Witnessing History in Albany

Eve Meltzer-Krief MD, FAAP

Eve Meltzer-Krief MD, FAAP

(Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief MD, FAAP is a pediatrician in Huntington and member of the NYS AAP Chapter 2 Immigration and Legislative Advocacy Committees.)

My alarm went off at 4:45am.  I got dressed and neatly folded my white coat into my bag, got into my car, and drove to the train station where I waited in the cold on the dark, deserted platform in Huntington, Long Island.  I was catching a train from NYC to Albany where dozens of other advocates were gathering from across the state, advocates including other physicians and moms and including individuals who had lost loved ones to gun violence.  We were all coming together to support the historic passage of gun safety legislation in New York State.

For some, like myself, it was our first time at the Capital watching Senate and Assembly proceedings.  For all of us, it represented the culmination of phone calls, letters, rallies and visits to legislative offices advocating for common sense gun legislation for our children.

As pediatricians, we know the impact that gun violence has on children in our country.  Nearly 1,300 children under 18 years old die from gunshot wounds every year and 5,790 are injured yearly.  Firearm related injury is the third leading cause of death among American youth.  A recent study showed that half as many children die from gun injuries in states with stricter gun laws compared to states with more lax gun laws.  Pediatricians know that gun violence is a healthcare epidemic for children in our country.

The pediatricians who were in Albany to witness the passage of the important gun safety bills stood up in applause along with Linda Beigel Schulman who lost her son to gun violence at Parkland and who burst into tears as one by one the gun safety measures were declared state law.  We watched as the Senate passed the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and passed a law that will give up to 30 days to complete background checks.  They banned bump stocks and passed a bill preventing teachers from carrying guns.  They created regulations for gun buyback programs and passed a bill that allowed out of state mental health records to be reviewed before obtaining gun permits.  Common sense gun safety legislation.

Pediatricians also look forward to the passage of safe gun storage legislation that would require guns to be stored unloaded in a locked box separate from ammunition.  Studies show that 70% of childhood gun injuries, deaths and suicides would be prevented if the family weapon was locked up and unloaded.  Pediatricians from the NYS AAP also advocate for the establishment of a Gun Safety Research Institute in NY that would allocate funding for evidence based gun safety research and lead to recommendations for future gun safety measures.

It was inspiring and fulfilling to see our work lead to positive change .  I urge pediatricians to speak to their legislators about the issues they care about and to join your chapter’s legislative advocacy committee.  See you in Albany !