It isn’t easy talking with parents about gun safety in the home

Parents are on the front line of safeguarding their children from accidental shootings.

Why is it important to talk to parents about gun safety in the home? There is a gun in nearly one-third of American homes. Nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Each year, thousands of children are killed or injured due to a gun accident in the home. While the safest thing for a family is not to keep a gun in the house, the best way to avoid firearm-related accidents is to talk to parents about the risks involved when keeping guns in the home.

Parents look to their pediatrician as a trusted source of information. For the pediatrician, however, asking about guns in the home can be awkward. But just as you may ask about whether there is a pet in the home or a swimming pool in the backyard, it’s important to know if there is a gun in the house.

“As a parent, having that discussion with your children about guns and gun safety isn’t easy,” said Brit L. Anderson, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine physician with Norton Children’s Emergency Medicine, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “The world can be a very scary place. You want to protect your child from all the things that are out there. But parents need to think about what things can be done in the home to keep kids safe.”

Talking with parents about guns in the home

For many, guns are part of family culture. According to a 2019 Kentucky Health Issues poll, nearly 6 in 10 adults who live with a child have a gun in or around the home. Of these homes, nearly 3 in 10 report having a loaded gun.

Firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 17. This includes unintentional deaths, suicides and homicides.

But what questions need to be asked? A thoughtful approach is necessary. Several states have laws that restrict what providers may ask about firearms. Parents may feel it’s an infringement on their rights. But this isn’t a political issue and shouldn’t mean shying away from the discussion. The goal is to ensure the health and safety of all members of the household.

Do you keep a gun in the home?

If you have any questions about gun safety or would like to request a gun lock, contact Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.

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Gun safety in the home

Parents are on the front line of safeguarding their children from accidental shootings.

Whether a toddler or a teen, children are naturally curious about guns. If a gun is present in the home, parents need to stress the dangers and ensure every possible safety measure is taken to prevent accidents.

Often children and teens do not realize that handling a gun just once can lead to tragedy. It’s important for parents to take steps for responsible and safe storage.

Tips for safe gun storage

  • Keep ammunition in a separate locked location, out of reach and sight of children.
  • Keys and lock combinations should be kept hidden.
  • When a gun is not in its lockbox, keep it in line of sight.
  • Make sure all guns have child-resistant gun locks.
  • If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or unlocked car, provide a locked place to store it while the visitor in your home.

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Vicki L. Owczarzak, M.D.

Vicki L. Owczarzak, M.D., is a pediatric otolaryngologist at Norton Children’s ENT & Audiology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, and an assistant professor at the medical school.

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