Doctors in Western New York are no longer just playing a part after an episode of gun violence. They’re taking a stand before it begins again.
At the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center inside Oishei Children’s Hospital, Medical Director Dr. Kathryn Bass works with a staff that is no stranger to gun violence. Bass said data over the past ten years shows growing numbers of gunshot injuries coming through the doors of Children’s and their adult trauma center counterpart, the Erie County Medical Center, each year. The data also shows other troubling results.
“The numbers are penetrating to younger and younger ages,” said Bass. “In the last ten years, we’ve seen one, two, then three, four, and – more recently – up to nine and ten injuries annually.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that gunfire kills about 1,300 children and teenagers in the U.S. each year, and injures nearly 5,800 more.
Bass notes that for those who survive, the physical and mental health effects can be long-lasting.
“We’re looking at years of rehabilitative therapy many times. Sometimes we’re looking at years of institutionalized care because the children can’t return to their natural and normal function. And then for those kids who do get back to a normal physiological function, we’re still dealing with the impact on their mental health.”
So with statistics and their patients in mind, doctors are taking to the streets this weekend. They’ll join the “March for Our Lives,” a national movement against gun violence, spurred by last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Buffalo is one of more than 800 locations world-wide taking part in the event.
Bass said she and her colleagues are hoping that all local leaders in pediatric medicine, along with patients, families, and friends, will join them.
“It’s really a show of support for the school kids who organized this,” Bass said. “And it’s also just to make everybody see that this threat is not necessarily in the next state over. It’s actually something that we all are at risk for.”
Bass said pediatricians in the area are not only advocating for comprehensive legislation to address gun violence, but also for measures to be taken where children may have access to guns.
“If there are guns available in the environment, if there are guns in the home, most kids know where they are. Unfortunately they may have even handled them,” said Bass. “So as pediatricians, we feel it’s part of our job to not only educate families, but to offer specific interventions.”
Interventions may include safer gun storage and educating families about the potential for self-injury or violence against others when a gun is in the home.
The “March for Life” begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Buffalo’s Niagara Square. Attendees are being urged to wear blue as a sign of support.
Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter @SAvery131.