On most days, I associate the color orange with joy, sunshine and fun, but on Thursday, June 2nd, to me and many across the US, orange will signify the public health crisis due to gun violence. On that day, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, I will wear orange to show my solidarity with families of my patients who have lost a family member to gun violence, solidarity with communities across America that are torn apart by bloodshed and fear. On that day, I will stop and reflect on the fact that every year, an average of nearly 17,500 children and teens are shot each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I will also wear orange to signify hope that there can be a brighter tomorrow. It is not inevitable that we live in violence. Look at other developed countries. A study published earlier this year in The American Journal of Medicine found that when compared to the US, gun homicide rates in other developed countries were 25 times lower and that the vast majority of child deaths from firearms in developed countries are in the US: 91 percent of firearm deaths for children 14 and younger; 92 percent from youth aged 15 to 24 years. What is different? Our per capita firearm ownership rate is higher than that of any of these other countries. We can do better for our communities and our children by finding solutions (perhaps by learning from our other developed countries) on ways to reduce the number of guns and our excessive exposure to gun violence.
So, what can you do today? Statistics indicate that up to one in three US homes report having a firearm. So even if you do not own a gun, there is a good chance that your child's friend or classmate may have a gun in their home. As I previously blogged, parents should be aware of the homes in which their children are playing and how children comprehend (or fail to comprehend) the dangers of firearms as they mature developmentally. If you own a gun, make smart decisions around safe storage – or removing guns from the home entirely.
There is a role for all of us in protecting children and adolescents against gun violence. Events will be held around the country on Thursday for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, including here in Philadelphia. Supporters are also encouraged to "Wear Orange" in solidarity, and use the #WearOrange hashtag on social media.
To learn more and find an event on June 2nd near you, click here.