PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — If you count all the students in every Norfolk public high school, it would not add up to the number of young people killed by guns in 2020. Pediatricians are calling child and young adult gun violence deaths an epidemic.

“Seeing what a bullet can do to the body of a child is just devastating,” said Dr. Lauren Morea. The Alexandria-based pediatrician is the Gun Violence Prevention Champion for the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I’ve dedicated my life to keeping children healthy and safe it’s all I want to do,” she told 10 On Your Side.

When it comes to protecting kids from guns, she offers parents three things they can do right now to help take back the community, now. She said priority number one is to lock up the guns.

“We recommend that weapons be stored unloaded and locked with the ammunition store separately,” she said.

Another thing she recommends is that parents talk about guns with the people whose homes their children visit.

“It doesn’t have to be confrontational, what I always say is if you have a gun in your home, how is it stored?” she told us.

Just like you’d talk about car seats, food allergies, water safety, and screen time, make the gun question part of the conversation and not just for little ones.

“Teens are at the highest risk. Some of that is because of community gun violence,” Dr. Morea explained.

It’s also because parents often trust teens will know better than to handle a gun and don’t secure it properly.
Having a gun in the home is also a greater risk factor for suicide than a mental illness diagnosis according to the doctor. That’s because suicide is impulsive and there aren’t always signs.

Finally, Dr. Morea says, be an advocate. The AAP is urging lawmakers to enact universal background checks, red flag laws and to provide 60 million dollars to fund gun violence prevention research.

You can find more resources for protecting your children against gun violence at HealthChildren.org and BeSmartForKIds.org