Protecting Your Child from Gun Injury

With each new skill -- crawling, walking, climbing, running -- children love to explore. It means there are more ways they can get into trouble! Much of this trouble will be small.

But, if there is a gun in the house, a child's curiosity could lead to severe injury or death.

  • Fact: In the United States, one in three homes have at least one gun.

  • Fact: Nearly 40% of U.S. homes with children have a gun.

  • Fact: Most 5- and 6-year-olds are strong enough to pull the trigger on the average handgun. And one out of four 3- and 4-year-olds is strong enough!

WHEN IT COMES TO GUNS, PARENTS CAN'T BE TOO CAREFUL!

Parents Need to A.S.K.  --Asking Saves Kids

Even if you do not own a gun, ask your neighbors, friends, and family -- the places where your child will be -- if they have a gun.

  • If the answer is NO…that's one less thing you have to worry about.

  • If the answer is YES…keep your child away from homes where there are guns or where guns are not safely stored.

Some people may not agree with you, but it's important to discuss your concerns. The following tips will make asking about guns easier:

  • Bring up the topic of guns when you talk about other health and safety issues such as safety belts, pets and other animals, or allergies.

  • Share the facts that you know about gun safety. Let people know you are not judging them. You just want to make sure your child is safe.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

"With so much violence, isn't it safer for me to have a handgun in my home?"

No. In homes with handguns, it is much more likely that the handgun will be used in a suicide, domestic dispute, or accidental shooting than in self-defense.

Shootings at home often occur when:

  • a child finds a gun or is showing a friend the gun kept at home and pulls the trigger by accident

  • a depressed teenager or adult becomes suicidal

  • an argument between family members gets out of control

  • a friend or family member is mistaken for an intruder

Every year, thousands of Americans are seriously injured or killed in these situations.

"Can't I just teach my child not to touch the gun?"

No. Children need protection from guns.

  • As infants become toddlers, exploring and playing are the ways they learn about the world.

  • Young children simply do not understand how dangerous guns can be. Even well behaved children find that their curiosity can overcome their parents' warnings.

  • Young children are not able to tell the difference between toy guns and real guns. Many times guns and/or shootings on TV don't look dangerous or deadly.

"Can't I just hide my gun away from my child?"

No.  A child's urge to explore and discover is very strong.

  • Every day in America, three children, on average, are severely disabled when they find the gun that someone thought was hidden.

  • The only safe way to hide a gun is to lock it away.

  • In one mother's words: "My brothers both admitted as adults that when they were children they would go in my dad's room and take out the gun and play with it. My younger brother would actually find the clip."

PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM GUN INJURY

  • A home is safer without a handgun.

  • In homes with guns, children are safest if the:

    • Guns are stored unloaded

    • Guns are locked in a safe or fashioned with a trigger lock

    • Bullets are stored and locked in a separate place from the guns
  • Even if you do not own a gun, you need to make sure that the homes where your child visits are safe

This tip card is part of a series originated by R. Sege, MD, PhD, The Floating Hospital for Children and New England Medical Center/Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, and developed with the Massachusetts Medical Society's Committee on Violence.

Adapted with permission from the American Academy of Pediatrics Violence Intervention and Prevention Project, "Your Child Is On the Move: Reduce the Risk of Gun Injury."

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