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Doctors should ask families whether they have firearms at home

Mar 27 2017

OTTAWA— Health professionals should ask families whether they have firearms in their home, advises the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) in a new position statement

“The availability of firearms to youth is an important factor in adolescent suicide, homicide, unintentional firearm deaths, and school shootings,” says Dr. Katherine Austin, author of the CPS statement. “We need to ask about the presence of firearms in the home and, when there is one, inform parents of the risks.”

Too many children and teens are injured or killed by guns each year. A new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and The Hospital for Sick Children, published today in CMAJ, found that a child or youth is shot every day in Ontario, and 75 per cent of those injuries are unintentional. Canada has one of the highest rates of youth death from guns in the developed world; 15 – 24 year old males in Canada are more likely to die from firearm injuries than from fires, falls and drowning combined, or from cancer.

The CPS statement also warns of the dangers of non-powder firearms such as air guns and BB guns, the pellets from which can cause significant internal injury and death.

“Parents need to understand that these non-powder firearms are weapons and should only be used under close adult supervision,” says Dr. Austin.

Airsoft and paintball guns can cause severe eye injury and blindness. These activities should only take place in reputable arenas and eye protection should be worn at all times.

The CPS statement also urges the federal government to implement stricter controls on the acquisition, transport, ownership and storage of firearms, including:

  • Measures to reduce the illegal entry of firearms, especially from the United States.
  • Tighter restrictions on semi-automatic (military style) firearms.
  • Evidence-based, appropriately funded gang prevention initiatives in communities where youth are at high risk for gang involvement.
  • Research on risk factors for targeted school violence (school shootings), along with evidence-based programs to prevent bullying in schools and improve access to mental health services for children and youth at risk.
  • The classification of air guns and BB guns with a projectile velocity great enough to cause eye or skin penetration as firearms under Canada’s Firearms Act. The regulation of air guns and BB guns with lower projectile velocities under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

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About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Mar 27 2017