a gun. Future NRA members.

And some parents will continue to give guns to four-year-olds. You can't cure stupid.


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