Each day we lose about 109 people to gunshot wounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children account for about 19 deaths or hospitalizations each day. Looking at ownership data, it is estimated that 44% of households have guns. The injuries occur because of homicides, suicides and unintentional injuries.
Guns can pose a danger to children, particularly if they are kept loaded and within reach of a child. About 50% of all unintentional injuries to children from firearms happen at home and 40% happen at the home of a friend or a relative.
What can parents do to prevent unintentional firearm injuries from happening? On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Carla Ramos, Community Service Officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department, and Petra Vybiralova Stanton, Safe Kids supervisor with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, give parents some important tips and reminders to keep kids safe.
First, we have to understand what is happening with children in different stages of their lives. Small children may not understand the danger or may not be able to tell real guns from toy guns. Preteens and teens are not fully mature, which may cause them to be impulsive, and they may be more likely to attempt suicide. Statistically, boys are more likely to get injured by firearms.
What Actions Can Parents Take?
When children and firearms are at home, the guns should be kept out of reach and sight of children.
Guns should be stored in a lock box that has a code unknown to the children or the keys should be kept where children can’t get them. Further, most guns come with a gun lock, which should be used if children are in the home.
If the child has special needs, special attention should be paid the child’s needs. For example, if the child is impulsive, please make sure preventive measures are in place to meet the child’s needs to keep them safe.
Facts or Fiction?
Most parents with guns think their children do not know where they hide them.
Fact: 8 in 10 first graders know where their parents’ guns are hidden.
Many parents think their children are not capable of firing a gun.
Fact: Children as young as 3 years old often are strong enough to pull the trigger of most American guns.
Parents believe their children know the difference between real guns and toy guns.
Fact: Few children younger than 8 years can tell the difference.
Parents often believe their child would not touch a gun because “he knows better.”
Fact: Studies found that most children will handle a gun if they find one, even if they have been taught not to. Research shows limited retention of information from gun safety trainings over time.
How about Other People’s Homes?
Have a conversation with your children and teach them that if they find a gun, they should not touch it. The child should tell a trusted adult immediately. The other thing that should happen is a conversation with the “hosting family” about how their firearms are stored. Firearms in other people’s homes should be also locked in a safety box out of the children’s reach.
What Should We Do in an Active Shooter Situation?
According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2019 there were more mass shootings than days in a year. As parents, it is important to keep our children safe by making them aware of what we can do in the presence of an active shooter. Having a plan in place may make all the difference in surviving an attack.
As a parent or caregiver visiting places, make sure to scan the environment, look for a place where if you have to hide. Always know where your exits are.
Try your best never to panic or freeze in an emergency situation. Try to find a way to escape and leave all personal belongings. Know your exits; don't always try to leave through the front entrance. TIP: If in a restaurant, there is always an exit in the kitchen.
If you're in a place with no feasible exits and evacuation is impossible, place large items at the entrances and exits. Attempt to hide out of site.
How Do I Dispose of a Gun I No Longer Want?
Consult with local law enforcement in your area, such as the police or sheriff’s office. Law enforcement agencies can help you dispose of a firearm properly.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.
Talk to Someone Now
If you are thinking about suicide, or are concerned about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline network is available for anyone at any time, 24/7. Additional crisis services and hotlines are available here.