Columbia, SC — Like all pediatricians, I strive to provide the best possible care for the children and families in my practice. That means not only diagnosing and treating illnesses but also counseling about health and safety issues. One of these issues is firearm safety.
Pediatricians consider counseling about firearm safety a very important part of well-child care. I do not counsel patients about whether or not they should own a gun. But I absolutely do counsel them about gun safety if they do own a gun. I discuss gun locks, gun safes and safe storage of ammunition.
Why do pediatricians consider education about firearm safety so important for our patients? Here are a few facts:
• Firearms are the most common method used for suicide among 15- to 19-year-olds, accounting for 736 deaths in the United States in 2009; easy access to firearms creates an increased risk for suicide in this age group.
• Unintentional firearm injuries were the cause of death in 114 children and teens in the United States in 2009; fatal shootings are usually caused by other children, often friends or siblings.
• Firearms accounted for 15,576 nonfatal injuries among children and teens treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2010.
A pediatric research study has shown that parents truly do follow their pediatrician’s advice about safe storage of firearms and ammunition.
But a bill in the Legislature (H.3416) would prohibit health-care providers from discussing firearms with their patients. This would prevent me from performing a vital part of my job.
I would be unable to do my best to ensure that my young patients are living in the safest possible environment. I would be unable to educate parents about the best ways to keep their children safe in their own homes. And I would be unable to exercise my First Amendment right to free speech while performing the job that I love.
The S.C. Chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics adamantly opposes this legislation. We give our best efforts every day to keep South Carolina’s children healthy and safe. This legislation would undermine our ability to accomplish this. We ask the Legislature to consider these concerns and reject this legislation.
Deborah Greenhouse, M.D.
President, S.C. Chapter
American Academy of Pediatrics