Firearm safety tips for parents
For the first time in almost 60 years, gun violence has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that the safest home for a child is one without guns, however, 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a home with at least one unlocked or loaded gun.
Bridgette Watson, program coordinator for Safe Kids Upstate and Prisma Health’s Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health and Advocacy, offered some tips for parents on how to keep their children safe.
Follow the recommendations of responsible gun ownership
If a gun is present in your home, follow these tips:
- Keep the gun unloaded and locked up in a cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case.
- Lock the bullets in a place separate from the gun.
- Use a gun lock (a lock that makes the gun unable to fire).
- Hide the keys (or passcode) to the locked storage.
More tips can be found at besmartforkids.org.
What about firearms that are in the homes of family and friends?
“More than a third of all unintentional shootings of children take place in other people’s homes,” Watson said. “Before your child visits another person’s home, ask about guns and safe storage, just as you’d ask about other safety issues such as pets, allergies or supervision.”
If there is a gun present in the house, reconsider allowing your child to play there, or talk to the homeowner about keeping the guns unloaded and locked.
What should kids understand about firearms?
“Parents should always talk to their children about gun safety,” Watson said.
Teach them to follow these rules if they come across a gun:
- Stop what they are doing.
- Do not touch the gun, or allow anyone else to, even if it looks like a toy.
- Leave the area where the gun is.
- Tell an adult RIGHT AWAY.
- If you see something, SAY SOMETHING. This includes at home, at a friend’s house and in public places such as school.
If you allow your child or teen to use a gun for recreation, it is important that you:
- Store the gun unloaded and locked up. Do not give them the passcode or keys to get the gun out.
- Make sure your child or teen understands that it is never okay to handle a gun without a responsible adult there.
- Teach your child or teen to assume a gun is loaded and never to point a gun at someone.
- Set a good example with your own safe gun handling practices.
Household injuries with guns happen when:
- A child or teen finds the gun and accidentally pulls the trigger.
- A depressed teen or adult feels suicidal, and there is a gun readily available.
- A family argument gets out of control.
- A family member or friend is mistaken for an intruder.
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