Conversations about firearms are tough conversations to have with a child. However, gone are the days of only teaching kids about gun safety to keep them safe. Telling your child not to touch a firearm if they find one is no longer enough. Now, firearms are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States. The best way to keep your children safe is keeping firearms stored safely.
Unintentional shootings and gun injuries
According to HealthyChildren.org, between 2015 and 2022, there were more than 2,800 unintentional shootings by children. This resulted in 1,083 deaths and 1,815 nonfatal injuries. Within these statistics, 895 preschoolers and toddlers managed to access a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.
Suicide and homicide risk with guns in the home
Unintentional shootings aren’t the only risk we need to be aware of. In the past decade, 40% of suicides committed by kids and teens involved guns. Of those suicide cases, 9 out of 10 happened with guns the victims accessed within their home or a relative’s home. The risk of homicide is three times higher when there is a firearm within the home. Kids and adolescents are at an increased risk for suicide and homicide when guns are present in the home.
When it comes to safely storing firearms, the “golden rule” is to keep them locked, unloaded with ammunition kept separately.There are many different resources when it comes to storage that will fit your specific needs. Examples being storage cases, locks and safes that are available in numerous sizes. One thing to note is that what works for you when locking away a firearm, might not be the best option for others. The best storage solution is one you will use consistently.
As a firearm owner, you never want to assume that “hiding” a gun or placing it somewhere that seems out-of-reach will keep kids from getting their hands on it. It is crucial they know a firearm is in the home, but make sure the keys or combinations are not easily accessible.
Keeping them locked away is great not only for the safety of children, but also keeping them out of reach from unauthorized users.
Even if you aren’t a gun owner, you can still play a major part. “Be SMART” was initially created to promote responsible gun ownership to aid in reducing child related gun deaths. However, everyone can Be SMART. Following the SMART guidelines isagreat way to keep everyone in your community safe.
S: Secure all firearms in your home and vehicles
M: Model responsible behavior around firearms
A: Ask about the presence of unsecured firearms in other homes
R: Recognize the role of firearms in suicide
T: Tell your peers to be S-M-A-R-T
Even if you choose to not own a firearm, having these conversations is still very important. Your child should know the proper steps on what to do if they come across a firearm in a home or in any environment. Transparency is key when it comes to this conversation.
Make sure you feel comfortable asking your friends or family members if they have a gun in the home and how they secure it. Especially if they are going to be children in the home. It is up to all of us to continue to make and keep children safe.