March 1 2018 8:00 AM Denise Salerno, MD FAAP

Dear Colleagues,

As my family was driving home from dinner on Valentine's Day, we were reminiscing with our kids about their earliest memories.  My youngest recalled that when he was 4, he thought and worried that Cupid would actually shoot people with a real arrow to fall in love.  While that brought smiles and laughter to us, I couldn't help thinking about the 17 students and teachers that were actually hit by real bullets earlier that day. Once again, innocent people who were at a place where children and teachers should all feel safe were gunned down by a disturbed person with an assault rifle.  An assault rifle -- the name tells you what this military weapon is meant for -- why can it so easily be bought without a background check? Why can youths that are too young to buy lottery tickets or alcohol be able to buy such a powerful and deadly weapon? 

 

Why is this happening over and over? There have already been the 2006 Bart Township school shooting and multiple threats and thwarted attacks in Pennsylvania. We need to do something to protect the children of Pennsylvania so that tragedies like this don't happen again and again. I know I will be ruffling some of your feathers and will be hearing about "our second amendment rights" but that's ok, we need to stop avoiding this issue. I'm not talking about making all guns illegal. I somewhat understand how people feel they need a gun for their safety and I definitely understand the desire for hunting guns but what I can't wrap my head around is the need for bump stocks, military assault rifles, or weapons of mass destruction in the hands of civilians. It is upsetting that a PA State Representative Daryl Metcalfe commented that, "They expect lawmakers to listen to the policy advice of 18 year old and younger 'students' who are advocating for gun control, but they do not believe 18 year olds who are old enough to serve on the battlefields of Afghanistan are old enough to purchase a rifle." I applaud the youth that are demanding change by speaking up and holding walkouts and rallies.  Their "Never Again" campaign is inspiring and we as pediatricians need to support and join them.

 

The AAP has always advocated for a safe environment in which children can grow and learn, and encourages us all to advocate for improved gun safety legislation. The families that lost children and the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting need more than our "thoughts and prayers."  You can reach out to your representatives at the state and federal level and try to help end these tragic events.  The AAP has some great resources to help you get started - see the AAP Gun Violence Prevention site which is full of helpful information.  I have already contacted my representatives and I hope many of you will too.

 

When my 10 year old and 12 year old ask me if a shooting like that (in Florida) could ever happen in their school, I want to  believe that someday the answer will be, "No," and that the only thing that could shoot them at school is Cupid's arrow. 

 

Best,

Denise Salerno, MD, FAAP
President