Child Gun Safety

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

There are over 200 million firearms in the United States, with guns present in roughly 50% of US households (the percentage is higher in rural areas, lower in cities). No matter how we feel about firearms, it is imperative that we teach our children the basics of firearms safety. Even if you do not own firearms, chances are you and your children have been in houses where firearms are kept.

Here are a few alarming facts:

  • On an average, every single day, 10 American children ages 18 and under are killed in handgun suicide, homicides and accidents. A lot more are wounded.
  • Of all the violent deaths caused in school, 77% are caused by firearms.
  • At least 60% of suicide deaths in teens involve the use of handgun.
  • Shockingly, at least 25 million American households keep handguns and 50% of owners keep them loaded.

Children are curious and impulsive by nature. They would always want to explore something new. Just as you teach your children about safety with respect to other hazardous materials they are likely to encounter, you should also teach them the basics of firearms safety. There is no right age to talk about the dangers of firearms. Lots of television shows meant for children have firearms involved, even something apparently harmless like a cartoon show features hunting, warfare, etc. Explain to your children that firearms are not toys and it is not possible to miraculously recover from injuries as shown in television shows.

The following are some of the measures that you can take as a parent to ensure your child's safety against firearms:

  • If you have a gun in the house, don't try to hide it assuming that your child will not find it. Generally, most children do find such hidden treasures. At best, you may hide them at places that are not accessible to them.
  • Make sure that you lock the gun in a secure cabinet and do not keep it loaded.
  • Store the guns and ammunition separately.
  • Don't get away with saying a simple 'no' when your child asks to play with the gun. Explain giving specific details why you have the gun in the first place, if the child is old enough to understand it. Tell the child why you think it is unsafe for the child to handle guns.
  • When handling or cleaning the gun, never leave it unattended. Always secure it in its locked cabinet after you are done handling or cleaning it.
  • Even though you take steps to make sure that your child does not handle the firearm, ensure that your child understands what to do in case he/she spots a firearm unattended.
  • Make your child understand that, the firearm is not a toy, and it should never be pointed at anyone else. Tell them that even though they may have seen someone unload it, always consider it as loaded. Children should never be allowed to show off the firearm or talk about their family possessing it to friends and schoolmates.

Remember, it is our right to keep and carry firearms, but it also our responsibility to do so safely. It only takes one little mistake to cause a tragedy.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,