Approximately one-third of U.S. households have firearms, so the fact is that children need to be educated about gun safety regardless of whether or not there are guns in their own homes.
Recently, I discussed how I always ask the parents of my kids’ friends if they have guns in the home before I allow my kids to play at that friend’s house. The reaction from moms was surprising to me. Many moms remarked that they don’t need to ask their friends because, where they live, the answer is probably yes. They just assume that there are guns in the home.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence teamed up recently to make June 21 ASK Day to encourage parents to ask about the presence of guns in the houses where their children play.
But the responsibility of parents to educate their kids about gun safety shouldn’t stop at simply asking. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the best way to keep your kids safe from gun violence is to not own any firearms, a lot of parents choose to have guns anyway. So how can you keep your kids safe if you have guns in the home, or let your kids play at a friend’s house where you know there are guns?
According to Kidshealth.org, if you have guns in the home, you should make sure you follow these guidelines:
– Take the ammunition out of the gun.
– Lock the gun and keep it out of reach of kids. Hiding the gun is not enough.
– Lock the ammunition and store it apart from the gun.
– Store the keys for the gun and the ammunition in a different area from where you store household keys. Keep the keys out of reach of children.
– Lock up gun-cleaning supplies, which are often poisonous.
– When handling or cleaning a gun, adults should never leave the gun unattended.
These seem like common sense ideas, but a recent report by CBS News indicated that many children are playing in houses where there are improperly stored guns. Scary stuff, folks.
“Twenty percent of parents surveyed who owned firearms reported that they stowed their guns and ammunition in the same place. Twenty-five percent said that at least one firearm in their home was currently loaded, and of those, 14 percent said the guns were in places kids could get to them. Eighteen percent said that when they left their homes, they carried their gun in a purse, backpack, holster, or inside their car — places children could access them.”
So, that’s why it’s so important to open up a dialogue with other parents about gun safety in their homes. You can’t assume that just because a gun owner is a parent they are following proper gun safety with children in the house.
But what else can you do?
We need to be discussing gun safety with our kids. If you talk to your kids about guns regularly, they are more likely to know what to do in the event that they find a gun either in your home or at the home of a friend.
Time magazine spoke with Kyla Boyse, a pediatric nurse, and she suggested the following: “Parents should continue to ask this question at all ages, but for elementary kids, Boyse stresses, keeping unsupervised kids from getting their hands on guns is the only proven way to protect them. “We have not been able to develop a safety training program yet to keep kids safe,” when left alone with a gun, she notes. Multiple studies show that even when kids have been told not to touch guns, or role-played walking away from them, in real life, kids still go for them. So the best way for parents to protect young kids from guns is to be vigilant about where kids might come across them — and keep that from happening.”
She also suggests, that for middle-school-aged children, it’s a good time to start talking to them about guns in the media and how the media often portrays guns as exciting and fun, and how we need to teach our kids the dangers of guns when not handled properly.
And, as kids grow into high-school age, it’s important to strictly follow gun safety at home, because kids in adolescence tend to take more risks when it comes to guns, including, often tragically, taking their own lives.
The truth is, guns are an issue that parents need to know about, learn about, and educate their children about. It’s not enough to simply maintain a gun-free household. You have to take it a step further, because many households do keep guns, and many gun owners are not following the proper gun safety protocol.
With one-third of Americans choosing to have guns in the home, the likelihood that your child is sometimes playing where guns are kept is pretty high. And, frankly, not discussing this issue with your kids is not only a safety concern, but it also truly can be a matter of life or death.