Tag: safety

Child Access Prevention Laws and Gun Safety

There are many types of gun violence that gun safety advocates are concerned about, including:

  • homicides
  • mass shootings
  • school shootings
  • suicide
  • unintentional shootings

The problem isn’t just gang-bangers killing themselves, as some people who try to minimize the gun violence problem try to claim.

The American Pediatric Surgical Association, in an editorial about Firearms, Children, and Health Care Professionals, does a good job in pointing this out.

They state that “the risk of firearm homicide, suicide and unintentional injuries is more than 5-fold greater in the United States than 23 other high-income countries considered collectively. Firearm-related injury and death are issues for all Americans, in all communities. The risk of dying by firearm is the same for residents of the largest cities as it is for the residents of the smallest counties and holds true for adult and pediatric patients alike. This parity in risk is due to the predominance of firearm suicides and unintentional firearms deaths in the rural counties and the predominance of firearm homicides in the urban counties.”

Gun Safety Laws

Many new and proposed gun safety laws will hopefully help to reduce gun violence, including:

  • universal background checks and the closure of the gun show loophole
  • mental health restrictions for gun purchases
  • limitations on access to high-capacity magazines and assault-style weaponry
  • repealing the Dickey Amendment, which restricts the CDC from doing research on gun violence
  • child access prevention (CAP) laws

And we need to make mental health services more readily available to those who need them.

The March For Our Lives and National School Walkout events in March are already pushing lawmakers to make changes to keep kids safe from gun violence.
The March For Our Lives and National School Walkout events in March are already pushing lawmakers to make changes to keep kids safe from gun violence.

Surprisingly, many of these gun safety laws are supported by most members of the NRA, even if they are strongly opposed by the NRA itself.

CAP Laws

Most gun safety advocates are pushing for stronger CAP laws as a way to decrease the number of children injured and killed by unintentional shootings.

CAP laws work to limit a child’s access to guns in and around their home.

All too often, a toddler, preschooler, or older child will find a loaded, unsecured gun under a bed, on a nightstand, or in a closet, etc., and unintentionally shoot themselves or another family member.

“The safest home for a child is a home without guns, and if there is a gun in the home, it must be stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked separately.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

CAP laws are not just about accidental shootings though. Kids who get access to unsecured guns also use them in suicides and school shootings.

Studies have found benefits to CAP laws, including declines in unintentional firearm death rates in children, decreases in non-fatal gun injuries, and decreases in suicide rates among teens.

Current CAP Laws

While some states have some sort of CAP law on the books already, many others don’t.

In Texas, “A person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm (a firearm that is loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber) and the person with criminal negligence and failed to secure the firearm (to take steps that a reasonable person would take to prevent the access to a readily dischargeable firearm by a child, including but not limited to placing a firearm in a locked container or temporarily rendering the firearm inoperable by a trigger lock or other means) or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access.”

However, many other states, including Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington, Vermont, and Wyoming, don’t have any kind of laws that would prohibit allowing kids access to unsecured firearms.

Again, that is a surprise since even the NRA advises that it is a gun owner’s responsibility to “store guns so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users.” They also state that it is a basic gun safety rule to “always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.”

Some other states have weak or limited CAP laws that simply make you criminally liable if a child or teen gets access to a gun and uses it in a felony. For example, in Oklahoma, it is “unlawful for any parent or guardian to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly permit his or her child to possess any of the arms or weapons,” but only if they are “aware of a substantial risk that the child will use the weapon to commit a criminal offense or if the child has either been adjudicated a delinquent or has been convicted as an adult for any criminal offense.”

And no states have all of the features of a comprehensive CAP law, which most experts advise would:

  • define a minor as being under 18 years for long guns and under 21 for handguns (in some states, a minor is only those who are 13 years old and under when it comes to child access prevention laws)
  • require that all firearms be stored with a locking device
  • impose a criminal liability on people who negligently store firearms where a minor could gain access, even if the firearm is unloaded and the minor doesn’t gain access or use the firearm
  • impose civil liability for damages if a minor gains access to a firearm that was stored negligently and causes damage after firing it

California is getting close though and is often thought of as being a leader in gun safety laws. Their CAP law was amended in 2013 (the Firearm Safe and Responsible Access Act) to make it a misdemeanor to leave an unsecured gun where a minor could find it, even if they don’t, in addition to being a misdemeanor or felony if they find and use the gun. Gun dealers also have to post warning signs educating gun buyers about the state’s CAP law.

Proposed Gun Safety Laws

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, there are pending gun safety bills in at least 23 states, including many bills that would strengthen background checks.

Still, only 27 states and the District of Columbia have child access prevention laws.

And there is currently no national CAP law.

A bill that was introduced in 2013, the Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act of 2013 would have come close by amending the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to make it “unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to sell, transfer, or deliver any firearm to any person (other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer) unless the transferee is provided with a secure gun storage or safety device.”

Another version of the bill that was far more broad would also “Prohibit keeping a loaded firearm or an unloaded firearm and ammunition within any premises knowing or recklessly disregarding the risk that a child: (1) is capable of gaining access to it, and (2) will use the firearm to cause death or serious bodily injury.” It would also have raised the minimum ages that young people could purchase and possess handguns and long guns.

The Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act of 2013 never made it out of committee though. It’s not hard to imagine that by “by raising the age of handgun eligibility and prohibiting youth from possessing semiautomatic assault weapons,” the bill, introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas, could have prevented the latest school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hopefully stronger gun safety laws will now be passed in more states and we will see fewer unintentional shootings and other tragedies that occur when kids find unsecured guns or buy their own, including AR-15 style guns.

parkland-survivor

In addition to other measures to reduce gun violence, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports safe storage and CAP laws.

What to Know About Gun Safety Laws

As we see more and more gun violence, including school shootings, something has to be done to protect our kids and keep them safe.

More on Gun Safety Laws

Viewing the Solar Eclipse – Hype or Hazard

A total solar eclipse is a big deal, although it seems like it might be a bigger deal for some people than it is for others.

What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.
What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.

It does start to seem like a bigger deal the more you learn about it…

Solar Eclipse HYPE

Still, there is a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse in the United States.

“Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event. It challenges everything you conceive of as normal.”

Sean Lindsay on the Eclipse hype

Do you buy it?

  • will looking at the eclipse make you go blind?
  • will seeing the eclipse change your life?
  • will you regret missing the eclipse for the rest of your life?

While viewing the eclipse won’t make you go blind, at least not instantaneously, what about all of the hype about how important an event the eclipse is to view? That part has to be true, right?

“A partial eclipse is interesting but forgettable, while a total eclipse is a memorable, life-changing event which burns itself into memory – and never fades. And so we, who have seen this sight, ask you to join us on this momentous day, and do everything you possibly can to see it with us. But you must remember that “close” is not close enough; in order to see the eclipse in all its glory, you simply must…”

“Close” is NOT close enough!

It is for some people. And you might not know if you or your kids are that type of person unless you go and see the eclipse! In totality!

Solar Eclipse HAZARD

  • seeing the eclipse without protection will damage your eyes

We all know that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun or your eyes will get damaged.

And in most cases, you can’t.

It hurts to look at the sun. You’re pupils will constrict. You will blink a lot. And you will very quickly turn away.

At least in normal circumstances.

A solar eclipse is not a normal circumstance.

Since most of the sun is covered, you could likely stare at it (but definitely shouldn’t) and get a good long look at the eclipse. Unfortunately, the part that isn’t covered will be painlessly damaging your eyes, leading to burns on your retina and solar retinopathy.

But isn’t all of the sun covered in a total solar eclipse?

“During the very brief time the sun is in total solar eclipse it is safe to look at it, but do so with caution. Even during the total solar eclipse, the total eclipse may last only a short period of time, and if you are looking towards the sun as the moon moves away from blocking the sun, you might get a solar burn on your retina which can cause permanent damage to your eyes.”

Prevent Blindness America

Yes, but only for a very short time and only if you are in the path of totality.

During totality, it is safe to take your eclipse glasses off and look at the eclipse, being aware that totality may last only a minute or two.

This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun.
This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Again, you must be very sure that you are inside the path of totality for a chance at looking at the eclipse without protection – a 70-mile wide band from central Oregon through South Carolina.

If you are not in this relatively narrow band, you will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse, but at no time will it be safe to view the eclipse without protection.

Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?
Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?

Remember that even if you live in or have traveled to a spot inside the path of totality, the total eclipse itself will only last a few minutes.

The whole eclipse will last much longer though.

From the start of the eclipse, to maximum eclipse, to the end of the eclipse, you might be looking at a three hour event. That’s a lot of time to be at risk of looking at the sun outside of totality and getting eye damage if you aren’t wearing protection.

Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

What kind of protection do you need to safely view a solar eclipse.

Fortunately, you have a lot of options.

This solar eclipse viewing protection can include using:

  • solar filters, including ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses that have been sold online in packs of 5 or 10 (but including some that have been recalled), handheld solar viewers,  and full aperature solar filters for cameras and telescopes
  • a pin-hole viewer that you can easily make yourself with something as common as a cereal box
  • a 2D or 3D printable pinhole projector
  • a solar viewing projector using binoculars or a telescope (not looking through the telescope itself though, unless it had a proper solar filter!)
  • No. 13 or 14 welder’s glasses

But unless you are building a pin-hole viewer or are going to an official eclipse viewing event, be sure your protection is really going to protect your child’s eyes. Are the eclipse glasses you ordered fake, recalled, scratched, or damaged? Then don’t use them.

And make sure younger children are well supervised during the entire eclipse, so that they don’t look at the eclipse at any time that you are outside the time that you are in totality.

Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.
Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.

What if they miss it?

They won’t have to wait too long for the next total solar eclipse. Another one is headed our way in 2024.

What to Know About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

I don’t know if it will change your child’s life, but there is no good reason to let them miss this total solar eclipse (or partial eclipse if you aren’t in the path of totality), as long as you take some very simple steps to make sure they view it safely.

More About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

Twenty One Things Every Parent Should Know

There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes.
There is no need to use hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes. Use soap and water instead.

You could just parent by instinct, but it is much better to supplement your instinct with a little helpful advice from some of the parents who have come before you.

While some of these things experts figured out through years and years of research, others are simply tips that folks figured out after making mistakes and understanding that there must be a better way to get things done.

  1. Vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work.
  2. Sleep is good. For everyone. Learn to help your baby sleep through the night by the time they are four to six months old.
  3. Three years is not a magic age at which every kid is potty trained. Some take a little longer. The main potty training mistake you can make is to push your kids when they aren’t ready.
  4. Some kids continue to wet the bed at night, even after they are potty trained.
  5. Don’t give aspirin to kids, even teens. It is a risk factor for getting Reye syndrome.
  6. If you still have them, safely dispose of mercury thermometers and syrup of ipecac.
  7. Experts don’t recommend that you use hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds any more. You can usually substitute soap and water instead.
  8. “Starve a fever; feed a cold” is an Old Wives’ Tale, like not drinking milk when your kids have a fever or diarrhea. It is not a real thing. If your child is sick and hungry, let them eat their regular diet. If they are sick and don’t want to eat, encourage them to at least drink a lot of fluids, and add bland foods, until they are ready to eat more.
  9. A green or yellow runny nose almost certainly means that your child has an infection, but unless it has been lingering for weeks or your child has a persistent high fever, then it is likely a viral infection that won’t respond to antibiotics.
  10. When your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your kids, think about whether the prescription is because your sick child needs it or because the doctor thinks you want it. Consider asking if your child might get better without antibiotics.
  11. Don’t force kids to “clean their plates” or eat foods that they really dislike. Picky eaters who are forced to eat are probably more likely to grow up to be picky adult eaters.
  12. Most kids, unless they are missing out on one or more food groups or have a chronic medical problem, probably don’t need a daily vitamin.
  13. Don’t just ask your kids if they are being bullied. Also ask if they ever bully  or see kids getting bullied. Someone is doing the bullying.
  14. All kids are different. Don’t compare them. Or at least don’t compare them too much. But talk to your pediatrician if your child’s growth and development really seems off-track compared to most other children.
  15. Some kids are harder to discipline than others. Try something else or get help if what you are doing isn’t working.
  16. Taking extra unnecessary risks, like hiding a loaded gun in the house, not having a fence around your backyard swimming pool, letting your kids ride a bike without a helmet, or letting them ride an ATV, etc., will increase the chances that your kids get hurt. Think about safety.
  17. Not every kid wants to play or is going to be good at team sports.
  18. Being on a “select” sports team probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. The selection process is just as likely to involve the fact that you can pay to be on the team and take extra lessons or classes, as it is to about your child’s skill level.
  19. For perspective, always remember that no matter how good or talented you think your child is, there is always another kid playing at a much higher level. That’s why so few end up playing in college or at higher levels.
  20. At some point, you child might say “I hate you!” Be ready, and understand that it almost certainly has nothing to do with you.
  21. The ‘free range kids’ movement is the opposite extreme to ‘helicopter parenting.’ Don’t fall for parenting fads.

And don’t believe everything you hear or read about parenting. Kids do come with instructions – good instructions, you just have to know when and where to get them. And who to trust.

Otherwise you could end up making all of the same mistakes that all of the rest of us have already made.

For More Information on Things Parents Should Know

Multiple Layers of Protection Can Keep Your Kids Safe

Parents are well aware of the need to use protection to keep important things safe.

After all, we build our homes thinking about fire protection, with firewalls and smoke detectors, plug our computers into surge protectors, and use virus protection software on our computers.

The same type of protection, usually grouped into a layers of protection plan, can also help keep your kids safe.

Layers of Protection

Using a layers of protection approach to child safety means using more than type of child safety technique, barrier, or warning, as a protection against a specific hazard. That way, if one protective layer breaks down, then one of the other layers of protection will still be in place to keep your kids safe.

Of course these layers of protection aren’t meant to keep your kids safe forever. They can buy you some time though if your child gets away from you for a few moments.

“…parents ought to appreciate the importance of applying multiple injury prevention strategies to a single category of risk, to provide children with layers of protection.”

Mark Widome, MD

Although often used in connection with the pool safety campaigns of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it was mentioned as early as 1992 by Mark Widome, MD, who is on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention.

Layers of Protection for Water Safety

The concept of using layers of protection is often easiest to see when you think about water safety.

Consider some common drowning scenarios:

  • A 23-month-old in Redford Township near Detroit, Michigan, drowned by getting out of the house (the family was visiting friends) and climbing a ladder into an above-ground pool that only had about two feet of water in it.
  • A 3-year-old drowned in La Plata, Maryland during a birthday party while several other people were in the pool. When some started to get out of the pool, they noticed the child at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.
  • An 8-year-old drowned in a busy community pool near Indianapolis, IN.

To help prevent these types of drownings, the CPSC and the AAP recommend a layers of protection plan for water and pool safety, that includes:

  • close, constant, direct supervision of small children near water, whether it is a lake, pond, in-ground pool, spa, large portable pool, small wading pool, bathtub, or even a large bucket of water, etc.
  • closer “touch supervision” whenever an infant, toddler, or older child who is a weak swimmer is in the water, meaning that you are within an arm’s length of the child at all times.
  • installing a climb resistant isolation fence (a 4-sided fence that doesn’t allow direct access to the pool from inside the house) around backyard pools with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
  • adding a door alarm so that you know if your kids get out of the house and into the backyard, especially if your house makes up one of the four sides of the fence around your pool. A gate or pool alarm might also be useful.
  • making younger children wear a coast guard approved personal flotation device if they don’t know how to swim well and not just air-filled arm floaties. They should wear their personal flotation device whenever they are by the water, even if they are not swimming.
  • teaching kids to learn to swim, especially once they are 4-years-old, keeping in mind that knowing how to swim does not make your child drown-proof.
  • learning CPR, having a flotation device, and a telephone by the pool in case there is an emergency.

Also be sure to empty buckets of water, the bathtub, small kiddie wading pools, and other things with water when you are not using them.

Layers of Protection Work

How do the layers of protection work to reduce the risks of a drowning?

Consider a house with a fully childproofed pool. It has a 4-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The door leading to the backyard is childproofed so that the twin toddlers who live in the home can’t open it. During a recent pool party, they even have a designated adult watching the kids in the pool.

When that person has to go to the bathroom, she asks someone else to take over. The new watcher isn’t as responsible though and gets distracted when he gets a phone call (one layer gone). One of the twins who had been inside, decides she wants to swim again. She walks to the backyard right through the door that someone had left open (another layer gone), through the open gate (yet another layer gone), and jumps into the pool without anyone seeing her.

The gate to the pool had been propped open during the party because people got tired of opening it every time they went from the pool to the house, and unfortunately, this breakdown in pool safety is a common way that kids drown. Fortunately, because the parents were using a layers of protection plan, the child was still safe, as she was still wearing her personal flotation device (last layer intact).

Layers of Protection for Home Safety

How can the layers of protection protect your kids at home?

For one thing, you can simply get rid of some of the things that are unsafe around kids, such as poisonous plants, unused household cleaners or poisons, and recalled products.

Next, add a few extra layers of protection when childproofing the house, since you can’t be expected to supervise your kids every second of the day:

  • install child-resistant door knob covers so that kids can’t get into rooms that are hard to child proof, like the bathroom
  • set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees, so that if your child does get into the bathroom and turns on the water he won’t get burned
  • store household cleaners and other poisonous substances in a high, out of reach location and then put a child-resistant lock on the cabinet for an extra layer of protection
  • place TVs and other appliances on stable furniture that won’t easily tip over, but as an extra layer of protection, anchor both the TV and furniture to the wall
  • lock your car so that your kids can’t get back in (hot cars, especially getting trapped in the trunk, is a common hidden danger for kids), and then secure your keys for an extra layer of protection

The layers of protection idea can even apply to car safety, In addition to an age appropriate car seat, booster seat, or seat belts, and keeping your kids in the back seat until they are at least 13-years-old, you can add to your family’s safety in the car by not getting distracted talking on your phone or texting.

What extra layers of protection can you add to other risks in and around your home?

More Information On Layers of Protection