Physicians Urge Handgun Dealers to Inform Purchasers About Safe Storage
firearm injuries and deaths involving children are potentially preventable
through a combination of personal and public measures, say two Emory
University emergency medicine physicians. The editorial, published in
the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,
addresses the issue of the responsibility of handgun dealers to inform
purchasers of the risk of guns around children and the need for safe
storage of all guns.
Harold K. Simon, M.D., a
pediatric emergency physician at Emory University School of Medicine
and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, authored the editorial with Arthur
Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H., chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine
and director of Emory's Center for Injury Control.
Drs. Simon and Kellermann
suggest that firearm dealers have a unique opportunity to share safe
storage information with purchasers, even at the cost of losing potential
business. Even pediatricians and other health care professionals, they
note, are urged by the American Academy of Pediatrics to inform parents
of the dangers of keeping guns in the home.
Dr. Simon's and Dr. Kellermann's
editorial accompanies a study in the same issue about consumer education
by gun dealers. Sandra M. Sanguino, M.D., M.P.H from Children's Memorial
Hospital in Chicago and her research colleagues posed as would-be handgun
purchasers in two states and visited a variety of gun dealers in two
metropolitan areas. The purpose of the study was to explore the type
and quality of handgun safety information a typical consumer would obtain
from a licensed gun dealer. Of the 96 dealers surveyed, only 9% of the
dealers offered comprehensive advice about safe storage, i.e. keeping
the gun securely locked, keeping the gun unloaded, and storing the gun
separately from the ammunition.
"Given the risk of unintentional
injuries when a child finds an improperly stored gun, this is just another
article that highlights yet another missed opportunity to educate the
public about the potential risks of guns around children," says Dr.
Drs. Simon and Kellermann
note that in Massachusetts, the attorney general's Handgun Sales Regulations
require that a safety warning and disclosure be shared with the purchaser
at the time a handgun is sold.
But, they ask in the editorial,
will a measure such as mandatory disclosures do any good?
"There is also the possibility
that such regulations, although not necessarily affecting behavior,
might simply increase the legal immunity of gun dealers and manufacturers
from lawsuits if a child is subsequently injured or killed by the gun,"
the authors write.
"Ultimately gun owners need
to be aware of the risk of unintentional injury when children have access
to guns. Therefore, it is the hope that gun dealers would fully inform
potential purchasers of these risks," says Dr. Simon.
Dr. Simon and Dr. Kellermann
were co-investigators of a study that highlighted the high-risk behavior
of boys age 8-12 who found a gun in a presumably safe environment. The
results, published in the June 2001 issue of the journal Pediatrics,
concluded that many boys age 8 to 12 will handle a gun and even pull
the trigger if they find one.