RICHMOND, Va. -- Doctors at VCU's Children's Hospital are treating more patients with accidental gun-related injuries.
Most of those injuries are simply from kids getting their hands on guns laying around their homes.
“We over the last three years have seen a dramatic increase in those children that are coming to the hospital. Nationally, it’s occurring for everyone," said Corri Miller-Hobbs, the hospital's Pediatric Prevention Outreach and Education Coordinator.
She and Lieutenant Aaron LaVigne, who's been with VCU's police department for 17 years, have seen the impact of gun violence and accidental gun-related injuries firsthand.
"It’s steady here, being a trauma center," LaVigne said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, roughly 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a home with loaded, unlocked firearms. The hospital is trying to change that, now urging gun-owning families to keep their guns locked up, unloaded and separate from ammunition when not in use.
Doctors there are tasked to ask all patients gun safety questions during well-child checks, encouraging family members to do the same.
“Just as if you were talking to your family or another friend and saying, ‘Hey my child has an allergy to this food, so if you can limit and make sure they’re not exposed to that,’ You want to have that same conversation about a firearm," Miller-Hobbs said.
VCU is also giving away free gun locks for different firearms, either to go on a safe or a gun trigger.
Lt. LaVigne said there are ways to keep firearms close in case of emergency, while also keeping them away from the wrong hands.
“What I have at home is a thumbprint identification so no one can access my safe unless it’s me with my thumbprint on it and that’s a real easy way to access it. It takes seconds to open the safe in the event you need to retrieve a firearm," LaVigne said.