Guns are dangerous for all children, whether inside or outside the home. Statistics emphasize this point: One child or teen was killed in a firearm-related accident, suicide or homicide every four hours in the United States in 2002, and hospital emergency departments treat more than four times as many children and teens for nonfatal gun shot wounds. The United States has a higher rate of death due to firearms than any other industrialized country, and the overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children younger than 15 years old was almost 12 times higher than among children 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. Having a gun in your home increases your child’s risk of gun-related accidents, homicides and suicides. Children are often curious about guns, especially after having seen them so many times in movies, television shows, or video and computer games. Many tragic accidents have occurred when a child picked up a gun just to look at it. Children who have access to guns may use them to hurt themselves or others. 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. Use extreme caution when handling or cleaning the gun.
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.