Improving Awareness of Firearm Safety

TMA Written Testimony on House Bill 3054

House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism
Written Testimony on House Bill 3054 by Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins

March 26, 2019

Chair Cyrier and members of the committee, the Texas Medical Association, representing nearly 53,000 physicians and medical students, is pleased to express our support for House Bill 3054 by Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins. Our testimony today addresses the importance of improving public awareness of firearm safety and encouraging community discussion and action to prevent firearm violence. 

The United States has the highest firearm homicide and firearm-related suicide rates of all high-income countries.  Texas had more firearm-related deaths – 3,353 – than any other state – a rate of 12.1 per 100,000 people (2016).  Firearm mortality is the second most common cause of death among U.S. children, and firearm homicide, suicide, and unintentional discharge are the major factors in both child injury and child fatality. With an estimated 400 million firearms in this country, likely hundreds of thousands of homes have at least one firearm. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that most parents believe their children will not touch a firearm or do not know where firearms are kept or can be accessed in the home. But in 2015, 609 Texas children were injured or died by a firearm. More than 200 of these were deaths from a suicide, assault or homicide, or accidental firearm discharge, or with an undetermined intent. More than half of these child deaths were homicides, and most deaths were in children aged 15-19 years. 

Texas’ requirements for the safe storage and security of a firearm are critical to support the prevention of theft or the misuse of firearms by adults and children. We know most parents with firearms in the home will talk to their children about firearm safety, but not all do this – increasing risk in the home and especially with both adults and children who are prone to make an impulsive decision. The public health data tell us that children who are with an untrained or otherwise careless adult or a friend with access to a firearm are most likely to be injured or killed in an unintentional discharge. 

Keeping firearms away from people who present a risk of harm or who are unable to make sound decisions provides a strong base for managing firearm safety. But having strong state laws on firearm safety will not adequately ensure protection as long as the public is not aware of these requirements or of other measures to reduce firearm violence. We believe Representative Hawkins’ proposal to designate June as Gun Violence Awareness Month will improve ongoing public dialogue to better prevent the related injuries and deaths.    

TMA members remain focused on proven prevention and harm-reduction methods in all areas of public and population health. Physicians have a role in addressing gun violence and firearms safety. Physicians are talking to their patients about safety measures in the home including the measures that will prevent firearm mortality and morbidity. We encourage you to take action to approve House Bill 3054, and we offer our assistance with implementation of this important legislation.

Last Updated On

March 26, 2019

Originally Published On

March 26, 2019

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