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Guns and Children


More children die from gunfire in the US than from cancer, pneumonia, influenza, and HIV/AIDS combined. Every day 8 children in the US are killed by guns. For every child killed by a gun, 4 are injured. Guns are in 43% of US households. If you have children, it is safer not to have a gun in your home. If you are a parent who owns a gun there are things that you can do to protect your children and other children who visit your home.

Safety Tips for Parents Who Own a Gun

  • Keep your gun unloaded and locked up.
  • Store the ammunition separately.
  • Only the parents should know where guns are kept.
  • Hide the keys where children can't find them.
  • Lock up the gun cleaning supplies. They are often poisonous.
  • Put trigger locks on all firearms.
  • When handling and cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a second. A child as young as 3 has the finger strength to pull a trigger.

Over half of all accidental shooting involve a child or teenager. Just because you do not have guns in your home does not mean that your children are safe from the dangers of guns.

Safety Tips for All Parents

  • Check out the places where you children visit and play and make sure that if there are guns, they are safely stored.
  • Talk to your children about guns.
  • Teach your children that they should never touch a gun. Tell them if they see a gun to leave the area and tell an adult. Repeat this message regularly.
  • Teach children ways to solve problems that do not involve violence. Explain to them the consequences of violence and the dangers in mishandling guns.
  • Watch for signs of depression or change in behavior in your teens. 1500 children and teenagers use a gun to commit suicide each year.
  • Talk to your kids about the differences between violence on TV and in video games and real life violence.

Although statistics show that gun violence is actually decreasing, one in five teenage boys admits to taking a weapon to school with him at least once in the past year. Almost half of all high school students said they could get a gun if they wanted to. If you have teenagers, it is critical to have discussions with them about guns. Go over practical safety tips with them. Don't be misguided into thinking that not talking about it means there isn't a problem.

Safety Tips for Teens

  • Tell your friends that you don't want to be around guns because someone could get hurt or killed.
  • If your friend carries a gun it can put you in danger. If there are drugs and alcohol involved or if there is an argument, it can be deadly. The best thing to do is stay away from anybody who has a gun. Tell an adult if someone you know is carrying a gun.
  • Avoid people and places where you suspect violence might flare up easily, such a parties where there will be drugs and alcohol.
  • Learn about how to resolve conflicts without getting violent as a way of solving problems.
  • Learn to protect yourself in other ways other than guns. Some suggestions are to walk in well lit areas after dark, avoid walking alone, take a self defense class, or have a personal alarm.

What about toy guns and BB guns?

  • Make sure that toy guns don't look like real guns. They should be brightly colored. Playing with toy guns could make it easier for a young child to mistake a real gun as a toy. Police officers could also mistake a toy gun for a real gun in your child's hands.
  • Make sure that the sound of a toy gun or BB gun isn't too loud. This could cause hearing loss. Children should wear hearing protection if necessary.
  • Parents often underestimate the potential for injury from BB and pellet guns. Toy guns that shoot objects could cause eye injuries. Kids should wear protective eye wear when using them. BB guns can kill. They should only be used under strict adult supervision. It is recommended that only kids 16 years of age and older use BB or pellet guns.

There truly are no "safe" neighborhoods. The reality is that your child, at some point, will probably come in contact with a gun. It is very important for your child to know how to be safe around guns. Teaching children about guns can be life-saving information they will carry into adulthood.


Written by Judith J. Becerra, MS, LPC.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-03
Last reviewed: 2010-06-14

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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