Since the sad events at Newtown, Connecticut, our country has been refocused on gun control. I am disappointed that no progress on limiting weapons with enough firepower to kill dozens of people, or on trying to make it harder for potentially dangerous people to obtain guns, but, as they say, “That’s politics.” An area of possibly greater concern in the arena of gun control has bothered me greatly as a physician. This is the fact that children, teenagers, or young adults living in a home with a gun are more than six times more likely to die from a gun accident or from suicide by gunfire, than those in a home with no gun. In 33 years of medical practice, six young family members of my patients died of gun accidents or suicide committed with a gun. I had no patients ever shot by intruders or street criminals.
So, let’s get this fact out to the entire nation, gun owners and non- gun owners, NRA members and gun control advocates. The medical profession should include this fact and advice on how to deal with it in their preventive health talks with patients. I have a friend who is a retired lawyer with a brilliant career in the law and public service. He lives in a rural area and is an avid hunter, with his own well-trained dog, and nearby woods for almost daily hunting in season. He is not an NRA member, but is a very thoughtful moderate in politics, looking at all sides. In his own personal life, however, he is extremely careful. Having grandchildren visit him frequently he knows the danger. His guns are kept in a beautiful, but extremely safe, gun locker, that even his wife, I think, cannot get into. He knows the risks and has taken the proper steps to minimize them.
I had a distant relative whom I occasionally visited at a house in a rural area and came across a pistol on his bedside table. Since my children often came with me, I told him that we would never come back unless he got rid of the gun or put it in a safe place, and why. He got rid of the gun, and with a little self-education , based on my probably not too gentle advice, has repeatedly thanked me for that advice.
So, since the home of gun owners is a much less safe place with the gun, and since most won’t hear of getting rid of their guns, the public media, the NRA, and the medical profession should give sound advice on the very dangerous statistics, and advice on how to keep a gun safe from a troubled child or other family member.