Why is gun safety important?
In the United States, gun injuries are one of the top 10 causes of accident-related death in children younger than 18 years of age. Research has shown that an average of about 6 children and teens are hospitalized each day in the United States due to accidental gun injuries.
You have probably heard stories about children who have been killed by an accidental gun injury that happened at home or at a friend’s house. These tragedies can be prevented by following a few simple gun safety rules.
What should I teach my children about gun safety?
Even if you do not own a gun, chances are that someone you know does. In the United States, about one-third of families with children younger than 12 years of age have a gun in the home. Before your children visit the home of a friend, a relative, or a babysitter, ask the adults at that home whether there is a gun in the house. If so, ask whether the gun is unloaded and properly locked away. This may feel like an awkward conversation, but it’s important to put your child’s safety first.
Talk to your children often about what to do if they find a gun, even if they are not sure whether it is real or a toy. Teach them to remember these words and actions if they see a gun:
- Don’t touch!
- Go away!
- Tell an adult!
Be sure your children know that it is very important to leave the area where the gun is so that they won’t be hurt accidentally by someone else.
What should I do to protect my family from injury if I own a gun?
Children are naturally curious and like to explore. If there is a gun in your home, simply hiding it is not enough. Keep it unloaded and properly locked away. The bullets should be locked away in a separate location. Make the keys available only to responsible adults. The gun and bullets should be stored out of reach of your children and their friends. Also, keep the gun and bullets safe from family members who are depressed, are abusive to others, abuse drugs (including alcohol), or have Alzheimer’s disease.
When you are handling or cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended.
What about toys guns and guns in video games, TV shows, or movies?
Children who play violent video games or watch violent TV shows and movies may have trouble understanding that violence in real life actually hurts people. Some parents choose not to allow their children to watch violent TV shows, play video games that involve one player hurting another, or play with toys that are pretend weapons.
Whether or not you make this personal choice, it is important to talk to your children often about the difference between real violence and violence on TV and in games and movies. Remember that even if you don’t allow your children to have toy guns, their friends may have them. Explain to your children that in real life, guns can hurt and kill people.
Teen Suicide and Guns
Research has shown that guns are used in about 40% of teen suicides. Having a gun in the home increases the risk for teen suicide. Teens who are angry or depressed are more likely to kill or harm themselves if they can easily get a gun. Also, teens often act without thinking first. It’s best not to have a gun in your home at all if someone who lives there is depressed, troubled, or thinking of suicide.
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.