It is estimated that about 40 percent of all homes in the U.S. have some type of firearm, of which one in four is a handgun. Access to firearms in the home increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related death and injury among children. Unintentional shootings cause more than 20 percent of all firearm-related deaths in children 14 and under. The highest rate of unintentional firearm-related deaths is in children 10-14 years of age. Most unintentional shootings occur among children left unsupervised at home.
An underestimation of a child's ability to gain access to a firearm in the home is a common problem. In addition, unlike adults, children are unable to distinguish between real and toy guns, and children are not able to make good judgements about how to safely handle a gun.
Firearms are often portrayed on television and in movies as glamorous. In addition, the consequence of firing a firearm may not be viewed as seriously in the media because children often see the "shot" actors alive in other movies. Toy guns may add to a child's perception that real guns, like toy guns, are harmless and fun. It is important that your child knows the difference between a real gun and a toy gun. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to have guns in the home.
Although the only sure way to keep your child safe from unintentional firearm-related injury and death in your home is to remove all firearms from the home, there are other ways to improve the safety of your child around firearms.
- Proper storage. Firearms should always be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition. The firearm and ammunition should both be locked away and out of reach of children.
- Educate your child. Teaching your child the dangers of guns may help prevent unintentional firearms-related injuries and death. A parent should teach a child if he or she sees a firearm, to:
- Not touch the firearm.
- Leave the area.
- Tell an adult immediately.
- Check with neighbors. Even if your own home is free of firearms, your child may visit another home where firearms are kept. Always check with neighbors, friends, and relatives to make sure they safely store their firearms out of reach of children.
- Other safety devices. Safety devices, such as gun locks, lock boxes, and gun safes, should be used for every firearm in the house. Safety devices on firearms could prevent most unintentional fatal shootings of children ages 5 and under.
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Last reviewed: 4/22/2013