There are so many safety precautions we take as parents. We put a gate at the top of the stairs. We lock up cabinets that house toxic cleaning products. We cut grapes into quarters to prevent choking. But in many homes there’s an even bigger danger to contend with: guns.
We know that kids are naturally curious. We also know that having an unlocked, fully loaded gun in the home can be deadly. Unfortunately, one-third of American kids live in a home with guns…many of which are stored unsafely. And, tragically, in 2020, 369 unintended shootings involved children and caused 142 deaths and 242 injuries.
If you have a gun in your home, if you are considering getting a gun, or if your child may play in a home where a firearm is present, there are some basic safety protocols that you can take to ensure that your family remains safe—and that your firearm doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
Take a gun safety course.
If you’ve never owned a firearm before, or if it’s been a long time since you’ve used one, it’s a wise idea to brush up on gun safety. Many professional organizations offer courses that teach you everything you need to know about how your weapon operates, how to store it safely, and how to dispose of it when you think you want to stop using it.
Store guns safely.
The safest way to keep a gun in your home is to make sure it is unloaded and locked away from little ones. Here are some smart storage tips:
- Store your firearms where children cannot see them, and never leave them out in the open such as on a table.
- Keep your firearm unloaded with the safety lock on.
- Store ammunition separately from the firearm to reduce the risk of accidents.
- Store your firearm and ammunition outside of your house.
- Use a lockbox, safe, or other secure facility to store your firearm.
Ask if there are guns in the home before playdates.
It is common practice to ask lots of questions about safety before dropping the kids off at a new friend’s home. You probably already think to ask questions like, who is supervising? Are there pets in the house? Or maybe you ask about screentime or food allergies. But one question that many parents don’t think to ask is: Are there guns in the house?
One-third of all unintentional shootings that involve kids happen when kids are visiting a home with firearms. If there is a firearm in your child’s playmate’s home, you may want to offer to host instead.
If you are going forward with the get-together, make sure you are clear on what precautions they have taken to keep firearms out of little hands. It might be an awkward conversation, but it’s too important to skip. On the flip side, if someone visiting your home has a gun with them, ask them to secure it in the trunk of your car where you can lock it up and keep your kids away from it.
How to talk to your kids about firearms.
Knowledge is power. It is crucial to talk to kids about guns and gun safety so they know exactly what to do if they stumble across a gun. Explain to your children that they should never touch a firearm, and should they find one at a friend’s home, they should tell an adult right away.
It’s also important to remind kids often that the kind of gun violence they might see in the media is very different from real life. You might get several lives in a video game, but you only get one in reality, and when it comes to guns, kids can get hurt or killed.