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Keeping guns out of little hands

A pilot program offers parents gun locks in an effort to reduce death and injuries. Pictured, Dr. Mitali Nanda, assistant chief of pediatrics in the Rancho Cordova Pediatrics Department, in an exam room with a gun lock, right, that can be offered to parents.

Gun-owning parents visiting Kaiser Permanente’s Rancho Cordova pediatric medical offices are now offered free locking devices for their firearms as part of a pilot program with the city of Rancho Cordova to reduce death and serious injury.

A gun lock, foreground, is now one of the care giving tools pediatricians at the Rancho Cordova medical offices offer to parents who have guns in the home.

The devices, which use a locking cable that prevents a gun from being fired, are offered to parents who have guns in homes where children live. Pediatricians in the office have given 23 of the locking devices to parents since the program started in July, said Mitali Nanda, MD, assistant chief of pediatrics in the Rancho Cordova Pediatrics Department.

“We are big proponents of gun locks in the home because we are about safety in our pediatric population,” said Dr. Nanda, who has 7 and 4-year-old sons at home. “So, every single one of these locks we give to parents counts in a big way. We are proactively handing you actual tools to ensure that safety.”

From 2016 to 2021 there were 20,904 unintentional gunshot wound incidents that required emergency medical care in California and 204 deaths, according to the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Nationwide in 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19.

“We are thrilled Kaiser Permanente was open to working with our city to raise awareness of gun safety in the home and around children.”

Rancho Cordova City Councilman Donald Terry

The Kaiser Permanente Rancho Cordova Pediatrics Department began offering the gun locks at the suggestion of Rancho Cordova City Councilman Donald Terry. Terry partnered with the city manager’s office to use discretionary funds to buy the first 100 gun locks that were then donated to Kaiser Permanente. Rancho Cordova is about 14 miles east of Sacramento.

“The top priority for our city is public safety,” said Terry. “We are thrilled Kaiser Permanente was open to working with our city to raise awareness of gun safety in the home and around children.”

Dr. Nanda said flyers placed on a counter in the waiting area of the Pediatrics Department let parents know the gun locks are available. The flyers also offer tips for firearm handling and storage, including advice to store guns unloaded and with ammunition stored separately.

“That flyer is the conversation starter for our parents,” Dr. Nanda said, adding that gun safety in the home has always been part of the conversation pediatricians have with parents. “The parents see we are prepared to have a private conversation about gun safety. It’s not about passing judgement.”

The goal is public safety

All parents fill out a well-child questionnaire, which includes two questions about the presence of guns in the household and if those guns are safely locked.

If there is a “yes” answer to the first question about the presence of guns, “that tells us the family would benefit from having a conversation where we can discreetly offer the locks, if needed,” Dr. Nanda explained.

The goal of the program is simple: to make the community a safer place to live, according to Roderick Vitangcol, MD, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento physician in chief.

Dr. Vitangcol saw the program as an opportunity to build on Kaiser Permanente’s robust efforts to reduce firearm accidents and to reinforce the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that firearms be stored unloaded and locked up with the ammunition stored separately.

“Firearms recently became the leading cause of injury and death among children and young adults in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle accidents,” Dr. Vitangcol said. “Our goal with this program is to create increased awareness of the importance of safe firearm handling and storage.”



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