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5 sessions explore how pediatricians can prevent firearm injuries, deaths

September 20, 2023

Editor’s note: The 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Oct. 20-24 in Washington, D.C. For coverage, visit and follow @AAPNews on Facebook and at

The statistics are grim.

Firearms are the leading cause of death in U.S. children and youths ages 1-24 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2021, firearms were involved in the deaths of 4,733 children ages 1-19. In comparison, 4,486 children and teens died due to injuries in motor vehicle crashes.

Furthermore, the child firearm mortality rate has doubled in the U.S. from 1.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 to 3.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2021.

Despite these sobering numbers, pediatricians should know their advocacy can make a difference. 

During a virtual town hall on firearm violence prevention in July, AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP, emphasized how much progress has been made on other child safety issues thanks to pediatricians’ advocacy. She noted 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.”

Several sessions are being offered during the conference to help pediatricians get involved in firearm injury prevention efforts and hone their advocacy skills. Take a look.

The Toll of Gun Violence: How AAP Members Can Advocate for Reform at the State and Federal Levels from 1-2:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 20 in room 154 of the convention center (I1110) and from 2-3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 21 in room 149 of the convention center (I2515)

Faculty: Pam K. Shaw, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on State Government Affairs and professor of pediatrics at University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City

Pediatricians have a unique voice to advocate for policies that decrease the toll of gun violence in children, Dr. Shaw said.

The session will highlight effective examples of AAP advocacy work and strategies on gun violence prevention and equip participants with information to support related state and federal advocacy.

“Pediatricians should attend this session because gun violence is now the No. 1 killer of children in this country, and as pediatricians, we should be able to have the tools to mitigate this,” Dr. Shaw said.

Advocacy Insights from Gun Violence Survivors and Children of Incarcerated Parents
(S1201) from 2:30-3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 20 in room 207A of the convention center

Faculty: Kamaal A. Jones, M.D., FAAP, pediatrician at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Medical Hub/SCAN clinic

Dr. Jones will discuss the key role people with lived experience should play in the advocacy and policymaking process, from the clinic level to the halls of decision-making. He will share stories of gun violence survivors, children of incarcerated parents and children who are involved in the child welfare system.

 “We often participate in advocacy and decision-making, while leaving out the most important voices in the conversation — people with actual lived experience,” Dr. Jones said. “Pediatricians are natural advocates, but if we are to be most effective, it will take integrating the voices of these true experts. This talk will help you to do that.”

Yes You Can: Pediatricians and Firearm Injury Prevention
(S1406) from 4-5 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 20 in room 146B of the convention center


Lois K. Lee, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention (COIVPP) Executive Committee, senior associate in pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School

Eric W. Fleegler, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, member of COIVPP and the AAP Section on Emergency Medicine and attending emergency medicine physician at Boston Children's Hospital

Dr. Lee and Dr. Fleegler will review the epidemiology of pediatric firearm injuries and deaths, including the associated health disparities in outcomes. They also will discuss patient, clinician and family perspectives on firearm safety and injury prevention.

The session will conclude with guidance on how pediatric clinicians can promote anticipatory guidance on firearm injury prevention with families as well as priorities for advocacy.

“Since firearms are the leading cause of death in U.S. children and youth 1-24 years old,” Dr. Lee said, “it is important for pediatric clinicians to be informed about how we can promote firearm injury prevention with our patients and families as well as advocate for policies to impact our kids on a larger scale.”

Suicide and Gun Violence: What We Know, What We Can Do
(S2308) from 9-10 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 21 in room 206 of the convention center

Faculty: Eric J. Sigel, M.D., FAAP, member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention and the Section on Adolescent Health, and professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver

This session will address the intersection of suicide and gun access.

“Suicidal thinking and access to firearms are a lethal combination. Health care providers can address both if they have the knowledge and confidence to do so,” Dr. Sigel said.

He will briefly discuss the epidemiology of both suicide and gun access. Then, he will address how health care providers can screen/identify youths at risk for suicide, how to counsel youths and families about the risk access to firearms poses to youths who may act on a suicidal thought and how best to discuss options to eliminate access to firearms.

“Health care providers are in a unique, privileged position to be able to decrease suicides in youth by actively engaging both their patients and caregivers proactively through screening and counseling,” Dr. Sigel said.

Crafting the Right Message and Forming Coalitions to Prevent Firearm Injuries
(P3400) to be presented during the plenary session on Sunday, Oct. 22 in Ballroom AB of the convention center.

Faculty: Sandra L. McKay, M.D., FAAP, member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention and associate professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Firearms are the leading cause of death in children, yet routine secure storage counseling during well-child visits is rare, Dr. McKay said. “As pediatricians, we are the guardians of safety for children, and it is imperative that we learn several techniques to counsel on secure storage and how to work with communities to reduce firearm injury.”

Dr. McKay will use her background as a general pediatrician at an academic institution and a firearm injury prevention researcher to educate and inspire attendees to have culturally sensitive conversations with patients on secure firearm storage. She also will discuss ways pediatricians can engage with communities to reduce firearm injury.

“I would encourage everyone to educate themselves on how to ask and counsel about firearms, and to connect with various stakeholders within their communities,” Dr. McKay said. “We have to work together to reduce firearm violence.”

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