Durham gathering offers practical tips to prevent gun violence

jneff@newsobserver.comJanuary 25, 2014 

— A public library is a practical place, stocked with reference materials, maps, computers and magazines.

So it’s no surprise that a library event on gun violence Saturday has a practical air – what are the facts and how can people reduce deaths and injuries?

“Firearm injuries and deaths are not a political issue,” said Tamera Coyne-Beasley, a pediatrician at UNC Health Care. “This is a public health issue.”

Coyne-Beasley said the community should tackle gun violence the same way as tobacco-related illnesses and automobile accidents: look for many ways, sometimes small ways, to reduce harm.

“There’s no silver bullet,” she said. “We just have to act incrementally, bit by bit.”

The lunchtime event at the downtown library, tucked between “Saturday Morning Storytime” and “Dungeons and Dragons in the Library,” drew about 150 people. Sponsored by The Links, a national service organization of African-American women, the program featured a light lunch and periodic raffle drawings for prizes.

But the message was deadly serious. The first raffle prize awarded was a “J.J.Sharpe IMPACT” shirt in black with shiny silver writing. The fashion line was started Jan. 3 by the family of Jaedon Sharpe, a 9-year-old shot and killed in his driveway on Jan. 4. The third-grader was Durham’s first homicide victim of 2014.

Claudia McCormick, a nurse, said she sees firearm violence daily as the director of the trauma center at Duke University Hospital. McCormick walked the audience through the treatment of a gunshot wound, from the arrival of the ambulance to hospital discharge or burial.

She showed photos of chest tubes, an X-ray of a shattered arm stitched together with pins and a frame and a young man shot in the spine who communicates only by blinking his eyes.

“My workplace is not a fun place,” McCormick said. “Getting shot is not fun.”

Promoting safe ownership

McCormick recommended that teachers and community leaders take advantage of the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby provides free educational materials on gun safety, including the Eddie Eagle program that teaches children what to do if they come across a gun: Stop! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Call an adult.

Coyne-Beasley pointed out that more than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and that it’s important to keep firearms from people with depression or other mental illnesses.

As a pediatrician, she gave the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Removing guns from the home is the best way of keeping children safe from firearm violence, she said, and if guns are in the home, store them safely.

Michael Lemay, a Durham County sheriff’s deputy, emphasized the responsibilities of owning a handgun. The weapon must always be secured.

“When a teenager says, ‘Dad’s got a gun at home,’ what is the first thing his friends will say?” Lemay asked.

“Can I see it?” several in the audience answered in unison.

Lemay recommended that people think about buying a camera system to secure their home, instead of a handgun.

“Nobody got hurt with a camera system at home,” Lemay said. “If you have a gun, there’s a possibility we may be taking you to court one day.”

One young woman said she was thinking of buying a handgun after several break-ins in her neighborhood.

Coyne-Beasley recommended a dog.

Lemay recommended that the woman keep two things by her front door: a whistle and a can of wasp spray.

“It shoots 20 feet, it’s cost-effective and it does the job,” Lemay said.

Neff: 919-829-4516

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