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AAP hosts firearm violence prevention town hall, launches special interest group

July 26, 2023

Nearly 200 pediatricians gathered virtually for an AAP town hall on gun violence prevention Tuesday, which culminated with the announcement of a new Firearm Injury Prevention Special Interest Group (SIG).

The SIG will be a “one-stop shop” for AAP members to collaborate and create community with colleagues on firearm injury and violence prevention, said Lois K. Lee, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, chair of the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention Executive Committee.

“Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and youth 1 to 24 years old, superseding motor vehicle crashes starting in 2017 for the first time since the 1980s,” Dr. Lee said. “Pediatricians have been and continue to be at the forefront of overcoming partisan politics to call for progress and change on this important issue.”

Dr. Lee, lead author of the AAP policy statement Firearm-Related Injuries and Deaths in Children and Youth: Injury Prevention and Harm Reduction, moderated the 90-minute forum. Participants submitted questions on a range of topics, including how to talk with families about safe firearm storage, how to engage in conversation in a politically polarized world and how to take on an issue that might seem insurmountable as an early career pediatrician.

Throughout the forum, attendees responded to several poll questions to gauge what types of opportunities they want to engage in, why they are passionate about preventing gun violence and their level of involvement in violence prevention. 

AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP, encouraged members by emphasizing how much progress has been made on other child safety issues. She noted that it wasn’t long ago that children rode in vehicles without car seats.

“As you advocate, you will see change,” Dr. Chung said. “It might take time, it might take your whole career, but it will happen.”

She said the first step is to become engaged in an AAP chapter or other programs where advocacy is happening.

One such opportunity is the new Firearm Injury Prevention SIG, which will be co-chaired by Kiesha Fraser Doh, M.D., FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, and Eric J. Sigel, M.D., FAAP, professor of pediatrics and fellowship director of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

“I always tell people mass shootings are significant in that they’re often the fuel that stimulates the conversation, even though those of us who are in this space realize they are only about 1% of the total firearm violence we see,” Dr. Fraser Doh said. “In our country each day, almost 10 kids get killed with guns. Most of the time, these are not mass shootings.”

Dr. Fraser Doh said firearm violence also disproportionately affects children who are marginalized. Though Black children make up just 14% of the U.S. population, they account for about 46% of the youth firearm deaths. American Indian and Alaska Native children also have higher rates of firearm deaths compared to their White peers, Dr. Fraser Doh said.

While the thought of pushing new firearm safety laws through local and federal governments may seem daunting, Dr. Fraser Doh cited the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Congress approved last summer and discussions on safe gun storage in her home state of Georgia as notable wins that were attained through the advocacy the SIG seeks to engage in.

“Our state has the ninth highest rate of gun violence in the country,” Dr. Fraser Doh said. “One bill in particular, the Pediatric Health Safe Storage Act, received a rare hearing in the Public Safety Committee. One thing for us all to remember is legislative advocacy is a marathon, so we want to start off friendly and continue to be friendly.”

While federal policy change is one way to achieve progress, there are also ways to make an impact at the state level and locally, particularly with one-on-one interaction between pediatricians and families.

“Normalize that conversation as part of pediatrics,” said AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D. “This is no different than seatbelts. This is no different than bicycle helmets. Normalize this kind of engagement. Injury prevention has been a part of the core work (of the AAP) since it was founded.”

The new SIG is open to all AAP members at no cost. To register, visit

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