Gun Violence: A Chronic Disease Affecting American Youth

Meghan Summer Perez Muir, MSN, RN, CNL


Pediatr Nurs. 2021;47(4):200-201. 

In This Article

Nursing Implications

As the most trusted profession, nurses have a collective responsibility to combat gun violence. Parents and caregivers listen to nurses and seek out their advice. Nurses must embrace their influence and harness their relationships with families to discuss gun violence and safety. Nurses are at the forefront of health promotion for a myriad of medical conditions, and are therefore in a prime position to incorporate gun violence and safety screenings into routine workflows. During admission intakes or at clinic visits, nurses can inquire about guns in the home and exposure to gun violence, as they do with second-hand smoke exposure. In doing so, nurses can provide anticipatory guidance about accident prevention, gun safety, and firearm storage, and share resources about gun violence. Nurses can counsel parents and caregivers to facilitate open communication with their children and teens around gun safety and violence exposure. From social media and popular culture to daily conversations with peers, children and teens are inundated with gun violence exposure. Nurses have the opportunity to foster family dialogue surrounding experiences involving guns. Importantly, nurses can educate families to store guns locked and unloaded, with the ammunition separately stored and locked.

In addition to patient education and health promotion efforts, nurses can respond to gun violence with action. Nurses can join with public health institutions, including the ANA, and lobby for common sense gun legislation. Through advocacy, nurses can support gun violence prevention policies and gun laws that will directly benefit children and families. Nurses can also partner with interdisciplinary teams to promote holistic care of pediatric patients, including mental health providers, social workers, educators, public health officials, community leaders, and other medical professionals. Finally, nurses can lead research initiatives and develop evidence-based practice recommendations to address gun violence and improve the lives of pediatric patients and families.