Lax gun laws kill kids.

In a study presented this week at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference in Florida, a Stanford University trauma doctor said what we ought to know by now: The weaker a state's gun laws are, the more likely it is for children to be shot to death.

Pennsylvania is among those states that should hang its head low. It has the loosest gun laws in the region, and the highest death rate per 100,000 children. According to Dr. Stephanie Chao's research, there were 3.05 deaths per 100,000 children in Pennsylvania in 2015. In New Jersey, which has the strongest laws in this region, the death rate was 1.55. About 25 children die from gunshot wounds in Pennsylvania every year and about 18 die in New Jersey,  according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Nationally, Chao found that gun death rates are twice as high among children in states with weak gun laws. (Across the country, more than 17,000 children are shot every year. Of them 2,700 die, reports the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)

Chao's study is the latest in an overwhelming body of research that correlates gun laws and gun deaths. At least since the 1990s, studies have shown that child gun deaths can be reduced in states with strong gun-safety laws.

Chao specifically tracks child deaths. Research by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that in 2017, the gunshot death rate for all Pennsylvanians was 11.9 per 100,000. In New Jersey, the rate was 5.5.

Scientific research on guns, which is all too rare since the CDC is prohibited by law to embark on such research, leaves little wiggle room for the Republican leaders of Pennsylvania's legislature to continue protecting gun manufacturers at the expense of people.

Legislators can take an easy step to  reduce gun deaths by passing a child-access prevention laws. These laws simply require gun owners to lock up their weapons when not in use. In the latest session, such a child-access prevention bill wasn't even heard in the Judiciary Committee.   Leaders have been killing gun-safety bills like this one for years.

With every new high-profile killing, like Thursday's mass shooting of 12 people  at a southern California bar, voters become more and more weary of inadequate gun laws.  Gallup, for example, reports that 61 percent of Americans want tougher laws compared to 51 percent just a decade ago.

Couple that with this week's elections in which Pennsylvania Republicans were swamped in statewide races, lost 12 seats in the House and four in the Senate — with some races too close to call. Republicans lost in districts considered to be among the most gerrymandered in the nation.

One way to read the results: Voters are tired of being overlooked on a host of issues, and they're starting to show it.

Just two years from now, most members of the legislature will be up for election again. They should adjust to voters' changing attitudes on guns or live with the knowledge that they could have prevented a child's death.