A new study from the journal Pediatrics has confirmed one thing that we already know: guns are incredibly dangerous. According to the study, guns account for over 10% of all deaths among children 17 and younger. Our Parenting Tip of the Week is about how to keep your kids as safe as possible in homes where guns are present.
The Stats and Facts about Children and Guns
Appearing in the Journal Pediatrics, the study “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States” will give all parents something to think about. According to the study, guns pose a significant danger to children:
- Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death overall among US children aged 1 to 17 years and the second leading cause of injury-related death.
- Children aged between 13 and 17 had an incident rate 12 times higher than children younger than 12.
- Boys are at a higher risk than girls across all age groups.
- The most common cause of a fatal gun accident was playing with a gun. This is true for both younger (60%) and older children (49%).
Kids and Guns: Keeping Everyone Safe
Given these statistics, it is important for parents to be as educated as possible when it comes to firearm safety. Of course, the best way to keep kids safe around guns is to simply not be around them in the first place. However, if that is impossible, use these safety tips to keep your children safe:
Keep guns and ammunition locked away.
If you own guns, be sure that your guns are always kept in a locked cabinet that is inaccessible to children. Always keep your ammo locked up separately from your gun, and be sure to use trigger locks just in case all else fails. Project ChildSafe is a gun safety project that can provide you with free locks and other safety information.
Teach EVERYONE in your family about gun safety.
Make sure that everyone in your family knows the basic rules of gun safety. Everyone should know to always treat a gun as if it is loaded and never to point a gun at another person.
For younger children, teach them four additional rules.
Younger children can be curious and go searching around new and exciting places, like Mom and Dad’s bedroom or the garage, especially when visiting with friends. Teach your younger children to always follow four simple steps when they see a gun (or what they think might be a gun):
- STOP what you’re doing,
- DON’T touch the gun,
- LEAVE the area where the gun is, and
- TELL an adult right away.
Make sure your child knows that they won’t get in trouble if they tell an adult that they found the gun. Even if they were playing somewhere they shouldn’t have been, it’s better for adults to know that their gun has been exposed, just in case there are other children in the home who may be able to find the gun as well.
For older children, only allow them to handle guns under supervision and after completing a firearms safety course.
In certain families, guns are part of life, and as such children need to be taught about guns in a matter of fact, educational setting. Enrolling teenage children in a firearms safety course is a good way to go. Going to a class taught by a professional can help the lessons stick with your teen. This especially if they’ve already heard them before from Mom and Dad. Even after completing the course, however, make sure your teen knows to never handle a gun unsupervised.
It’s OK to ask about guns!
Parents need to be vigilant in order to keep children safe. When your children visits others’ homes, it’s OK to ask about the presence of firearms. If you’re told that there are guns in the house, you can quietly take your child aside and say something like “remember the four steps we taught you about guns!”
All guns, even those handled by responsible owners, should be treated as a source of danger for your child. It is critical to ensure that your children understand that guns are a dangerous tool and not a toy. For more gun safety information, watch this short 5 minute video that can help you talk about this topic with your kids.
What other things can you do to keep kids safe around guns? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!