Gun related trauma unfortunately runs rampant here in the Central Valley. In fact, the Fresno Police Department said shootings in the city doubled in 2020 from the prior year. So, the police department and Community Regional Medical Center are teaming up to try to keep people, especially children, from being injured or killed by a firearm.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients admitted for gun-related trauma has been at an all-time high at Community Regional, and victims have been consistently younger than in past years.
Dr. John Bilello is the Chief of Pediatric Trauma at Community Regional. He said, “It’s very sad when you have a young man or a young woman come in who’s been shot. And if we can get them better, get them out of their hospitalization, get them back on their feet, it’s awesome. And you always hope you’ve done something.”
Dr. Bilello added gun related traumas involving children are cases he never forgets.
“We’ve had a little five-year-old girl that was accidentally shot with an air rifle through her heart here several years back, we’ve had young kids in their early teens with BBs that went into their brains,” said the doctor.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama speaks to what he sees from a law enforcement perspective.
“We do see on occasion children that are seriously hurt and sometimes killed because they come across a gun which is loaded and is available to them, and obviously kids are very, very curious so they’re gonna, they see a gun they think it’s a toy something to play with,” said Chief Balderrama.
In an effort to reduce the number of injuries or deaths caused by a firearm, especially in children, Community Regional and Fresno Police have partnered up to distribute free gun locks to families who want or need them. Chief Balderrama explains how the gun lock works.
He continued, “Obviously you’ll load your firearm and then you put this through the barrel and out the slide and it makes it inoperable… because of the way this chain works it actually goes through where the magazine would go and it goes through the barrel so you can’t load it you can’t rock the slide back.”
Dr. Bilello added, “And that’s better than nothing, especially for little kids that are preschool and early school age.”
Parents of pediatric trauma patients will receive a questionnaire about whether they own a gun and how they store it in their home. If they want a gun lock they can receive one for free.
“To me, there’s really no excuse for a three-year-old to find a firearm under a mattress or under a sock drawer, because kids explore that’s what they do,” stated Dr. Bilello.
Both Dr. Bilello and Chief Balderrama say gun lock distribution is just a start, but it comes down to education and reminding gun owners how to properly store their firearms.
Chief Balderrama ended, “This is not just a recommendation, it’s actually a state law that says, if you’re gonna own a gun that you have to keep it out of the reach of children, you have to secure it properly and obviously there’s some consequences if you don’t do that.”
The best way to keep your family safe and protect your child from being hurt or killed by a loaded gun is to either avoid having firearms in your home or properly storing them. For more information on Project Childsafe, the program that promotes firearms safety and education, click here.