Put kids first — that’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying, and tweeting, to help raise awareness to gun violence.

The academy launched a social media campaign as Congress returned from recess this week and in light of looming legislation to prevent gun violence. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are expected to announce a compromise plan today to expand background checks on firearms sales, both at gun shows and on the Internet, that could draw bipartisan support and lead to forward momentum on the issue.

As part of its efforts, the academy created and tracked conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #putkids1st, which complemented an assortment of facts and resources linking youths and violence. It linked to public and mental health stances on Facebook, which urged Congress to:

  • enact an effective assault weapons ban and mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases;
  • allow federal agencies to research gun violence prevention, doctors to ask patients about guns at home;
  • improve mental health access through stronger identification of mental health illnesses, lower costs that create barriers to patients; and
  • reduce gun violence in the media, including television, video games and cinema.

“Fact: firearms are 1 of the top 3 causes of death among youth: twice as many deaths as cancer & 15 times as many as infections #putkids1st,” the academy tweeted Tuesday.

APHA this week sent an action alert to its members, urging congressional action on “common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” including mandatory background checks and an assault weapons ban.