The statistics may be startling, but the sheer loss of life is beyond stunning. Consider the wealthy countries of the world; now consider this: 91 percent of children younger than age 15 who have died by a firearm are U.S. citizens (National Institute of Health).
End Family Fire, an Ad Council campaign dedicated to responsible gun ownership at home, reports that 4.6 million children have access to unlocked and loaded guns. Each day eight kids are accidentally shot. In 2018, The Washington Post reported that out of 105 school shootings since 1999, 80 percent of the guns used were taken from the child’s home, or from the home of someone they knew. If there is a silver lining, perhaps it’s this: due to increased awareness and education, accidents inside the home involving firearms have decreased over the past couple of decades, according to the National Safety Council.
How do parents and gun owners keep firearms in the home without risking child safety? The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), with their Project ChildSafe campaign, lists several ways gunowners and prospective gunowners can store weapons without jeopardizing the health and safety of others:
Unload sporting firearms outside of the home and keep the muzzle pointed down or in a safe direction. According to Project ChildSafe, sporting arms should never be loaded inside the home.
With any gun, never put a finger on the trigger unless ready to safely shoot at a target, even if the gun is unloaded.
Make certain all firearms are stored safely and out of the reach of children.
Consider applying firearm locking devices to make unloaded weapons inoperable. However, these devices alone will not keep children safe and must be used in conjunction with other protective measures. A firearm locking device will not withstand force by someone with the tools or determination to break the lock.
Store guns in a locked cabinet, safe, firearm vault, or storage case as opposed to the top shelf of a closet or inside a drawer. Additionally, there are off-site storage options for firearms that keep the weapons out of the home.
Store ammunition under lock and key in a separate location from the gun and out of the reach of children.
Keep guns locked and unloaded. This reduces the risk of accidental firing by children by 73 percent. Storing a gun separately from its bullets reduces risk by 61 percent.
Practice proper safety hygiene — clean and place guns and ammunition in their proper storage after hunting or returning from the range. Be sure to double check that firearms are unloaded when initially removing them from storage. There are incidents where a family member borrows or loans a gun and returns it without taking proper precautions, resulting in accidents and tragedy.
Consider firearm storage boxes that require numeric codes or a fingerprint scan to ensure that only the person intended has access to the gun.
Read and fully understand the owner’s manual that accompanies the gun.
A few additional considerations
Take stock of ownership and personal responsibility. Speak with other adults in the home about gun ownership — it’s possible that not everyone is on the same page. If a firearm is purchased, will the other adults in the home attend a gun safety and training program? What enforcements will protect children in the home? What risk factors exist in the home and can those factors be properly addressed?
The presence of drug and/or alcohol abuse raises the chance of injury or death by firearm. Additionally, individuals who suffer from depression, may be suicidal, or have other mental health conditions may be clear indications that a firearm in the home could prove fatal. Finally, weapons pose risks for law violations in places where prohibited persons, such as a convicted felon or someone under a restraining order, are not allowed to live in a home with guns. It is important to review and understand local, state and city laws prior to purchase.
Have ‘the talk’ and make the rules official
Talk to kids about guns, even if you don’t own one. More than 40 million Americans use firearms, according to the NSSF. This means you can’t be too sure what your kids may encounter at someone else’s home. Prohibit children from handling a gun without an adult’s permission. Make it clear never to go snooping to find a gun, and never allow their friends to do it either. Establish a no-touch rule at home and away from home.
ProjectChildSafe.org provides parents with a petition to print and review with children that also requires the child’s signature. Keep the petition tacked to the wall or any visible place where it can be reviewed and readdressed regularly. The site also has quizzes for kids and parents to test gun safety knowledge.
This article is not about denying anyone’s constitutional Second Amendment right. Instead, we are advocating for simple gun safety measures that have the capacity to mitigate accidental deaths.