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'Handle the hard conversations': Doctors urge parents discuss gun safety with kids on National 'ASK' Day

Firearms have now passed cars as the most common cause of injury death in children and young people, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doctors at Norton Children's Hospital, and around the country, are urging parents to talk about gun safety with their children amid increasing levels of injury and death due to firearms.

Each year, June 21 marks National 'ASK' Day, which stands for Asking Saves Kids. It's held annually on the first day of summer, during a season when trauma cases typically increase.

As kids are out of school and more of them are at friends' houses, the idea is for parents to ask their children a few questions before they leave, such as: Does the other family own guns? If so, are they locked up and secured?

Dr. Brit Anderson, a pediatric physician who works inside the Norton Children's emergency room, said a significant number of Louisville homes don't have their firearms safely stored and that it's these simple questions that can be life-saving.

"If your child had a peanut allergy, you'd say, 'Hey, do you mind putting away the peanut butter before my child comes over to play?' It's the same concept here," Anderson said. "I wish I didn't have to tell you this news, but I'm here to say, we see this frequently in our emergency department. So take a little bit of time to think about it."

Doctors and nurses inside the Norton Children's ER Tuesday were wearing shirts for ASK Day, with "Gun Safety Awareness" written on the back. Anderson said they're trying to spread the word because many families don't consider having this conversation with their kids.

It comes as youth violence and youth access to guns continue to plague the Louisville Metro area. In March, a 12-year-old in west Louisville was rushed to the hospital after what police called an accidental shooting.

Youth advocate and father of four Qjuan Bright said it's better to ask too many questions to your kids, than not enough.

"The more you communicate with your kid, [the better]," said Bright, who works with the Home of the Innocents and youth advocate programs. "Not just fun conversations -- that's easy -- but when you handle the hard conversations: guns, knives, good touch, bad touch, all of that stuff is all about safety."

Firearms have passed cars as the most common cause of injury death in children and young people, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Anderson is also telling parents to lock up and secure ammunition as well, to protect kids coming in and out of the household.

"There are lots of options. There are trigger locks, cable locks, lock boxes, gun safes -- to find the right option for you is worth putting a little thought into it ahead of time," she said.

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