Whether or not you have guns at home, it’s critical to practice and teach gun safety to you children and teens.
In the U.S., firearms are the leading cause of death for kids and teens under the age of 18. In homes with guns, kids are four times more likely to die of an accidental shooting.
Suicide risk is also higher for kids and teens who have guns in the home. In fact, nine out of ten gun-related suicides committed by kids and teens involved guns they accessed either in their own home or at a relative’s home.
Even very young children run the risk of hurting themselves or others. In 2020 alone, at least 125 toddlers and children ages 5 and under shot themselves or someone else.
Gun Safety Education
Whether or not you have guns in the home, it’s important to teach your children about gun safety.
Teach your children what to do if they ever come across a gun outside or in a home. They should stay away from it and tell an adult immediately. Emphasize that guns are not toys.
Talk to your kids about shows or video games that have gun violence. Explain that it’s not like real life. Explain that guns are dangerous and that in real life, guns can seriously hurt or kill you or other people.
If you are a family that hunts and you are introducing your kids to hunting, teach them about proper use and handling. Continue to reinforce safety and teach that guns are not toys.
Safe Gun Storage at Home
The team at Pediatrics West agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics that kids are safest when firearms are stored outside the home. Children naturally want to explore and are curious. If a gun is in your home, your child is likely to find it, even if it’s well hidden.
If you must store your gun in your home, it’s critical to take as many safety precautions as possible. Here is what gun safety expert recommend:
- Unloaded: Store your guns unloaded.
- Locked Up: Store your guns in a lock box or gun safe.
- Ammo: Store ammo separately from your guns and lock ammo in a separate safe.
- Gun locks: A trigger lock or cable lock should be inserted in the unloaded gun as an extra precaution.
Ask About Guns Before a Playdate
If your child is going to visit a relative or play at a friend’s home, ask if there are guns in the home and if they are stored safely. This is the same concept as asking about allergies, adult supervision, or any other safety concern.
One way to broach the subject is ask or text, “I always ask parents before a playdate—are there any unlocked guns in your home?” Another option is to ask, “Do you have any guns at home and if so, how are they stored?”
If they don’t store their guns safely, you can talk to them about keeping them unloaded and locked. You also could invite their child to come over to your home instead.