Preventing firearm injuries to children

Access to guns creates a risk for serious injury and death. Most firearm-related injuries and deaths of children and adolescents involve handguns. The most effective way to keep children safe from unintentional firearm injury is to not have guns in a home where children live or play.

Children should not have access to firearms

  • A gun in the home can be a danger to children. Parents should seriously weigh the risks of keeping a gun in the home.
  • Gun owners should always store firearms (including BB or pellet guns) unloaded and locked up, out of reach of children. Ammunition should be locked in a separate location, also out of reach of children.
  • Quality safety devices, such as gun locks, lock boxes or gun safes, should be used for every gun kept in the home. Keep gun storage keys and lock combinations hidden in a separate location.

Parents should talk to children about the hazards of gun use

  • Teach them never to touch or play with guns.
  • If a child finds a gun, they should not approach or touch it, but tell an adult immediately.
  • Check with neighbors, friends and relatives or adults in any other homes where children may visit to ensure they follow safe storage practices if guns are in their homes.

Talking to your children about guns

Young children: Experts advise parents to reassure children that, as parents, they are doing their best to keep children safe. Children can be exposed to a good amount of violence by the media, especially from TV and movies. It is important to teach children that this is not real and that guns cause real injuries. Emphasize to them that they should never touch a gun and should always tell an adult if they come across one. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repeating this message periodically to keep children from forgetting.

Preteens: This is a good time to begin talking with children about ways to solve problems that do not involve violence. With older children, explain to them the consequences of violence and the dangers inherent in the mishandling of guns. Continue to emphasize to children that they should never touch a gun without adult supervision.

Teens: This can be a difficult time to maintain open communication with kids as they become more independent and rebellious. However, maintaining dialogue with your children can help you spot any potential problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that, at this point in a child’s life, it is easier to keep guns away from teens than to keep teens away from guns, which are often glamorized in the media. It is important that parents watch for signs of depression or changes in behavior, as teens feeling this way are at an increased risk for suicide.

Among the concurring organizations are the American Academy of Pediatrics, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Other resources