More than 1,500 children and teens were killed in homicides and accidental shootings last year. Many of these deaths could have been prevented by putting some additional protections in place at home.
UC Davis pediatrician Sara Brundage shares some tips on how to safeguard against gun violence at home.
What can families do to keep their children safe?
Research shows the most effective way to prevent firearm-related injury to children is to keep guns out of homes and communities. Firearms should be removed from environments where children live and play. But if guns cannot be removed from the home, they should be locked and unloaded, and stored in a lockbox, gun safe or cable lock, with ammunition locked separately.
What are the best ways to store firearms?
Hiding a gun is not a safe option. Lockboxes, gun safes and cable locks are three ways to safely store firearms. Your choice will depend on the type of firearm that will be stored (for example, a handgun vs. a rifle) and the number of firearms you will store. The cost can be as little as $5 for a cable lock.
It can be difficult to tell if your locking device meets safety standards. There are no current federal standards, but some states do provide a list of approved devices that meet safety criteria. The California Department of Justice maintains an online roster of certified locking devices allowed for sale in the state.
Isn’t it safer to have a handgun at home to protect my family?
Unfortunately, no. In homes with handguns, there is a higher likelihood that the gun will be used to shoot a family member or friend than used in self-defense. Some other statistics:
- Studies show that owning a handgun increases one’s risk of suicide.
- Californians living with handgun owners are more than twice as likely to die by homicide.
- Children as young as 3 have the strength and coordination to pull the trigger on a gun.
How can parents keep their kids safe when they visit someone else’s house?
They will need to ask! The ASK campaign (which stands for Asking Saves Kids) encourages parents to ask, “Is there an unlocked gun where my child will play?” when their child may be visiting a friend or neighbor’s home.
One in three households with young children in the U.S. have guns, and approximately two-thirds of those households do not store the guns in the recommended manner — locked up and unloaded. More than a third of all accidental shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors or relatives.
I know this can feel like a difficult question to ask, but parents ask about pool safety, pets and allergies. This is just one more question to add to the list. You could say something like, “My child is very curious and often gets into things he shouldn’t. Do you have guns or anything else dangerous in your home he could get into?”
How should I talk to my child about gun safety?
You can let your child know that if they find a gun, they shouldn’t touch it, and they should call a parent or caregiver. But know that often talking to your child is not enough. Children are naturally curious, and if a gun is accessible, you run the risk that they will play with it.
It’s also important to note that there is a link between the consumption of virtual violence, as seen in movies, TV and video games, and aggressive behavior in children. Young children shouldn’t be viewing virtual violence at all. For those under six years old, even cartoon violence can have an effect. Look for video game ratings that are E for everyone or G-rated movies for safe viewing.