Kids and Guns

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Guns in the home would be 100 percent safe for kids -- if the guns were always unloaded, locked away, and never touched. But as soon as a bullet enters the chamber and a hand nears the trigger, guns become a serious hazard to children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms have now surpassed car accidents are the leading cause of death for children. The horrific spate of school shootings the U.S. has endured since Columbine only underscores this finding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a strong and unequivocal stance on children and guns. As stated in a 2010 report, the academy's position is that the best way to keep your child safe from injury or death from guns is to NEVER have a gun in the home. (Emphasis theirs.) The academy recommends removing any guns currently in your home and finding out if there are any guns in homes where your child plays.

Some parents keep a gun in the house for protection, but they'd almost certainly be safer without one. According to the AAP, a gun in the house is 43 times more likely to kill a friend or family member than an intruder. Notably, guns found in the home are a leading cause of teen suicide.

If you still want to have a gun, invest in a trigger lock. Also, keep your gun unloaded and locked away in a gun cabinet, a safe, or another secure place. (Find a different place to lock up the ammunition.) Don't simply hide the gun in a sock drawer or a dark corner of your closet. Kids have an amazing ability to sniff out hiding spots.

What should I tell my young child about guns?

With roughly 250 million firearms in the United States (by the NRAs estimate), gun safety can't stop at home. Your child needs to understand the dangers of guns and how to protect himself if he comes across one. As soon as possible, teach your child these important lessons:

  • The bullets and the blood on TV shows may be fake, but guns can hurt and kill children in real life.
  • Never touch a gun for any reason.
  • A gun means it's time to go. If your child sees a gun at a neighbor's house or elsewhere, he should leave immediately and tell you or another adult about it. (It's not enough to tell your child never to touch a gun. If his friend is handling a gun, your child is in danger.)

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. Gun safety: Keeping children safe. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/all-around/pages/Gun-Safety-Keeping-Children-Safe.aspx

Firearms were the leading cause of death among kids in 2020. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2022/04/22/1094364930/firearms-leading-cause-of-death-in-children

ML et al. Variation in pediatric and adolescent firearm mortality rates in rural and urban US counties. Pediatrics. 2010. 125(6): 1112-1118.

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