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Parents Unaware That Children Know Firearms Are in Home

In 22 percent of gun-owning homes, children have handled them without parent's knowledge

MONDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Parents in the United States who own firearms are often unaware that their children know where the guns are kept and have handled them, according to a survey of rural residents published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. In 22 percent of the gun-owning homes, children said they had handled guns without the parent's knowledge.

Frances Baxley, M.D., of San Francisco General Hospital in California, and Matthew Miller, M.D., Sc.D., of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, surveyed 314 pairs of parents and children aged 5 to 14 years at a family practice clinic in rural Alabama. Parents and children were questioned separately about whether there were firearms in the home, whether the children knew where firearms were kept, and whether the children had ever handled firearms in the home.

Sixty-four percent of homes contained at least one firearm. Thirty-nine percent of parents who said that their children did not know where the firearms were kept and 22 percent of parents who said that their children had never handled the firearm were contradicted by their children's responses. Although 91 percent of parents in homes containing firearms reported discussing gun safety with their children and 56 percent stored the guns unloaded and locked away, this did not affect the likelihood that the parents' and children's responses would agree, according to the study.

"Many parents who were living in homes with firearms and who reported that their children had never handled firearms in their homes were contradicted by their children's self-reports," Baxley and Miller conclude. "Parents who locked their guns away and discussed gun safety with their children were as likely to be contradicted as parents who did not take such safety measures."

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