Bay Area Kaiser doctors distribute gun safety locks to help prevent accidental injuries at home

Zach Fuentes Image
Friday, May 10, 2024
Bay Area Kaiser doctors distribute gun safety locks
Bay Area doctors have come together to prevent gun injuries by handing out free gun-locking devices.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Bay Area doctors have come together to prevent gun injuries by handing out free gun-locking devices.

"Gun violence is real. It's the number one cause of death in children and teens in this country," said Dr. Kathryn Gopez, Kaiser Permanente Redwood City chief of Pediatrics.

It's something that health care professionals know all too well.

"When I was an intern, fresh out of medical school, one of my first patients was a nine-year-old boy who was accidentally shot in the abdomen by his younger brother," Dr. Gopez said. "They found a gun at home, they thought it was a toy, and it fired. And by the time I met him, he was in the hospital for months and had undergone multiple surgeries."

MORE: Columbine: 25 years later, steps taken in hospitals to provide gun awareness for children

Now doctors at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City have teamed up with local law enforcement to help prevent accidents like that from happening.

"San Mateo County Sheriff's Office kindly donated 100 gun locks to our facility," Gopez said. "And so, we'll be distributing it or dividing it between our Redwood City and San Mateo pediatric offices, the emergency department and our mental health department."

While secure enough to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands, the doctors say the devices aren't complicated to use.

"This doesn't require a battery to charge it or anything complicated like that," said Dr. Sunil Bhopale, assistant physician in chief and Emergency Medicine physician. "It's very simple, very effective, very safe, and it's been proven to help reduce the risk of accidental firearm discharge, which is the thing we're most trying to prevent here."

The doctors say the program is all about prevention and not judgment.

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Patients get a screening questionnaire. One of the questions is to determine if there is a gun in the home.

"If a pediatrician comes across a 'yes' on the questionnaire, it gives us an opportunity to engage in a discussion with parents in a non-judgmental way," Gopez said.

The doctors say the locks are just different tools at their disposal that lets them continue the work they're already doing.

"Preventative medicine, public health, education and safety," Bhopale said.

Kaiser Permanente Redwood City joins a Sacramento-area Kaiser Permanente facility in Rancho Cordova by rolling out this program.

It says the goal now is to expand it to other facilities.

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