RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of health professionals and police teamed up at the Children's Hospital of Richmond Wednesday for a 'Day of Action' to address a troubling trend: children getting shot.
According to the Trauma Center Director of the Children's Hospital, firearms are the leading cause of injury-related pediatric deaths in Virginia. 4.6 million children across the country live in homes that have unlocked and loaded firearms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
When accidents inevitably happen and triggers get pulled, healthcare workers at the Children's Hospital of Richmond and across the country see the devastating consequences.
"When I worked in the emergency department, I just remember feeling like another injury was coming in every week or so. And that was really striking to me," said Dr. Hannah Hollon, Pediatric Resident at the Children's Hospital of Richmond. "So, I started to do a little bit more digging and realized this was a big problem."
Since becoming aware of the problem in 2019, Hollon has teamed up with other residents and VCU police to distribute hundreds of gun locks in their resident clinic.
On Wednesday, they took that a step further.
A group of residents from across the county called Trainees for Child Injury Prevention organized a day of action to raise awareness of safe firearm storage across the country.
At the Children's Hospital of Richmond, residents set up a table in the Children's Pavilion with Safe Kids, Mom's Demand Action and VCU Police to hand out locks and educate anyone who might pass by about the importance of safe firearms storage.
But they hoped their message would reach beyond that.
"In more recent years, probably the last four or five, we have seen the number of children who are unintentionally getting their hands on firearms and then shooting themselves or someone else those numbers have increased," said Corri Miller-Hobbs, Pediatric Injury Prevention Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Children's Hospital of Richmond. "That's frightening and breaks our heart and so we really do want to do all that we can."
Miller-Hobbs said pediatric firearm injuries are often preventable just by storing your gun in a locked location, unloaded and out of the reach and sight of children.
"You then want to also make sure that you are locking up that ammunition that you've separated from the firearm, again, locking it up out of sight and reach of children," Miller-Hobbs said.
She also said it was crucial that parents be aware of how guns are stored at the homes of friends and other caregivers where your child visits.
"More than a third of the unintentional shootings that do occur with children are occurring in homes other than their own," Miller-Hobbs said. "Have that conversation, which can be tough. But I try to liken it to if you have a child that has a food allergy, you're going to have that conversation with the other caregiver."
She advised parents to ask the other caregiver if they had a gun and if so, how that gun was stored.
"It's as simple as that," said Miller-Hobbs.
A quick conversation and simple steps could keep a child away from the trigger and families out of the hospital.
"That can make all the difference in protecting them," Miller-Hobbs said.
Hollon said raising awareness for safe firearm storage was one goal of their 'day of action.' The other: legislation.
She was advocating for stricter policies making it unlawful to have an unsecured gun around a minor and urged the public to keep that in mind when they vote.