Many families keep a gun in the home. But every year, guns are used to kill or injure thousands of Americans.
The best way to protect your child from being hurt or killed by a gun is to not keep guns at home and to avoid homes that do have guns. If you decide to keep a gun at home, be sure the gun is stored safely and that all family members know the rules about handling guns.
What Is the Safest Way to Store a Gun?
If you have a gun at home, be sure to:
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.
Consider using a gun lock (a lock that makes the gun unable to fire).
Hide the keys (or passcode) to the locked storage.
Why Is Proper Gun Storage So Important?
Young children are curious. Even if you have talked to them many times about gun safety, they can't truly understand how dangerous guns are. If they come across a loaded gun, they can accidentally hurt or kill themselves or someone else.
Teens can be emotional and may act without thinking. If they have depression or are feeling down, they may see a gun as an easy way out. In fact, most teens and preteens who kill themselves use a gun from their home or from the home of a relative or friend. Teens should never be able to get to a gun and bullets without an adult being there.
People of any age who are depressed are at increased risk of suicide. If someone in the family has depression, or has had thoughts of suicide, all guns should be removed from the home. If the guns cannot be removed, it is even more important to store the gun unloaded and locked up with the bullets stored separately and keys hidden.
What About Guns in the Homes of Family and Friends?
If your child is going to someone's house, it's important to know if there are guns in the home. It may feel awkward to ask, but most people will understand that you're trying to protect your child.
You might try:
"My child is pretty curious. Is there a gun or anything else dangerous he might get into?"
"Is there a gun in your home?"
"Our doctor recommended that I check to make sure there are no guns where my child plays. Do you have any guns at home?"
It is safest to keep your child away from homes where there is a gun. If you do let your child play in a home where there is a gun, be sure that:
The gun is stored unloaded and locked up.
The bullets are locked up and stored separately.
All keys to the locks are hidden.
What Should Kids Understand About Guns?
Be sure to talk to your kids about guns, even if you do not have guns in your home. Kids need to know that guns are very dangerous. Teach yours to follow these rules if they see a gun:
Stop what they're 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 allow your child or teen to use a gun for recreation, it is very important that you:
Store the gun unloaded and locked up. Do not give your child or teen the passcode or keys to get the gun out.
Make sure that your child or teen understands that it is never OK 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.
What Else Should I Know?
Some people feel that keeping a gun at home will protect their family from an intruder. Unfortunately, a gun in the house is much more likely to hurt or kill a member of the household or a friend than an intruder.
A gun in the house also can be used to hurt or kill someone 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.
Remember: The best way to prevent gun injuries is to never keep guns at home and avoid homes that do keep guns. If you do keep a gun at home, keep the gun unloaded and locked up with the bullets locked up and stored separately. Visit ProjectChildSafe.org for more information on gun safety.