The Sound of Silence

When I was a kid, seat belts were weapons used to smack your siblings. We’d sit on opposite sides of our Chevy Station Wagon and relentlessly attack each other. We never used them to secure ourselves in the vehicle. It never even occurred to us – or our parents.

Bike helmets were used by . . . well, by no one. I never knew anyone who even OWNED a bike helmet. We just had tons of concussions, which explains a lot of GenX behaviors.

Because kids are stupid, childhood is crazy dangerous. Parents dash from one potential disaster to another, trying to stay ahead of their children’s inclination to attract and invite peril. Kids regularly jump from couch-to-couch (avoiding lava), run with scissors, touch hot stoves, play on the stairs and fall out of trees.

We try to be vigilant. We do everything we can to protect our kids.

When babies were strangled by dangling window-blind cords, warnings were issued and regulations changed to keep kids safer. When children thought cleaning supplies looked tasty, manufacturers added childproof lids and told parents to keep the poisons out of reach. (Sidenote: Tide Pods hadn’t been invented yet.) Toddlers trying to stick forks in electrical outlets were thwarted by outlet covers.

Every year, hundreds of children’s products, from toys to strollers, are recalled to keep kids safe.

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But in America, more than 1,600 children are shot and killed1. Every. Single. Year. Firearms are the second leading cause of death for children in America, and the first leading cause of death for African American children.

When our children are killed by guns, there’s only silence.

Eight children died from injuries related to a specific IKEA dresser that easily toppled over. In 2016, the company recalled more than 17 million dressers and warned consumers about the danger. It took only eight deaths to prompt action.

In 2004, 150 million vending machine toys were recalled when they were found to contain high levels of lead. Federal regulators in 2016 issued warnings about exploding Hoverboards, prompting retailers to take the product off the shelves.

But each year, nearly 6,000 children in the United States are treated for gunshot wounds2. Every. Single. Year.

When our children are wounded by guns, there’s only silence.

The United States now holds a grisly honor. More than 90 percent of firearm deaths worldwide, among high-income countries and affecting children aged 0 to 14 years old, happen in our country3. It’s been declared a public health problem and a serious pediatric issue. Firearms kill more of our children than cancer or drowning.

Yet the silence from our elected leaders echoes. Like a gunshot.

We allow more than 7,000 children in our country to be shot every year.

Seven. Thousand.

We’ve learned the importance of seat belts, the necessity of bike helmets. We’ve learned to anchor dressers to walls, keep poisons on the top shelf and use those irritating cabinet locks to keep our children safe.

But every day, 16 children die or are treated for a gunshot wound in the U.S. because the legislators who are supposed to create laws to keep our children safe are deafeningly mute.

Our children can’t take any more silence.

 

 

  1. Cunningham, Rebecca M., Maureen A Walton and Patrick M. Carter. “The Major Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 20 December 2018, nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsr1804754
  2. Katherine A. Fowler, Linda L. Dahlberg, Tadesse Haileyesus, Carmen Gutierrez and Sarah Bacon. “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States.” AAP News & Journals, July 2017, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/1/e20163486
  3. Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. “Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, March 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26551975
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