The decision to keep a firearm in the home is very serious and one that must not be made lightly. If you choose to keep a gun, you must become fully informed about the risks of firearms to your family and others who visit your home.
The risks to our children of unsafe firearm storage practices are significant. Without any exaggeration, the way a gun is stored can be a matter of life and death for our children. Tragedies occur daily involving unlocked firearms easily accessible to young people, either at their own homes or the home of a relative or neighbor. These tragedies might very well never have happened if the adults in these children’s lives had unloaded and locked their firearms and ammunition, so that the children could not have such easy access to them.
National research shows that 40% of households with children have a firearm in the house, and 1 in 4 of these guns is kept loaded. In addition, in a majority of accidents and suicides and in many of the homicides, the firearms that were used were found at home.
It is vital that guns always be locked up and stored unloaded. Children never should have easy access to guns without parental supervision. This is especially true for handguns, because they are much more likely to be kept where children can get to them. According to the National Institute of Justice survey, handguns are likely to be stored in bedrooms where it is easy for children to find them.
Children are naturally curious, especially when it comes to guns. Parents should not lull themselves into a false sense of security on this matter, even if they have spoken to their children about guns. As Judy Shaw, Director of the Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital in Boston, noted, "any small child who picks up a gun . . . is going to put a finger on the trigger and click it." All parents must take common sense steps to protect children, both by talking to them about guns and by unloading and locking all guns so that a child or teen cannot access them without direct adult supervision.
To ensure the safety of children, all gun owners should:
· unload and lock up their guns;
· lock and store ammunition separately; and
· hide keys where kids are unable to find them.
There are a variety of devices for securing your firearm. Though safes seem to provide the most security, many people prefer locks, which are often available for free, or at a low cost.
There are three good places to start looking for a gun-lock distribution program in your area:
· your local police department.
· your local SAFE KIDS Coalition. To find the one nearest you, call (202) 662-0600.
· Project HomeSafe, a national gun-lock distribution program. Call (800) 726-6444 to see if there is a HomeSafe program in your area.
with Your Kids
It is vital that parents talk to their children about guns, but this can be a difficult conversation to have. The discussion must be age-appropriate and offer children clear instructions about avoiding guns without adult supervision.
Children are naturally curious, especially when it comes to guns. Parents should not lull themselves into a false sense of security on this matter, even if they have spoken to their children about guns. As Judy Shaw, Director of the Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital in Boston, noted, "any small child who picks up a gun . . . is going to put a finger on the trigger and click it." All parents must take common sense steps to protect children both by talking to them about guns and by unloading and locking all guns so that a child or teen cannot access them without direct adult supervision.
Read our tips on talking to your kids about guns, or click on a link below for practical advice about talking to your kids about other important topics.
with Your Kids about Guns
Sense about Kids and Guns
Some tips for talking to your
Young children: Experts advise parents to reassure children that, as parents, they are doing their best to keep children safe. Children can be exposed to a good amount of violence by the media, especially from TV and movies. It is important to teach children that this is not real and that guns cause real injuries. Emphasize to them that they should never touch a gun and should always tell an adult if they come across one. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repeating this message periodically to keep children from forgetting.
Preteens: This is a good time to begin talking with children about ways to solve problems that do not involve violence. With older children, explain to them the consequences of violence and the dangers inherent in the mishandling of guns. Continue to emphasize to children that they should never touch a gun without adult supervision.
Teens: This can be a difficult time to maintain open communication with kids as they become more independent and rebellious. However, maintaining dialogue with your children can help you spot any potential problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that, at this point in a child’s life, it is easier to keep guns away from teens than to keep teens away from guns, which are often glamorized in the media. It is important that parents watch for signs of depression or changes in behavior, as teens feeling this way are at an increased risk for suicide.
The most important thing a parent can do, according to Betsy McAlister Groves, director of the Child Witness to Violence Program at Boston Medical Center, is listen to a child’s concerns. As she told Newsweek, "allowing kids to voice their worries is very important." Not talking about the problem will not make it go away.
The Child You Save May Be Your Own