Pediatricians Submit 300+ Personal Gun Violence Testimonies to Congressional Record

The American Academy of Pediatrics included these testimonies in a statement submitted to the US Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of the committee’s hearing on gun violence prevention.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced today that more than 300 pediatricians have submitted personal testimonies to the US Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of the committee’s hearing on gun violence prevention. The pediatricians’ submissions illustrated how gun violence has impacted patients, communities, and lives. According to the AAP, all stories were submitted in just over 2 days and range from heart-wrenching accounts of patients who have experienced gun violence to the long-term trauma caused by gun violence exposure.1

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) also released a statement on firearm violence on June 1 in response to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, Houston, and more than 200 other US locations in 2022 so far. “Firearm violence is a public health crisis, and it is preventable,” the APA said in its statement. “APA is committed to federal efforts to protect our youth and all citizens from gun violence and implores Congress to enact firearm safety legislation that will promote safe communities and reduce morbidity and mortality due to firearm-related violence.”2

A bipartisan gun safety proposal, if passed, would make improvements to the background check system, support red flag laws, enhance school safety, close domestic violence loopholes, and introduce stronger penalties for straw purchasing—a criminal act in which an item, especially a firearm, is bought by an individual on behalf of another who is legally unable to make such a purchase.3

“We have been elected to the US Senate to respond to American crises,” US Senate Majority whip Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said in a statement on June 12, 2022. “Each of the elements in this bipartisan gun safety package has the potential to save lives. I continue to believe military-style assault weapons that can shred the bodies of their victims have no place in civilian use—but we cannot let the perfect Congressional response be the enemy of the good. Though this agreement falls short in this and other respects, it can and will make our nation safer.”3

During the hearing, AAP president Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, testified before senators to discuss the emotional and physical toll of gun violence on young people and the need for comprehensive policies to keep children safe. Additionally, she urged the Senate to complete action on the recently announced bipartisan framework on gun safety as a much-needed first step in addressing gun violence.1

“These testimonies should be required reading for every senator and representative,” said Szilagyi in the AAP announcement. “Their words and perspectives vary, but their common thread is urgency. Children and adolescents are dying. We must act now. Pediatricians will continue to speak up in every way we know how until we see meaningful policy change.”

The psychiatric community will also continue to advocate for change that will help save lives, according to the APA. “We implore our elected officials to act on meaningful, common-sense measures and begin to heal the divisions that have prevented progress in this area of public health for far too long,” the APA said in its statement. “This senseless loss of life must end, and as a nation, we should expect action from federal and state legislative and executive leaders. Our children and communities deserve better.”2

Here is a preview of the pediatricians’ testimonies to the US Senate Judiciary Committee:

“Children who are shot are usually rushed to the hospital—without their parents—as fast as possible by EMS or police. So I have looked into the terrified eyes of many children after they’ve been shot and tried to comfort them. I tell them that they’re in a safe place now, that we’re going to take care of them, while around them our ER staff moves quickly, cutting off clothes, placing IVs, assessing the injuries, treating pain, and doing our best to minimize the damage after the injury occurred. The feeling of their scared eyes, locked on mine, while I tell them they’re safe, is a feeling I don’t forget. There is a promise in that look we share. They desperately want an adult to take care of them. I tell them they’re safe in a safe place now, but in my heart, I don’t know if they are.”– Halden Scott, MD, Denver, Colorado, Pediatric Emergency Medicine (page 4 of the document)
“One of the many that I have treated in the emergency department and the Level 1 trauma center was a young child who pulled his father’s gun and pretended to play war with his brother; not knowing that the gun was real and loaded he fatally shot his 6-year-old brother in the chest. The child kept crying hysterically, refusing to separate from his dead brother. The parents were agonized for the child who died and their other child who will carry the guilt of killing his brother for life.”– Madeline Joseph, MD, Jacksonville, Florida, Pediatric Emergency Medicine (page 32)
“Gun violence can occur at any time, any place and under any circumstances. In this case of road rage, the driver from another car got angry and shot the car through the trunk, and the bullet went into the child sitting in the back seat.”– Mustafa Kabeer, MD, Irvine, California, Pediatric Surgery (page 21)
“For example, last week, a mother brought in her 8-year-old daughter to discuss the child’s difficulties sleeping. Ever since she went through active shooter ‘run, hide, fight’ drills at her elementary school, she has experienced nightmares. She cannot sleep in her own bed. She cannot sleep with the lights off. She cries nearly every day when her mother waves goodbye to her from the bus stop because she is scared it will be the last time she ever sees her mom.”– Dr. Nancy Heavilin, Somers Point, New Jersey, General Pediatrics (page 14)

Read the full AAP statement here, and view the live committee hearing here.

References

1. More than 300 pediatricians submit personal testimonies of gun violence to Congressional record. American Academy of Pediatrics. June 15, 2022. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/more-than-300-pediatricians-submit-personal-testimonies-of-gun-violence-to-congressional-record/

2. Statement from the American Psychiatric Association on firearm violence. American Psychiatric Association. June 1, 2022. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/news-releases/apa-statement-on-firearm-violence

3. Durbin statement on new bipartisan gun safety framework. Committee on the Judiciary. June 12, 2022. Accessed 15, 2022. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/press/dem/releases/durbin-statement-on-new-bipartisan-gun-safety-framework

A version of this article appears on the Contemporary Pediatrics website. You can access the original article here.