Children and gun safety: What to know and do

By | July 21, 2019

Stories about shootings are becoming far too common. The news is full of stories of shootings at schools, workplaces, and other public places. While stories of mass shootings get the headlines, guns kill people every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), guns killed almost 40,000 people in 2017, the highest amount in the nearly 50 years since the CDC started their electronic database.

Here are some other important facts:

  • Firearm injury is the cause of death in 74% of all homicides and 87% of all youth homicides.
  • Every day, 78 children, teens, and young adults are injured or killed by guns in the US.
  • The risk of death by suicide is four to 10 times higher in homes with guns. Firearms are used in 50% of all suicides, and 42% of youth suicides.
  • One in three homes with children in the US has a gun.
  • Children as young as 3 years old may be strong enough to pull the trigger on a handgun.
  • Three out of four children (including children less than 10 years old) living in a house with a gun know where the gun is, even when their parents think they don’t.
  • While many people feel that having a gun keeps them safer, the research suggests that the opposite is true.

Three ways to keep everyone safer

Gun ownership is a polarizing issue here in the US. But whatever anyone thinks about gun ownership, all can agree that we need to work to keep people safe — particularly our children. Here are three things all parents can do:

  • If you own a gun, lock it up, unloaded. Keep ammunition locked up separately.
  • Ask if there is an unlocked gun where your child plays. This simple question can save your child’s life. If the answer is yes, ask if it can be locked up (unloaded, with the ammunition locked separately). If the gun isn’t stored safely, your child shouldn’t play there.
  • If your child has a history of depression or other mental health problems, don’t keep a gun at home. Locking it up may not be enough to keep your child safe.
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Somehow, we need to come together to put in place some common sense laws to keep people safe. As a country, we have a very high rate of gun deaths compared to other developed countries. That’s something that should alarm us. Background checks and waiting periods make good sense, as do measures that work to make guns less available to people with mental health problems.

Our children rely on us to keep them safe — including from gun injury.

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

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