Study: Pediatricians less likely to ask questions about gun safety after mass shootings


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SALT LAKE CITY — A study that looked at data from 16,576 clinic visits at the University of Utah Health's University Pediatric Clinic found that in general, doctors were less likely to ask routine questions about gun safety during well-child checkups in the wake of a mass shooting.

Dr. Carole Stipelman, pediatrician, said the trend was especially noted in residents who were still in training.

“Doctors need to be trained to have this conversation collaboratively with parents,” Stipelman said. “They need to be first of all educated about the safety options for guns. They need to understand what a trigger lock is, what a biometric device is. They need to have that information and know where you can obtain it.”

Stipelman said that after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, questions about gun safety took a steady decline. But after the Parkland, Florida, shooting months later, the questions started being asked more frequently.

“Avoidance is a common response to trauma, and a mass shooting, is a community-based trauma,” Stipelman said. “We need to know to ask these questions, so that nobody feels like this is anything but an effort to keep the children safe, in the home that the parents have chosen for the children.”

Stipelman also pointed out that this issue is about much more than big, public tragedies.

“Since 2008, the rate of suicide by firearms in children 10 and up has been increasing steadily,” Stipelman said.

A future study may expand the inquiry into whether pediatric clinics around the country may also struggle with those questions during similar times.

“We also need to study how to have the conversation, so that it’s not threatening to anybody so that we feel that it’s a mutually supportive conversation and that it’s all about keeping the children safe,” Stipelman said.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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