More and more, guns are in the news—and often in homes.
One in three homes with children under 18 has a firearm, and nearly half of those have at least one unlocked gun, according to Jill Lucas Drakeford, a Carilion Clinic Community Health educator and coordinator for Safe Kids Southwest Virginia.
Most gun owners are responsible, understand the risks of having guns in their homes and take the necessary precautions to keep their guns out of the hands of children.
Firearms that are easily accessible to children can lead to tragic consequences. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 78 children, teens and young adults are injured or killed by guns every day in the United States.
Most gun owners already do take precautions to keep their guns out of the hands of children.
Store Guns and Ammunition Safely
If your home has firearms, the most important thing is to keep them in a locked location and out of the reach and sight of children.
“Keeping ammunition in a separate, locked location is also important,” said Jill. “Storing your firearm unloaded, with the keys or combinations hidden is the best way to keep your kids safe at home.”
When a gun is not in its lock box, be sure to keep it on your person; it should never be anywhere that a child can touch it if it's loaded. If someone who visits your house has a gun that is not in a locked location, provide them with a locked place to hold it while they are in your home.
“No matter how much you educate them, kids are still curious,” said Jill. “The safest gun is an unloaded, locked gun.”
Some law enforcement agencies as well as community and health care organizations, including Carilion Clinic, give away free cable gun locks or other safety kits. Go to ProjectChildSafe.org for more about where to find a free lock.
Carilion Clinic gives away free cable gun locks at several Pediatric and Family Medicine offices and in the main hospital lobby.
Educate Your Kids and Their Caregivers
Even if you don’t own a gun, chances are that your child will at some time or another be in a home that contains a gun—and they’ll most certainly see them in video games or on TV.
“Explain to your kids that the guns they see in video games or on TV are different from guns in real life,” said Jill. “And teach them never to touch a gun, even if a friend wants to show it off. They should immediately tell an adult if they see a gun, especially at school.”
You can talk to grandparents and parents of friends about gun safety, too, if your child frequently visits their home.
Dispose of Guns You Don’t Need
If you decide that you no longer need to have a gun in your home, dispose of it in a safe way rather than keeping it around. Your local law enforcement agency can help.
For more information and to download a pdf of gun safety tips, visit SafeKids Worldwide and the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you have concerns about guns in your home or the homes of your loved ones, talk to your pediatrician.