Gun safety should be a priority in any home that has both children and firearms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of firearm deaths among children younger than 13 in the US remains 25 times higher than the other top 25 industrialized nations combined.
Whether or not you keep a gun in your home is a personal decision, but ultimately parents and caregivers are responsible for keeping their children and other children who visit the home safe from firearm-related injuries. In a statement entitled “Firearm-related injuries affecting the pediatric population,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states: “The absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.” The statement goes on to say that parental education is the most important factor in preventing firearm accidents in the home.
While it’s never safe for a child to have access to a firearm, even unloaded, there are steps you should take to reduce the risk of an accidental discharge that results in injury. Accidental shootings at home are often the result of handguns left loaded, unsecured, and easy for curious hands to find. Parents who choose to have a handgun in the home should invest in a secure, lockable gun safe for firearm storage. Guns should be outfitted with trigger locks, which make it difficult for little fingers to discharge the weapon. Guns should never be stored loaded, and the ammunition should be stored separately and locked.
Because young children will inevitably be exposed to images of guns, firearm education is necessary to ensure your child’s safety even if your home doesn’t have firearms. Once the child is older, parents can decide if the child is mature enough to handle more information and education about the reality of gun usage. The AAP recommends discussing gun safety at well child exams so your child’s doctor may inquire about guns in your home.
If a child is going over to someone else’s home, the AAP also recommends that parents ask if there are guns in that home.
Reviewed by Dr. Heather Felton, April 2020
- Television, movies, and video games expose children to guns and gun violence.
- Children are naturally curious about guns.
- Guns should be equipped with trigger locks and stored locked and unloaded with ammunition stored and locked separately.
- Firearm safety should be taught to all children, even those from homes with no guns.