Gun Safety

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Harvard Medical School
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Gun Safety

Guiding Your Child Through The Early Years
Injury and Illness Prevention
Gun Safety
Gun Safety
Keep your child safe from guns.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Gun Safety

Guns are dangerous for children, whether inside or outside the home. In 2010, almost 2,700 children and teens in the United States were killed by firearms and 15,000 were injured. The United States rate of death due to firearms is 8 times higher than its economic counterparts in other parts of the world. The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children and teens is almost 17 times higher than among those in 25 other industrialized countries combined.

Sadly, most children hurt or killed by guns are shot in their own homes, or in the homes of friends and relatives. It is essential that you do everything you can to keep your children safe from gun violence.

Keep guns out of your home.
The best way to prevent gun violence is to keep all guns out of your home. Preschoolers are naturally very curious and will explore any area they can, whether or not it is off limits to them. Older children are also curious about guns, especially after having seen them so many times in movies, television shows, or video and computer games. Having a gun in your home increases your child's risk of gun-related accidents, homicides and suicides. No matter how careful you are, if you keep a gun in your home, you are putting your child at risk.

Hide guns, unloaded and locked up.
If you must have a gun in your home, unload it, install a trigger lock, and lock the gun up in a cabinet that is out of the sight and reach of children. Keep the bullets in a separate, locked location, also out of their sight and reach. Go to your local police station for advice about safe storage and trigger locks. Keep all keys to these cabinets or drawers away from children.

Talk about gun safety.
Whether you do or you don't have a gun in your home, talk with your children often about gun safety. Teach your child even at a young age that if he ever sees a gun at a playmate's house, he should never touch the gun and should tell an adult right away. Find out whether there are guns in the homes your child visits.

Also, talk to your children about media violence.
Tell young children that guns used in movies, television shows, and video or computer games are not real. Explain to them that even though it doesn't seem like it hurts very much to get shot on television, guns in real life do cause pain and kill people. Talk with young children and remind older children about ways they can express frustration and anger without using violence.

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Last updated August 29, 2014

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