Nightly News   |  December 12, 2013

Protecting children from gun violence

Since the Newtown tragedy, at least 173 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshots in the U.S. Some experts say this has become a public health issue. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as we approach the one-year mark on saturday of the tragedy at sandy hook elementary in newtown, connecticut, there is a plea from this country's psychologists. they say the gun issue is not just a political issue that protecting our children from gun violence including in their own homes is a matter of public health . so we get the story tonight from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: it was nearly two years ago when, like so many other times, ashlynn dropped her son noah off at his friend's house to spend the night.

>> about 1:15 in the morning we got a phone call .

>> reporter: what went through your gut when you pulled up and saw the activity.

>> immediately i went into shock. even bfefore i talked to a cop. there is no way this is real. they made a mistake.

>> reporter: it wasn't a mistake. her 13-year-old son was accidentally shot by his friend who in a moment of horseplay didn't realize the gun was loaded. who do you hold accountable?

>> the parents.

>> reporter: why?

>> as parents we are supposed to keep our children safe.

>> reporter: ashlynn and family are avid hunters but they keep their guns secure and want parents who don't do the same held responsible.

>> we keep them safe with car seats, seat belts , drive the speed limit . we have caps on medicine that they can't get in.

>> reporter: since the newtown tragedy, at least 173 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshots in the u.s. according to original reporting and research by nbc news. nearly half of the deaths were accidental.

>> this year it's projected that the number of people who die from gun related injuries will surpass those who die from vehicle deaths.

>> reporter: he's been advocating to change gun laws and the way we view gun violence . why is research important?

>> research is paramount. when you have a discussion about this public health issue of gun safety , there are two sides. the only way i think change will happen is if we look at the data.

>> reporter: in 1996 the gun lobby worked to halt the cdc's analysis of gun violence . while the national rifle association has always advocated gun safety and education, it didn't respond to our requests for comment. president obama has called on congress to provide $10 million to fund gun research. your heart must catch in your chest when you see this. ashlynn hopes education and new laws might save another mother her pain.

>> i wanted to watch him go to high school and granu, graduate, get married and have kids. i'll never see that.

>> reporter: start the conversation with your children at home. talk to other parents before play dates, before overnights ask. a simple question. are there guns in the house? are they loaded? and most important, are they locked up and away from kids? it's a transformation to make gun violence a public safety and public health issue.

>> important aspect of this story. thank you as always.