In 2015, 4,528 "children" - the mean age was 18, pediatricians presenting at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2018 annual meeting today counted children as anyone under age 21 - died from firearm-related injuries. Eighty-seven percent were male and 44 percent were black.  And the pediatricians argue that background checks and thus waiting periods to buy ammunition might help lower those incidents.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an injury statistics query and reporting system and a group of pediatricians wanted to see if state level laws made a difference. Federal law requires that gun purchasers pass a background check but in some states the gun can be owned right after the background check, while in a state like California there will be an additional 10-day wait. Some have background checks even to buy ammunition.

There are state differences and the analysis authors hoped to correlate those to more gun regulations. In some states firearm-related mortality rates among children were 0 per 100,000 while in others they were as high as 18 per 100,000. Median mortality rates were lower among the 12 states requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase at 3.8 per 100,000 children compared with 5.7 per 100,000 children in states that did not require background checks. 

In addition, the five states with this requirement had a lower median mortality rate, 2.3 per 100,000 children, when compared with states that did not require background checks for ammunition purchase, 5.6 per 100,000 children.

Suicide is the leading causes of gun death while accidents - a toddler gets a loaded gun - are very rare in a nation where 100 million people own personal weapons. 

In their statement, the pediatricians advocate for counseling parents about owning guns. "Pediatricians have helped to educate parents about other public health concerns, such as the danger posed by second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke or non-use of seat belts and car seats. In addition to presenting our most recent study results, members of our research group are also hosting a workshop at PAS aimed at inspiring pediatric clinicians to similarly tackle this latest public health challenge and to advocate for firearm safety," wrote lead author Monika Goyal, M.D., M.S.C.E., director of research in the Division of Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services at Children's National Health System.

A call for advocacy, combined with conflating background checks for ammunition and suggesting that federal background checks for firearm purchases are not already present in all 50 states, is a worrisome trend. Pediatricians should not engage in politics unless they want to be treated like politicians. And that won't help kids.