I was surprised to learn that each year more than 20,000 children 18 and younger are injured or killed with firearms in the US each year. Sadly, 63 percent of these injuries and deaths are non-accidental. The newest information indicated a 30 percent rise in accidental injuries and deaths due to guns found in homes, which really reinforces the need to revisit this issue. With hunting season just around the corner, I wanted to address firearm safety to help prevent some of the nearly 7400 injuries and deaths that occur by accident. The easiest way to prevent injuries from guns and other firearms is to not have them in your home at all. But given the reality that 35-40 percent of households have at least one firearm, talking about safety is essential.
If you have a firearm in your house, keep it locked up. Don’t just lock the gun itself but keep the firearm locked away somewhere that can’t easily be accessed. Keeping the ammunition stored separately, also locked away helps decrease the likelihood that a gun will be stumbled upon, played with and discharged accidentally injuring someone. Parents mistakenly believe that by talking to their children about not handling guns or by teaching them gun safety their child is not likely to touch a gun if it’s found. The data strongly rejects this belief. Nearly 80 percent of boys between the ages of 8 and 12, even if instructed by parents, will choose to handle a gun they stumble upon and half will pull the trigger. Keeping the gun locked away and the ammunition locked away separately is the best way to ensure the safety of your children and their friends.
If you don’t have a firearm in your home, your child is still at some risk. Your child has a 1 in 3 chance that the friend’s home they’re visiting has a gun. Parents should feel empowered to ask about the presence of a gun in the home and if one is there, to ask questions about how it is stored. I know it seems a little awkward to ask but given the potential risk it is important. Start by volunteering the information that you do not have a gun at your home when inviting other children to come over. By telling the other parents without them asking it makes it more “normal” to discuss. When you need to ask other parents about firearms in their homes, ask it as one of several questions including ones about pets and foods and video games.