“Talk it Up, Lock it Up” Public health leaders stress importance of firearm safety

Free firearm locks available through Project Childsafe and VA hospitals
In 2021, 116 Iowa children died from firearms.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 5:50 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa - Child deaths from firearms are on the rise. Nationwide, it’s the number one killer of children once they’ve turned one, surpassing car accidents. Firearms are the second leading cause of death for Iowa children, according to CDC data. In 2021, 116 Iowa children died from firearms. Public health officials in Polk County are asking people to both lock up their guns, as well as talk about them

“It’s an emotional roller coaster that I couldn’t even fully explain,” says Dr. Jessica Zuzga-Reed, Director of the Pediatric ICU at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center.

Reed sees sick and injured children every day, but seeing children with gunshot wounds is especially unsettling.

“Anytime you see an innocent child who’s impacted by something that could have been prevented, It is something that never really leaves you it. It’s kind of a punch to the gut and anybody and everybody who’s involved with helping take care of that child feels it,” Reed said.

Dr. Eric Haugen, Pediatrician at Blank Children’s Hospital, said though guns can be difficult to talk about, it’s an important conversation to have.

“Being able to have that conversation encouraging people to have that conversation with their family and their friends for my own practices to have people talk to their patients about whether or not they have guns in the home. And then like, where are they doing for safety when it comes to that?,” Haugen said.

Public Health leaders like Haugen say if you have guns, make sure they’re locked up, unloaded, and out of the reach and sight of children. The same for the ammunition, adding that it should be stored in a separate location from the guns. All guns should also be locked with child-proof locks.

“We want to be locked up, unloaded, but anytime you if you do not do that, then you’re at risk of having some sort of injury from it,” Haugen said.

For firearm owners wanting to get gun locks, many law enforcement agencies give them out for free. Project Childsafe, which is funded by a gun industry trade group, partners with law enforcement to give those gun locks out. You can find an agency that partners with them here. Veterans can get one at VA hospitals.

Information from Project Childsafe for viewers living outside of Iowa can be found here:

Project ChildSafe - Nebraska

Project ChildSafe - Illinois

Project ChildSafe - Missouri

Project ChildSafe - Minnesota

Project ChildSafe - South Dakota

Project ChildSafe - Wisconsin