Gun Safety

Millions of children live in homes with guns, and many of these weapons are stored loaded, unlocked, or both.  Guns lead to thousands of deaths and injuries among children every year.

Gun Safety

While the number of households with guns is declining, there are still an estimated 300 million guns in the United States.  A gun in the home can be very dangerous, especially for children. Every year, nearly 1,300 children die from guns and many more are seriously injured. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes the best way to prevent gun-related injuries to children is to remove guns from the home. However, if you choose to keep a gun in the house, it is important that it is unloaded and locked, and the ammunition is stored and locked in a separate location.

Gun-Related Injury Facts

  • Nearly 1,300 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings every year.
  • 1 in 3 families with children have at least one gun in the house. It is estmated that there are more than 22 million children living in homes with guns.
  • Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother.
  • Nearly 40% of all unintentional shooting deaths among children 11-14 years of age occur in the home of a friend.
  • Adolescents are at a higher risk for suicide when there is a gun in the home.

Myths About Guns

  • Some parents believe that hiding their guns will prevent children from accessing them.  However, 75% of children who live in homes with guns know where they are stored.
  • Many parents think their children are not capable of firing a gun. However, children as young as 3 years old may be strong enough to pull the trigger of a handgun.
  • Parents believe their children know the difference between real guns and toy guns, but in 16% of unintentional firearm deaths among children younger than 13 years of age, the gun was mistaken for a toy.
  • Parents often believe their child would not touch a gun because “he knows better.” However, studies have found that most children will handle a gun if they find one, even if they have been taught not to.
  • Some parents consider non-powder guns, like BB, pellet, and paintball guns, to be toys. These guns, which can fire at the speed of traditional guns, lead to nearly 22,000 injuries each year, especially eye injuries.

Gun Safety Tips

  • The best way to keep your children safe from guns is to remove all guns from the home.
  • If a gun is in the house, always keep it unloaded and locked. It should be out of reach and sight of children.  Keep ammunition and guns locked in separate locations, not together.
  • Safety devices, including gun locks, lock boxes and gun safes, should be used for every gun in the house.
  • Storage keys and lock combinations should be hidden from children.
  • Before visiting friends and relatives, ask if they have guns in their homes. If so, make sure they keep their guns unloaded and locked as well.
  • Never leave children unsupervised in a home with a gun.

The information above is from the following sources (in order of use):

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  • Schuster MA, Franke TM, Bastian AM, Sor S, Halfon N. Firearm storage patterns in US homes with children. Am J Public Health. 2000;90(4):588-594. 
  • Okoro CA, Nelson DE, Mercy JA, Balluz LS, Crosby AE, Mokdad AH. Prevalence of household firearms and firearm-storage practices in the 50 states and the District of Columbia: findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002. Pediatrics. 2005;116(3):e370-376.
  • Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Gutierrez C, Bacon S. Childhood firearm injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017;140(1):e20163486.
  • Schaechter J. guns in the Home. HealthyChildren.org.
  • Frattaroli S, Webster DW, Teret SP. Unintentional gun injuries, firearm design, and prevention: what we know, what we need to know, and what can be done. J Urban Health. 2002;79(1):49-59. 
  • Hemenway D, Solnick SJ. Children and unintentional firearm death. Inj Epidemiol. 2015;2(1):doi:10.1186/s40621-40015-40057-40620. 
  • Hemenway D, Barber C, Miller M. Unintentional firearm deaths: a comparison of other-inflicted and self-inflicted shootings. Accid Anal Prev. 2010;42(4):1184-1188.
  • Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention Executive Committee. Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population. Pediatrics: 2012;130(5). http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/5/e1416.full
  • Baxley F, Miller M. Parental misperceptions about children and firearms. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(5):542-547. 
  • Hardy MS. Teaching firearm safety to children: failure of a program. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2002;23(2):71-76. 
  • Laraque D, Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Injury Risk of Nonpowder Guns. Pediatrics: 2004;114(5). http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/114/5/1357.full.pdf