Guns in the Home
One out of every three homes with children in the U.S. has a gun. Many of these guns are kept unlocked or loaded.
Children and teens are at the greatest risk of unintentional deaths, injuries and suicides from guns. Young children are naturally curious. They explore in drawers, cabinets and closets. Some older children and teens are attracted to guns and see them as signs of power.
Each year in Washington state, about 33 children are hospitalized and 19 die from gun injuries. Most of these shootings occur in or around the home.
Should I talk to my child about guns?
Yes! It’s better to talk about it before your child or teen comes across a gun at home or somewhere else.
- Talk with your child about the risk of gun injury in places they may visit or play.
- Explain that real guns can kill or seriously injure people, unlike toy guns or guns shown on TV, in movies or in video games.
- Teach your child that if they find a gun they should leave it alone, leave the room and tell an adult right away. While this training seems to work for some children, it doesn’t work for others. The only guarantee of safety is to lock up guns.
- Teach your child to tell an adult right away if they see a gun in someone’s backpack at school or if they hear someone is going to bring a gun to school.
- Talk with your child about guns and violence. Let them know that strong feelings like fear and anger can be expressed without using weapons.
How do I store a gun safely?
Store guns in a safe or lockbox with the bullets stored separately to protect everyone in the home. Safe gun storage also prevents theft of guns. Use this checklist:
¤ Store guns unloaded and locked.
¤ Store and lock bullets in a separate place.
¤ Use a gun safe, locked box, trigger or chamber lock to store guns.
¤ Avoid locking devices that use keys if possible. Children often know where keys are kept.
¤ Ask family and friends to use these safe storage steps.
¤ Remove guns from your home if a family member is depressed, suicidal or is abusing drugs or alcohol.
How can I help keep my child safe at other homes?
Parents ask all sorts of questions before their children visit other homes, such as questions about booster seat and seat belt use, allergies and animals. Add gun safety to the conversation. Ask if guns in the home are stored unloaded and locked. Ask if the bullets are stored separately. Ask about shotguns and rifles, too, not just handguns.
If you have doubts about the safety of someone else’s home, invite the children to play at your home instead.
How do I ask others about safe gun storage?
Many of us feel awkward asking other people how they handle gun safety. Research shows that 93% of parents, including parents who choose to own guns, would be comfortable with being asked about a gun in their home. Just present your concerns with respect, and consider using some of these words if you don’t know where to start:
- “Knowing how curious my child can be, I hope you don’t mind me asking if you have a gun in your home and if it is properly stored…”
- “Mom, Dad, _________, this is awkward for me and I mean no disrespect. I am concerned Susie will find one of the guns in your home when we visit. Do you keep them locked up with the bullets stored separately?”
Consider sharing information on safe gun storage with your child’s preschool, childcare orlocal PTA. The resources in the “To Learn More” section can help you get started.
The “asking about guns” information was developed by the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign sponsored by PAX. Revised with permission by Seattle Children’s Hospital.
To Learn More
Suicide Prevention Resources
To contact the Safe Gun Storage Program at Seattle Children’s, please call 206-987-4653 or send an email.