SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Child gun related injuries went up 50 percent statewide last year.
The Peach State has the ninth highest gun violence rate in the United States, and every year firearm injury cost more than $12 billion dollars, with taxpayers contributing nearly 600 million to that number.
According to the Georgia Stay Safe Campaign, eight out of 10 unintentional child gun-related deaths happen in the home.
Health officials in Savannah are calling on community members to do their part to increase child safety and awareness.
“The number one thing humans want is safety, you want to know that you’re safe at home, you want to know that you’re safe where you’re going and especially for children because that’s not in their control, and that’s going to continue to be a burden not only for them but also the family,” Kelsey Palladino, the program manager at Memorial Health University’s Pediatric Trauma Center explained.
One in three homes with kids have access to guns, and that’s why health officials say it’s critical to teach kids both education and safety.
“Nationwide, we have seen a huge increase in unintentional injuries in firearms with pediatrics and disastrous as this is, we know it is 100 percent preventable, Memorial Health University Injury Prevention and Disaster Management Coordinator Emily Burnside said.
Memorial Health and the Georgia Stay Safe Campaign promote communication as a key component to preventing trauma.
“In Georgia, since the pandemic began, we have seen a 50 percent increase of accidental shootings,” Burnside added.
Simple steps like securing where you store a gun, keeping ammunition separate, and asking friends and family if they have a gun in their home before you visit with a young child, could prevent a tragedy.
“There’s multiple ways in which we need to discuss handling this: there’s the emotional response that our team, as well as the family members, have, as well as the physical response that the child has,” Palladino said.
According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.
“Our suicide rates have increased dramatically so if you know if you have a child or a teen who has an increased risk for suicide that is also important to make sure you remove the guns from your home or move them, or put them in a safe location,” Burnside described.
In Savannah, community members continue to call for gun education and safety, with two children recently shot in a mass shooting. Memorial Health staff said now is the time to get vocal and push for awareness and change.
“This not just a one time you know we have a child that gets shot and we’re dealing with it in the trauma bay, this is a lifelong battle that we’re experiencing. It is our responsibility to make sure you are educated on safety measures, I think it’s parents responsibility to make sure that they are staying safe as well as educating their children and I think it’s the child’s responsibility to speak up when they don’t feel comfotable,” Palladino said.
Memorial Health’s Level One Trauma Center is one of only five in the state. Te want the community to know they have access to 24/7 care. Click HERE to learn more about their resources.