Over one-third of Texans own guns. Guns are a frequent topic of debate. However, everyone agrees that we want our children to avoid harm from gun-related injury. In 2015, about 4,500 children and adolescents died from guns. Check your knowledge of gun-safety so that you know what to do to protect your child.
- True or False: Children in the US are less likely to be injured by a gun than those in other countries.
False. Deaths from gun-related injuries in children are 49 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries.
- True or False: The chances a child will be hurt by a gun are relatively low, compared to other types of injuries.
False. The fourth leading cause of death from injury in children 5 to 14 years old is a gun. It is the second leading cause of death in children 15 to 19 years old. In the latest data, injuries from guns caused about the same number of deaths in the US as car crashes.
- True or False: Most people store their guns safely—unloaded, in a locked location, with ammunitions stored separately.
False. In one survey, fewer than 50 percent said they stored their guns safely. In another survey, only 6 percent said they stored their guns safely
4.True or False: If a child encounters a gun, he probably won’t touch it if parents have talked to him about gun safety.
False. Although about 75 percent of parents said their child wouldn’t touch a gun, a study of young boys showed that most of them handled a gun when they found it—and almost half pulled the trigger.
- True or False: Most children don’t even know where the guns in their home are located.
False. In one study, about three-fourths of children who lived in homes with guns knew where the guns were located. Over one-third admitted they had handled them.
- True or False: Children who take programs on gun safety won’t engage in risky behaviors around guns.
False. Although children can talk about gun safety, several studies have shown that when encountering a gun, they don’t use the information they’ve learned. Children often don’t distinguish a real gun from a toy gun and so don’t handle a real gun safely.
- True or False: You only need to worry about safe gun storage if there’s a young child in your home.
False. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents of older children either remove guns from the home or restrict access to them. This is especially important for children who are at risk of suicide because of depression or mood disorder. Other children at risk are those who may be abusing drugs or alcohol. A child who attempts suicide with a gun is most often successful, compared to suicide attempts from other methods. Limiting access to guns can help prevent suicide.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child Stay Safe
Store Guns Safely. Storing guns so that children can’t get to them is critical. If you have a gun in your home, store it safely:
- Unload the gun before storing.
- Then put it in a locked place, such as a cabinet, safe or storage case.
- Make sure children can’t figure out how to get into the locked place. For example, if you keep the key in a drawer, a child could easily get the key when you’re not watching.
- Store ammunition in a different place than the gun.
- Consider using a gun-locking device, such as a cable lock. This device has a cable that runs through the barrel to prevent the gun from firing accidentally.
Educate Your Child.
- Have a conversation with your child about gun safety. Your child may not get gun safety training anywhere else.
- Watch a gun safety video with your child. Go to ProjectChildSafe.org for access to several videos designed for children of different ages.
- Make an action plan for what your child should do if he finds a gun. For example, don’t touch the gun; leave the area right away; go find an adult and tell the adult about the gun.
Talk to Relatives and Other Parents. Even if you store guns safely at home, guns may not be stored safely at other places your child visits. Talk to relatives and parents of your child’s friends to find out if they have guns and how they’re stored. If they keep guns unsecured and store them loaded, you may want to reevaluate your child’s access. Even if your child knows what to do around an unsecured gun, other children may not. af
Brenda Schoolfield is a freelance medical writer who splits her time between Austin and Seattle.