Contributor Dr. Elise Herman
Parents want to keep their children safe, and an increasingly important part of this relates to gun safety. The leading cause of death in the US for kids (those 18 years old and under) is now firearm-related injuries. There were 301 unintentional shootings by kids in 2022, which caused 133 deaths and 180 injuries. Regardless of opinions on gun control, we all want to prevent these tragedies, making proper storage of weapons and ammunition crucial. Whether you have guns in your home or not, there are important steps you can take to keep kids safe.
If you decide to keep a firearm in your home, make sure all guns are locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately and securely. Store weapons in a gun cabinet, vault, safe, or storage case. Keys and combinations for these need to be hidden. Fingerprint lock technology is another way to prevent children from gaining access to the safe. Consider a trigger lock as well to prevent the gun from firing. If firearms are in a vehicle, they should also be in a locked safe with ammunition stored and secured separately.
Studies have shown that contrary to what parents may believe, children generally do know where guns are in the home, can get access to a loaded weapon in minutes, and many have handled them without adult supervision.
Safety out of the home
Over one third of accidental shootings of children happen in other people’s homes. It is vital that you discuss gun safety with the parents of your child’s friends when arranging get togethers. Just as you would go over other safety information such as food allergies, adult supervision, or bike helmet use if appropriate, you need to ask about guns- in their home and vehicles. Without any judgement, ask if the other family has guns and if so, how the guns and ammunition are stored. You could also volunteer how you secure weapons at your house. If guns and ammunition are not stored appropriately by the other parents, you can suggest that they be secured but if the situation does not seem safe, have the playdate at your home instead. Think of how you would handle the situation if the other family had a pool without safety measures in place. Have similar discussions with family members or caregivers where your child spends time. These conversations may feel awkward at first, but it is your child’s safety on the line.
Talking to your children
Remind kids that if they see a gun that is not locked up, they should refrain from touching it, leave the area and tell an adult right away. Children should be taught to always assume a gun is loaded. Gun safety and hunter responsibility classes are recommended but are not a guarantee that a child will be safe around unsecured guns.
Mental health concerns
If someone in the home has depression or suicidal thoughts, firearms should be removed from the home while there is an active concern. Guns may be stored temporarily with local law enforcement (check on-line) or with a friend or family member living outside the household.
more about The contributor
Dr. Elise Herman
Dr. Herman is passionate about community health outreach, school programs, and child/family health and wellness. She has more than 31 years of experience as a pediatrician in Ellensburg, Washington, the last 3 with KVH Pediatrics. In 2022 Dr. Herman retired from practice and continues to contribute blog posts and remain a visible advocate for kids in the community.