Dartmouth Health Children's joins national gun safety movement to address guns as leading cause of death in children


Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the U.S. which is why I am so pleased that we are joining a new national coalition aimed at increasing firearm safety to protect all kids.

Keith J. Loud, MD, physician-in-chief at Dartmouth Health Children’s

Guns are the leading cause of death for children. Thirteen children die from guns every day. To encourage parents, grandparents, families and community members to take action by asking about gun safety, Dartmouth Health and Dartmouth Health Children’s joins thousands of hospitals, health systems, the American Hospital Association, Children’s Hospital Association and The Catholic Health Association of the United States in a nationwide public awareness and education campaign.

By asking about safe gun storage, the campaign is meant to help parents and families feel empowered to ask other parents about access to guns. Broadcast, print and digital public service messages and a website highlight that access to unlocked guns can lead to accidental death, suicide and gun violence, making it more likely that children die from guns than cancer or automobile accidents. The website provides tips on how to have a conversation with other parents and families about safely stored firearms, and encourages nomalizing this conversation.

“Our health system is home to the most rural academic medical center in the United States. Gun ownership– for hunting, sport, and personal protection – is a normal part of life in New Hampshire and Vermont,” said Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and president of Dartmouth Health. “What should be equally normal is a commitment by responsible gun owners to store their firearms securely, especially in spaces where children are present. By making the commitment to ask parents if guns are being stored safely, Dartmouth Health providers are taking an important step to educate families and possibly save lives.”

The rate of firearm deaths among children and adolescents jumped nearly 30 percent from 2019 to 2020 – more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population. While the horrors of Uvalde, Sandy Hook and Columbine grabbed the headlines, increasing numbers of children are injured or killed by unsecured firearms.

“Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the U.S., at least three times as lethal as COVID-19, which is why I am so pleased that Dartmouth Health Children’s is joining a new national coalition aimed at increasing firearm safety to protect all kids,” said Keith J. Loud, MD, physician-in-chief at Dartmouth Health Children’s. “Pediatricians at Dartmouth Health Children’s have asked about unlocked guns in the home since the late 1990s, and we’ve had robust gun lock and firearm safety programs in place for many years through the great work of our Injury Prevention Center. But the increasing numbers of children and adolescents who are dying in gun-related incidents has forced the need for new thinking and new action. We know that parents want to know about anything that might cause harm to their children, so why not ask about unlocked guns?”

Studies show that more than two-thirds of gun owners who live with kids do not store their guns safely: more than 4.5 million children in this country live with unlocked, loaded firearms. Locking up guns and ammunition can reduce the risk of self-inflicted or unintentional injury to kids by as much as 85 percent.

“While it starts with a simple call to action – ‘How can we get everyone to ask about a child’s access to unsecured firearms?’ – it might feel like an uncomfortable, hot-button political issue. But make no mistake: this campaign isn’t about gun rights or gun ownership. It’s about firearm safety, and how we can take a common-sense, actionable approach to ensure that our children are safe from injury and death due to unsecured firearms,” said Loud.

To learn more, visit HospitalsUnited.com

About Dartmouth Health Children's

Dartmouth Health Children's is the only comprehensive pediatric healthcare system in the region. Fully integrated in Dartmouth Health and anchored for more than 30 years by Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD)—in Lebanon, NH—Dartmouth Health Children's promotes health, advances knowledge, and delivers the best patient and family-centered care for infants, children, and adolescents across New Hampshire and Vermont. Dartmouth Health Children's conducts groundbreaking research and educates the next generations of health professionals as the primary pediatric partner of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Highly skilled and collaborative child health professionals provide care in multiple settings across the region. Outpatient specialty visits and same-day surgery services are available at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD) and Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics Manchester. Primary care appointments in general pediatrics are available at Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics in Bedford, Concord, Lebanon, Manchester and Nashua, NH and Bennington, VT; as well as at Dartmouth Health members: Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, Cheshire Medical Center, New London Hospital and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center.