About one-third of U.S. households with children have a gun. While it's very likely your child will be exposed to a household with a gun, there are steps you can take to keep your children safe from firearm accidents.
It's scary to think about, but an average of 13 children die each day from guns. That makes guns the leading cause of death in children. And amidst an adolescent mental health crisis, having a gun in the home also substantially increases the risk of suicide and homicide in adolescents.
Here's how you can keep your child safe—both at home and when they visit with a friend or family member who owns a firearm.
How to safely store a gun
There are many options when it comes to proper firearm storage in your home. All options will help you reduce the risk of a child—or anyone—from getting injured accidentally if they come across your gun.
"It's safest to not have a gun in your home, but if you decide to own a gun then storing it properly can help protect everyone," says Annamarie Koller, DO, pediatric hospitalist, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of the Main Line Health and CHOP affiliation.
If you have a gun in your home, here are some tips to keep everyone safe:
- Store any firearms unloaded and store the bullets separately.
- Lock the gun away, either with a cable lock, gun safe or lock box.
- Hide all keys to the locks separately from the gun storage.
- Do not show your children where you place your gun or ammunition.
- Teach your child to never play with the gun or point it at anyone.
Ask about guns at other parents' homes
You can't always be everywhere your kids are all the time. From sleepovers to weekend playdates, it probably feels like your kids are always on the move. So, how can you protect them when they aren't with you? One way is to talk to their friends' parents and ask one simple question.
"You should always ask if there's a gun in the home where your child is visiting. You can tell them your pediatrician said to ask," says Dr. Koller.
This question should become as common place as asking about pets or food allergies before a playdate. If you feel uncomfortable with the question, you can also consider hosting the event or playdate at your house instead.
Teach your kids gun safety
Even after taking the steps above, there's always a risk that your child can come across a gun.
"Teach your child that if they find a gun, stop what they are doing, don't touch it and find a trusted adult," says Dr. Koller. "Emphasize that guns are not toys to your child. Children as young as 2 years old are strong enough to pull a trigger, so have these conversations early."
Children are curious, so taking these protective measures is your best defense in keeping your kids as safe as possible from firearm accidents.
"We all share the goal of keeping kids safe and taking an active role in protecting children from guns can save a child's life," says Dr. Koller.
FREE gun locks are available in Lankenau Medical Center's Emergency Department. No questions asked.
- Gun lock manufacturer's instructions (PDF)
- Gun lock demonstration - handgun (YouTube)
- Cable Gun Lock Demonstration - Shotgun (YouTube)
- Gun lock demonstration - semi-automatic rifle (YouTube)
- Hospitals United