Free gun lock kiosks now available across BJC
It’s a record and distinction no one wanted. In 2022, St. Louis pediatric hospitals led the nation in the number of children seen in the emergency room with a firearm injury.
BJC HealthCare is working to lower the number of these preventable injuries, by making free, no-questions-asked gun locks available at all BJC hospital emergency rooms, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Centers in west and south St. Louis County, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Center for Families Resource Library and St. Louis Children’s Safety Stop.
Lindsay Clukies, MD, is an emergency medicine physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics and associate trauma medical director for Washington University School of Medicine.
“In 2022, we had 163 children with gunshot wounds at St. Louis Children’s Hospital,” Dr. Clukies says. “The previous record was 150 children set in 2020.”
In October 2020, St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s trauma department placed a basket of gun locks in the emergency room waiting area. The “No Questions Asked” basket also included an educational flyer. Since the program began, nearly 3,000 gun locks have been taken by patients, families and staff, including 400 that were distributed at the hospital’s Center for Families Resource Library.
“The first basket or kiosk was placed in a somewhat discreet area so people wouldn’t stare, but it could easily be seen by families,” Dr. Clukies explains. “Once we saw the success of the program at St. Louis Children’s, we met with BJC’s Community Health Improvement (CHI) team to discuss how best to further disseminate the ‘No Questions Asked’ gun-lock baskets. CHI agreed to implement this initiative system-wide, and we went live at Progress West Hospital Nov. 18, 2022, on National Injury Prevention Day.”
Karlos Bledsoe, BJC Community Health Improvement strategy and operations director, says it takes the entire St. Louis metropolitan community to prevent firearm injuries in children.
“An increasing number of children age 10 years and younger are being treated for severe injuries related to firearms,” Bledsoe says. “Most of the unintentional firearm injuries occur in the child’s home or a friend’s home. We encourage everyone — patients, families, visitors and team members — who passes by one of our gun lock baskets to take advantage of this free program.”
Dr. Clukies says these efforts are in addition to the firearm triage project at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital emergency room.
“Every patient family who comes to the emergency department is asked, in a non-judgmental way, if they have access to a firearm where children live or play,” she says. “They are then asked if they would like a free gun lock. If they say yes, a social worker provides the gun lock and education then and there.”
Free gun locks are also available on the St. Louis Children's Hospital Safety Stop website.
How can community members keep children safe from firearm injuries? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best way to keep your child or teen safe from gun injury or death is to never have a gun in your home, especially not a handgun. Inquire about guns at homes where your children play and, if present, how they are stored. If your friends or family keep a firearm, urge them to keep it locked and unloaded.
“If you choose to have a gun in your home, always keep the gun unloaded and locked up, and lock and store the bullets in a separate place,” Dr. Clukies cautions. “Make sure to hide the keys to the locked boxes and keep both the locked gun and ammunition boxes out of the reach of children. Do not keep a loaded gun next to your bed.
“You have the right to own a gun, but children are curious,” she adds. “It’s up to adults to put a barrier between a child and a firearm. If they see a gun, they’re going to touch it, no matter how many times we tell them not to.”